The Ad Ms. Magazine Refused To Run:


The message, I take it, is pretty clear — "Feminists should like the way women are treated in Israeli life," coupled with the pretty strong implication of "... and look how favorably it compares on this score to Israel's enemies." Yet this is what the American Jewish Congress reports happened when the ad was submitted to Ms. magazine:

When Director of AJCongress’ Commission for Women’s Empowerment Harriet Kurlander tried to place the ad, she was told that publishing the ad “will set off a firestorm” and that “there are very strong opinions” on the subject -− the subject presumably being whether or not one can say anything positive about Israel. Ms. Magazine publisher Eleanor Smeal failed to respond to a signed-for certified letter with a copy of the ad as well as numerous calls by Mr. Gordon over a period of weeks.

A Ms. Magazine representative, Susie Gilligan, whom the Ms. Magazine masthead lists under the publisher’s office, told Ms. Kurlander that the magazine “would love to have an ad from you on women’s empowerment, or reproductive freedom, but not on this.” Ms. Gilligan failed to elaborate what “this” is....

Ms. Magazine has a long record of publishing advertisements rallying readers to support reproductive choice; opposing the Religious Right; highlighting the fragility of the pro-Roe v. Wade majority on the Supreme Court; charging that “Pat Robertson and his Religious Right cohorts don’t like individual freedom;” announcing support for the “struggle for freedom and human rights;” opposing the Bush administration’s campaign to fill federal courts with judges who “will reverse decades of progress on reproductive rights and privacy, civil rights, religious liberty, environmental protection and so much more;” as well as accusing the Bush administration of being “bent on rewarding big corporations and the rich, turning back the clock on women’s rights and civil rights, and promoting a U.S. empire abroad.”

“This flagship publication of the American women’s empowerment movement publishes ads that are controversial in the general culture but not so among its readership,” Ms. Kurlander said. “Obviously, Ms. believes our ad would enflame a significant portion of their readers.”

Mr. Gordon added, “What really amazes me is that just recently, in their Winter 2007 issue, Ms. ran a cover story with a picture of Congresswomen Nancy Pelosi with the heading in big letters: “This is What a Speaker Looks Like.” While Ms. has every reason to be proud of Speaker Pelosi and her accomplishments, as are we, the only discernable difference between Speaker Pelosi and Speaker Itzik apparently is that Speaker Pelosi is not Israeli.”

Mr. Gordon noted that while Israel was apparently too hot to handle, Ms. Magazine did not extend that taboo to Arab and Moslem women. “What is even more amazing is that, while refusing to publish a simple ad praising three very notable women, women who embody the ideal that Ms. Magazine seemingly espouses, Ms. has run a cover article in the Fall 2003 issue on Queen Noor of Jordan, has featured a number of articles on Muslim women, and even ran an article in the Winter 2004 issue entitled, ‘Images of Palestine,’ which discussed the Ramallah Film Festival and gave sympathetic reviews to films concerning ‘the liberation of South Lebanon’ from Israel as well as numerous films which portrayed terrorism as legitimate ‘revolutionary’ activity against Israel and miscast Israel’s activities to counter terrorism as ‘oppressive.’” ...

The AJC item closes with this: “Ms. has the right to turn down our ad. But in exercising that right, it has spoken loudly about itself and its readership, and their lingering hostility to Israel.” If the account in the AJC report is correct — and I have no reason to doubt it, though if you know of contrary facts, please let me know — then the AJC's evaluation seems quite right, too: Ms. is entitled to make its editorial judgment, but it's an editorial judgment that we ought to condemn.

UPDATE: Here's the magazine's response.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Ms. Response:
  2. The Ad Ms. Magazine Refused To Run:
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Ms. Response:

The Jewish Telegraph Agency reports, apropos the "This is Israel" ad controversy:

Ms. magazine's executive editor, Kathy Spillar, disputes [the AJC's version of the story, which is that the AJC was told the ad “would set off a firestorm” and that “there are very strong opinions” on the subject], telling JTA the ad showed political support for one of Israel's parties and thus violated magazine standards.

"We only take mission-driven ads," Spillar said. "Because two of the women in this ad were from the same political party," that showed favoritism, and the magazine's policy is not to get involved in the domestic politics of another country.

Gordon noted that the magazine in its Fall 2003 issue ran a cover story on Jordan’s Queen Noor, and the Winter 2004 issue contained an article on the Ramallah Film Festival called “Images of Palestine.”

Spillar responded that "ironically" this month's issue, just coming to newsstands now, has a two-page spread profiling Livni.

I'm happy that Ms. is willing to profile Israeli politicians; but the question remains just why they rejected this particular pro-Israel ad -- and my tentative thought is that the Ms. claim is a bit implausible. It just seems pretty odd for an American magazine distributor, which I imagine has few readers outside the U.S., to see this clearly pro-Israel ad as somehow advocacy for the party to which two of the three women belong. But in any event, I'm glad to pass along the magazine's side of the story. Of course, if anyone has facts supporting or rejecting its side of the story (e.g., prior references to this policy), I'd love to hear them.

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