A pro-Israel ad on Hulu claiming that Gaza would be a tourist destination if not for Hamas is prompting backlash, including a protest outside the streaming giant’s headquarters slated for later this week.
The 30-second ad features text reading, “Come visit beautiful Gaza” while a narrator promises “stunning beaches and charming boardwalks.”
“You can stay in one of our five-star hotels and get a taste of the best in Middle Eastern food. Embrace the vibrant nightlife of the city and experience a culture rich in tradition,” the voiceover says against a backdrop of what appear to be AI images showing beautiful hotels, beaches, and laughing children and people.
Then, the narrator abruptly halts mid-sentence and says: “This is what Gaza could have been like without Hamas,” as the ad shows images of Palestinians, including children, holding guns, and inside tunnels. The ad ends by saying, “Free Gaza From Hamas Now.”
The bottom of the ad says “State of Israel.” However, neither Hulu, which is majority owned by Disney, nor the Israeli government’s press office responded to VICE News’ request for comment about who paid for the ad. According to the Wall Street Journal, the video was pulled from YouTube as a paid ad but remains up as unpaid content on Israel’s National Public Diplomacy Directorate’s YouTube page.
Some viewers discussing the ad on TikTok and X, formerly Twitter, are condemning Hulu for airing the ads and calling for people to cancel their subscriptions. Others are organizing a protest outside Hulu’s headquarters on Friday.
“SHAME on Hulu for airing a disgusting, factually-incorrect and dehumanizing Zionist propaganda ad for Israel while they face genocide charges by the ICJ,” the Bronx Anti-War Coalition tweeted, while promoting the protest.
A poster for the protest, which appears to be led by several organizations, says “Demand Hulu stop running Israeli ads blaming Palestinians for being bombed.”
The ads come at a time when Israel’s military offensive in Gaza has killed over 27,000 people and wounded over 66,000, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.
In December, Hulu viewers reported seeing a Christmas-themed ad about the Oct. 7 Hamas attack that killed 1,200 Israelis, and took several hundred people hostage. The ad features Santa reading a letter from an Israeli child who says, “on October 7, some bad people came into our house. They hurt my mommy and took my daddy away.” The child then says he wishes Santa could bring his dad back home. The ad was paid for by the State of Israel.
Alessandro Accorsi, senior analyst of technology and conflict for the International Crisis Group, an NGO specializing in world conflict resolution, said the Hulu tourism-like ad comes at a time when Israel is dealing with “very bad (public relations).”
“They’re trying to target U.S. audiences with the kind of the message of, ‘Hey, it’s not our fault, first of all, it’s Hamas’ fault. We need to continue this for the sake of the Palestinians,” he said, adding the use of AI images offer an “alternative reality.”
“It’s a very positive media that at the same time also achieves the goal of polishing up the image of Israel and keeping away all these bad images that are coming out from the battleground.”
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The majority of U.S. voters support a permanent ceasefire and de-escalation of violence in Gaza, according to a Data for Progress poll from November.
Khaled Elgindy, a senior fellow and director of the Palestine and Israeli-Palestinian Affairs program at the Middle East Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, told VICE News the ad is “gross” and “totally dishonest.”
He said the ad ignores Israel’s 17-year-long blockade of Gaza and decades-long occupation of the Palestinian territories.
“It’s as if Israel was just minding its own business on October 7 and Gaza was a free and independent state that was not under Israeli control, was not being blockaded, there was no occupation,” he said. “Hamas… or any other authority never had the ability to turn Gaza into whatever make-believe fantasy world they were projecting.”
Elgindy said the ads are likely aimed at young people, with the understanding that Israel is “not winning the battle for hearts and minds.”
He said he wished Hulu hadn’t run the ads or had done “due diligence as to the factualness of these kinds of ads.”
Accorsi said earlier in the war, there were dozens of ads on YouTube and Google targeted at Europeans, but that many of those have been taken down because they violate rules in Europe restricting political ads on social media.
In July 2022, Hulu announced that it would accept political ads after Democrats complained the network had rejected their ads about abortion and guns, resulting in a boycott campaign.
Israel has also used Google ads to defend itself against genocide allegations at the International Court of Justice.
If Not Now and Jewish Voice for Peace, two U.S.-based Jewish organizations calling for a ceasefire, told VICE News they condemned Hulu’s airing of pro-Israel ads.
“I think it’s a highly disturbing choice by Hulu,” said Sonya Meyerson-Knox, communications director for Jewish Voice for Peace.
She added the commercials could be harmful to viewers who have family in Gaza and alienate those who want a ceasefire.
“They wouldn’t agree, therefore, with an ad that is clearly trying to defend continuing the military onslaught.”