Benetton markets the United Colors of Israel

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TEL AVIV -- The stalled Middle East peace process has not at all daunted Benetton photographer Oliviero Toscani, who began shooting part of the Benetton Spring/Summer catalog in Israel September 15, featuring several Arabs and Jewish Israelis whose stories offer a glimmer of hope for the future of the region.

The shoot, says a Benetton spokeswoman, is in keeping with the company's support of the Middle East peace process. "It's a tragedy politicians can't do anything for this region any more," Toscani told the Daily World Wire after his first day of shooting in Tel Aviv, where he took portraits of a group of Israeli and Arab students sharing an apartment, as well as of two women, one Palestinian and one Israeli, who had given birth recently at the same time in the same hospital, and who had become friends as a result of the experience.

"Israel offers the biggest example of human intolerance, while at the same time showing goodwill and proving that humanity can survive (here)," Toscani continued.

In keeping with his contentious character, Toscani, who shot portraits for a Benetton catalog in the Gaza Strip three years ago, said that both he and Benetton weren't interested in consensus when it came to marketing their products.

Talking about market research and explaining his desire to use Israel as a backdrop for part of the Benetton catalog, he said: "If you want to succeed, you have to do the opposite of what people without courage do. Marketing is a fake invention which kills creativity and courage. Advertising needs courage."

As Toscani continues his trip through the area, he will also be photographing an Israeli man from Tel Aviv who regularly buys an Egyptian newspaper at a Palestinian newsstand in Jerusalem; a Jewish barber in Tel Aviv and his Arab clients who come specially to him for his open blade shave; and two press photographers from Hebron - one Jewish and one Palestinian - who struck up a friendship after being at the scenes of several bomb attacks together.

More than five million copies of the catalog will be distributed in more than 120 countries worldwide. Toscani will be in Israel untill September 23.

Copyright September 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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