Magazine's rejection of ad on Israeli women causes furor

Dershowitz: This is pure and simple anti-Israel discrimination.

anti israel magazine 224 (photo credit: Courtesy)
anti israel magazine 224
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Feminist Jewish activists are preparing a campaign targeted at the quarterly Ms. magazine after it refused to run an ad featuring Israeli women because it was "too controversial." The ad features the head shots and names of Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch, Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, above the words "This is Israel." Harriet Kurlander, the woman who tried to place the ad, and the executive director of the American Jewish Congress's Commission for Women's Empowerment, said the ad "was as innocuous a statement as one could possibly see - we never expected controversy." According to Kurlander, "We considered the ad to be laudatory of the accomplishments of three extraordinary women, each sitting at the head of a different branch of Israel's government. What countries in the Middle East can point to that record of accomplishment for women? When I placed the ad and described it to [employees of Ms. magazine], there was no objection for quite some time. We talked about the cost, the placement, the deadline. Then they called and said it's too controversial, that there are passionate feelings on both sides of the issue." Kurlander recalls replying, "What issue? We're not talking about borders, settlements, refugees, Jerusalem - we're talking about women! Isn't this what it's all about?" Ms. magazine's executive editor, Kathy Spillar, told JTA the ad was rejected because it supported a particular political party, since two of the three women represented were from Kadima. This would violate the magazine's standards, she said. "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. Spillar added that "ironically," this month's issue has a two-page spread profiling Livni. "These excuses insult the intelligence of their readers," said Harvard University law professor Alan Dershowitz. "My family has been a subscriber since the beginning, but this is an act of utter bigotry. It's pure and simple anti-Israel discrimination. They've run many controversial ads and stories. And they will never stick to this standard in the future or they'll be bankrupted. This is a standard invented for Israel. Ms. magazine has become the United Nations of magazines." "The ad "tells the truth," Dershowitz said. "There's no country in the world that has as many women on the Supreme Court. Israel is the first country in history to have a woman prime minister who did it on her own, and wasn't married to or the child of another significant person." "The ad has to run," he continued, "and there should be stories about the ad not running, and finally, whoever made decision [not to run the ad] must be fired." Dershowitz also vowed "to start a campaign of leading feminists to critique and disassociate themselves from so bigoted a magazine. No legitimate person today can support Ms. magazine while it has this policy." The American Jewish Congress is "moving forward and discussing a number of strategies" in responding to the magazine's decision, Kurlander said. "There's a tremendous firestorm now, but not the one they expected [had they run the ad]." According to the Congress's Israel director, Danny Grossman, the magazine may have picked the wrong organization to turn down. The AJCongress has been pushing feminist advocacy since the 1980s, he said. "No one's saying Israel is perfect, but the ad itself just pointed to the fact that women in Israel have reached the absolute highest levels, and that is noteworthy for us," Grossman said. "It is incredible that an American magazine which should champion women's rights won't do that if Israel is the context."•