An animated promotional video for Nike that appears to be strictly about soccer actually contains hidden anti-Semitic messages, claims the chairman of the Knesset Committee to Combat Anti-Semitism. The head of the World Zionist Organization's Department to Combat Anti-Semitism, for his part, is deeply suspicious that anti-Semitism is at play, Maariv reported Wednesday.
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The Maariv reporter, Zvika Klein, sounds convinced as well. As does Arutz Sheva reporter Gil Ronen, who picked up the story.
But the Anti-Defamation League said on Thursday that such a view was the product of an overactive imagination. “You really have to use your imagination to believe there was ill intent here,” an ADL spokesperson said. “Imputing hateful or anti-Semitic intent only undermines our ability to combat and confront actual anti-Semitism,” the Times of Israel reported.
The five-minute video, put out ahead of the World Cup, depicts a future in which evil forces have cloned a team of perfect soccer players whose mechanized style dominates the game, until a human all-star team, led by Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney and other big names, beats them with daring and inspiration.
The bad guys, dressed in dark gray uniforms, sport a logo of hexagons that resembles the pattern on a soccer ball. From afar, though, it also resembles a Star of David.
"Although it's possible to say that this is the symbol of soccer … there is no doubt that this is a Jewish reference," writes Maariv's Klein.
"The conglomerate's symbol, worn by the clones, is the pattern formed by the hexagonal patches that are typical of soccer balls – but is also very similar to a Star of David," writes Arutz Sheva's Ronen.
'Sly, sophisticated anti-Semitism'
MK Shimon Ohayon (Yisrael Beiteinu), chairman of the Knesset anti-Semitism panel, said, "The new anti-Semitic propaganda is very sly and transmits its anti-Semitic messages in a sophisticated way, an example of which is the Nike ad, which uses Jewish symbols in its sports merchandise to put across anti-Semitic messages.
"Success in combating anti-Semitism," Ohayon continued, "requires a determined, ceaseless battle and a sharp, immediate reaction to every anti-Semitic message, therefore we must respond to every incident and remain alert to this sly propaganda."
To this, an ADL spokesperson said, “Anyone who thinks this is anti-Semitism is certainly off base. You can put anything in a configuration of six. Just because it appears to look like the Star of David, it does not mean it is.”
Yaakov Hagoel, head of the WZO's anti-Semitism department, said he has received dozens of complaints about the video since it was released on Monday. He wrote a letter of his own to Nike founder Phil Knight.
"We in the World Zionist Organization have received many letters from concerned people around the world who fear that there are double messages in the symbols shown in the video," Hagoel writes.
"We would be glad to work with you in Nike in order to understand the true meaning behind these symbols and solve the problem," he continues. "We in the Department for Combating Anti-Semitism take the complaints we received very seriously, and we will act resolutely in order to find out the complete facts.”
'Nazi stereotype of the Jew'
Other supposed signs of anti-Semitism were noted by Maariv, Arutz Sheva and those they quoted. Klein wrote that the cloned players "look like the Nazi stereotype of the Jew: with black, Samson-like hair and a big, ugly nose."
Ronen writes, "It is interesting to note that the cartoon begins with a depiction of the statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro and is titled 'The Last Game,' which could be a reference to the Last Supper."
Klein points out that the number 20:42:49 appears on a screen in the control room of the clones' team, and that the number, when punched into Google, turns out to be a reference to "passages from the Book of Ezekiel, specifically from the New Testament, with a prophecy concerning the people of Israel and the land of Israel.
The passage reads: "Then you will know that I am the LORD, when I bring you into the land of Israel, the land I had sworn with uplifted hand to give to your fathers."
Klein continues: "Is this just a conspiracy? It's not clear." He concludes that the video is filled with "many hidden messages, the question is what do they mean and what is their intent?"
The Times of Israel reports that in response to Ohayon's accusations of anti-Semitism, Nike stated: “The logo shown on ‘The Clones’ player uniforms and on the advertising boards in ‘The Last Game’ film is a logo of a football. Any resemblance to any other symbol or image within the campaign is entirely coincidental and unintentional. We respect all religions and the image was in no way designed to cause any offense.”
More sly, anti-Semitic propaganda? Or a message of sanity? You be the judge.