A leading U.S. Holocaust-denial group’s advertisements were pulled from a liberal weekly, The Nation, after protests from editorial staffers and Jewish organizations.
The May 3 issue of the magazine featured a promotional ad for the book “The Founding Myths of Modern Israel.” The ad claimed that the book dissects historical myths used to justify Zionist aggression, including “the most sacred of Jewish-Zionist icons, the Holocaust story.”
Placed by the Institute for Historical Review, an organization dedicated to refuting accepted Holocaust history, the ad was scheduled to run in six issues. But at a hastily convened meeting, several editors and business executives at The Nation decided that the claims in the ad violated the magazine’s policy not to print “patently fraudulent” ads.
“We have the right to refuse ads on the one hand, and on the other hand we have a presumption in favor of taking ads where we politically disagree,” said Victor Navasky, publisher and editorial director of The Nation, one of the country’s oldest liberal magazines. “Those two principles are in tension in a case like this… and here the argument that it was inappropriate prevailed.”
Navasky said the magazine has not adopted a general policy regarding the printing of Holocaust-denial ads, though the issue of advertising guidelines was hastily put on the agenda of the magazine’s biannual board meeting, scheduled to start at the end of this week.
The initial decision to run the Holocaust-denial ad was criticized on April 21 in separate correspondence to The Nation from the director of the Anti-Defamation League, Abraham Foxman, and Rafael Medoff, the director of the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, near Philadelphia. That same day, the magazine’s advertising manager, Leigh Novog, sent an e-mail to Medoff, stating that his complaint had “prompted a meeting of The Nation’s Advertising and Acceptability Committee,” after which the magazine requested that the Institute for Historical Review “not run advertising in future issues.”
Medoff quickly issued a statement claiming credit for the decision. Navasky told the Forward that the ad was brought to his attention by an editor who found it to be offensive.
Novog sent an April 21 letter explaining the magazine’s decision to Mark Weber, director of the Institute for Historical Review.
“I am disappointed to write you today,” Novog wrote. “I am aware of the position the Institute for Historical Review takes on the holocaust. It was my belief that The Nation would support my decision to solicit the IHR for advertising in a media outlet that would welcome discussion of this controversial viewpoint.”
In his letter to Weber, Novog quoted from The Nation’s ban on fraudulent ads, which was published in a 1979 issue of the magazine. Novog also detailed the refund being sent with the letter: “Mark, the IHR rendered a check to The Nation for $1,600 for 6 one-eighth page black and white ads,” Novog wrote. “One insertion ran on 5/3. The Nation is returning a check for $1,333.33.”
This was the first time that Weber’s organization ran an ad in The Nation, according to Peter Rothberg, an associate publisher at the magazine.
The IHR did place the same ad in the Washington Post book section in 2001. An advertising manager at the Post told the Forward that it slipped through by mistake and that the procedure was immediately revamped so it wouldn’t happen again.
The Nation controversy was the second one last week surrounding Weber’s Southern California-based organization. Weber stepped in after the Turn Verein, a German social and sports club in Sacramento, canceled plans earlier this month to rent its facilities to a Holocaust revisionist conference only days before the two-day event was scheduled to start. Funded in part by the IHR, the event was organized by the European American Cultural Council, a smaller Holocaust-denial group with a membership of approximately 600.
After the Turn Verein decided not to host the event, saying that it had only just learned in a local newspaper that the conference involved Holocaust deniers and white supremacists, Weber quickly organized a truncated one-day gathering on April 24 that attracted 130 participants to an undisclosed location in Sacramento.
The president of the European American Cultural Council, Walter Mueller, refused to participate in the rescheduled conference, since Weber decided to accept the assistance of members of white supremacist groups, including the National Alliance.
In an interview with the Forward, Weber said that his organization challenges the notion that 6 million Jews were murdered by the Nazis, as well as the existence of gas chambers and extermination camps. Weber argued that Hitler did not have a “final solution” to annihilate European Jewry.
“The whole issue with The Nation underscores the very point that we live in a society in which trenchant criticisms of Jewish-Zionist power are just not permitted,” Weber said.
Medoff countered that it was important for respected publications to deny advertising space to the IHR and other groups that deny the Holocaust. “Groups like the IHR are always seeking legitimacy, to appear as if they are saying something credible,” Medoff said.
“If they place an ad in a mainstream publication, that’s a major victory in their view…. That’s why we felt it was important for The Nation to affirm that Holocaust denial is beyond the pale.”