Ms. rejects ad promoting Israel, sets off debate

BY MIKE SHERWIN, ASSISTANT EDITOR

A decision by Ms. Magazine to spike an American Jewish Congress advertisement featuring prominent Israeli women leaders in the executive, legislative and judicial branches of Israel’s government has stirred up controversy, with AJCongress officials charging that the magazine acted out of anti-Israel sentiment.

The advertisement includes individual photographs of Dorit Beinisch, president of Israel’s Supreme Court, Tzipi Livni, vice prime minister of foreign affairs, and Dalia Itzik, speaker of the Knesset presented at the top. In large, bold letters below reads, “This is Israel.”

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The AJCongress submitted the full-page advertisement in November, but Ms. Magazine decided not to run it, according to JTA.

Harriet Kurlander, director of AJCongress’ Commission for Women’s Empowerment, said in a news release that when she submitted the AJCongress ad, a Ms. Magazine representative told her that the ad would “set off a firestorm,” and that “there are very strong opinions” on the subject, which she believed to mean Israel.

In a statement, Kathy Spillar, Ms. Magazine’s executive editor, and the executive vice president of the Feminist Majority Foundation, which publishes Ms. Magazine, said the advertisement ran contrary to the magazine’s policies and that the AJCongress’ criticism was unfounded.

“In its press release criticizing Ms., AJCongress has taken the position that Ms. therefore must be ‘hostile to Israel’. This is untrue and unfair,” Spillar said in the statement. “Ms. frequently covers women leaders from around the globe. Indeed, the current issue just now hitting newsstands, features a major story profiling Israel’s Foreign Affairs Minister Tzipi Livni, highlighting her career and accomplishments,” she said.

“Ms. Magazine’s policy, however, is to only accept mission-driven advertisements from primarily non-profit, non-partisan organizations that promote women’s equality, social justice, sustainable environment, and non-violence. The ad submitted by AJCongress for consideration appeared to be a political ad, and as such, was inconsistent with this policy. With two of the women featured in the ad from one political party in Israel, Ms. concluded that in accepting the ad it could be viewed as though it was supporting one political party over another in the internal domestic politics of a country,” Spillar said in the statement.

Jay Umansky, president of the St. Louis Chapter of AJCongress, said the magazine’s explanation was “patently ludicrous.”

“I think the ad itself was incredibly innocuous,” he said. “It doesn’t push any particular point of view. It is merely supportive of Israeli women empowerment and how far Israeli women have come.”

“The fact that they refused to carry this ad is nothing short of outrageous,” Umansky said.

“Had an organization said, ‘This is Canada.’ and published three photographs of influential women in Canadian politics, the ad would have run and not a person would have raised the issue,” he said.

“But because it was Israel, it apparently raised some kind of flag, and people within the adverstising department at Ms. Magazine made the decision, in my mind, purely based upon the fact that the ad promoted Israel. I find that incredibly discomforting,” Umansky said.

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