Racy Commercial Promoting Israeli Newspaper Draws Fire (Video)

A still from the Ha'aretz viral ad

"Ha'aretz," the country's oldest daily, sparks outrage with a provocative viral video promoting its new website.

A provocative 53-second commercial promoting the website for Israel's oldest daily newspaper, Ha'aretz, is pushing the envelope in the Holy Land. The spot, which surfaced online via YouTube Sunday and currently has more than 100,000 views, features a couple engaging in multiple sexual positions while the male complains about the act being mundane and outdated, indirectly referring to the publication's traditional reputation.

"The design is impressive and comfortable, but user experience as a whole -- there's a slight sense of 'been there, done that,' " says the actor, with the female on top of him, followed by the slogan "Life is not as interesting as Ha'aretz's new website."

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Ha'aretz, which translates to "The Land" in Hebrew, was founded in 1919 and is Israel’s leading traditional publication. Its online edition has been made available for paying readers since March.

The commercial sparked immediate outrage from women’s groups in Israel and prompted deputy speaker of the Knesset, Pnina Tamano-Shata to send a formal letter to Ha’aertz publisher Amos Schocken demanding it be removed. She also insisted on an apology to female readers, adding that the publication should "express zero tolerance toward offensive manifestations of blatant sexism.”

The Walla Israel news website reported earlier today that dozens of Ha'aretz staff members have initiated an impromptu petition, also requesting that the commercial be taken down. The petition stated that "the newspaper we are all proud of elected to advertise itself in one of the most despicable, sexist commercials seen in recent time, with an ad that promotes pornographic content in the vein of edgy appeal to younger audiences. … We're ashamed today to work in a newspaper that under false pretense of irony and sophistication (with questionable quality) showcases a silent female as a sexual object."

Ha’aretz has yet to comment on the controversy.