Pro-Israel Ad Rejected by Ms. Magazine

By Anthony Weiss

Published January 11, 2008, issue of January 11, 2008.
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A prominent feminist magazine declined to run an advertisement featuring images of Israel’s top female political leaders.

The ad in question was submitted by the American Jewish Congress to Ms. Magazine, and spotlighted photographs of Dorit Beinisch, President of Israel’s Supreme Court; Tzipi Livni, Israel’s foreign minister; and Dalia Itzik, the Speaker of the Knesset, over the text, “This is Israel.”

AJCongress submitted the ad in November and Ms. declined to print it. The AJCongress said it was told by the magazine’s representative that the ad would “set off a firestorm.”

“Since there is nothing about the ad itself that is offensive, it is obviously the nationality of the women pictured that the management of Ms. fears their readership would find objectionable,” said AJCongress president Richard Gordon in a statement. “For a publication that holds itself out to be in the forefront of the Women’s Movement, this is nothing short of disgusting and despicable.”

Ms. Magazine executive editor Kathy Spillar responded that the real concern was that two of the featured women – Itzik and Livni – were both members of the Kadima political party and the ad would thus leave the magazine open to the charge of political favoritism.

“We didn’t feel adequate to the task of putting an ad in that might be seen as meddling in the internal politics of Israel,” Spillar told the Forward. “We wouldn’t do it for any other country either.”

Spillar said that Ms. only carries “mission-driven” advertising, not political advertising.

The spat is particularly notable given that a number of prominent feminists, including Betty Friedan, Bella Abzug, and Ms. co-founder Letty Cottin Pogrebin were members of AJCongress’s Commission on Women’s Equality. Pogrebin, who co-founded the magazine with Gloria Steinem, has been a public defender of Israel.

Pogrebin could not be reached for comment.

The ad was created at the suggestion of an AJCongress lay leader to highlight the fact that women now occupy leading positions in Israel’s executive, legislative and political branches. In the response, a Ms. representative said that “we would love to have an ad from you on women’s empowerment, or reproductive freedom, but not on this,” according to the AJCongress.

Gordon told the Forward that he urged the staff to try again, and that he attempted to speak with the publisher of Ms., but received no response. AJCongress officials said that Ms. did not initially mention anything about political parties or internal meddling in their response.

“It is the lamest of excuses that I’ve ever heard, on its face,” said senior official David Twersky. “I can’t believe that they even came up with that.”

Spillar, in turn, pointed out that the next issue of Ms. will include a profile of Livni, assigned before the ad dispute.

Ironically, the profile quotes Israel Women’s Network president Rina Bar-Tal bemoaning Israel’s lack of female political leadership.

“We have so few role models in this country—two female ministers, a speaker of house, 17 women members in the Knesset out of 120,” Bar-Tal told Ms. “We would like them to be part of the fight, the campaign, part of us.”

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