An entertainment company in Lebanon has apologised after publishing an ad paying tribute to the country’s army that featured an Israeli soldier gazing through binoculars.
Israel fought three major wars against Lebanon, invading the country’s south in 1978 and again in 1982, before withdrawing in 2000 under pressure from the militant group Hezbollah. In 2006, the Israeli military once again clashed with Hezbollah, destroying much of Lebanon’s infrastructure in the brief campaign. The two nations are still technically at war.
The ad, which was posted on social media accounts of Virgin Megastore’s Ticketing Box Office, was quickly withdrawn after being widely mocked on Twitter and Facebook. It featured the image of a soldier in binoculars surveying the wilderness, with the tagline: “Keep your eyes on us, o hero.”
After Facebook users mocked the company’s apparent belief that it was being targeted as part of some sort of conspiracy, the firm operating Virgin’s Lebanese social media account said in a statement: “We … apologise for the image that was wrongly published and we regret the systematic campaign that is targeting us as a result of this image whose intention was to celebrate the Lebanese army on its anniversary.”
It concluded with an oblique condemnation of those it accused of “questioning our patriotism”, declaring that: “Great people plan, big people lead, heroes are victorious, and cowards take advantage, long live the Lebanese army and long live Lebanon.”
The Lebanese army is seen as one of the last remaining neutral institutions in a country suffering from chronic government deadlock and enduring sectarianism, and where public opinion of the civil war in neighbouring Syria is sharply polarised.
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