War of words continues over rejected pro-Israel ad

Ad for Ms. magazine had featured headshots and names of senior female Israeli governmental figures.

The ad had featured headshots and names of senior female Israeli governmental figures, including Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch, Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, above the words "This is Israel." After the ad was rejected, officials of the AJCongress, along with feminist Jewish activists and officials from other Jewish organizations, accused Ms. magazine of a "clear anti-Israel bias." In her Tuesday statement, Harriet Kurlander - the director of the AJCongress's Commission for Women's Empowerment, and the one behind the ad - was responding to Ms. executive editor Katherine Spillar's claim this week that the AJCongress accusations were "untrue and unfair." It was time for Ms. "to end this cover-up for its faulty judgment and simply print the ad," Kurlander demanded, claiming that "their excuses for why they failed to carry the ad are contradicted both by the facts of what really happened and by simple common sense." Spillar said in a statement that "Ms. policy is to accept only mission-driven advertisements from primarily non-profit, non-partisan organizations that promote women's equality, social justice, sustainable environment, and non-violence. In Ms. magazine's judgment, the ad submitted by AJCongress for consideration was inconsistent with this policy." According to Spillar, the ad could be seen "as favoring certain political parties within Israel over other parties" - since two of the three women belonged to the ruling Kadima party. But the magazine also took issue with the ad's slogan, "This is Israel," which "implied that women in Israel hold equal positions of power with men. Israel, like every other country, has far to go to reach equality for women." The Ms. editor noted that "women only comprise 14% of the Israeli Knesset, placing Israel 74th in the world for women's representation in government," and that Israeli feminists had written in the magazine about their struggles for a greater voice in the Israeli political arena. Speaking of an article on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi entitled, "This is What a Speaker Looks Like," Spillar noted, "we did not claim that 'This is what the USA looks like.' Far from it, since women comprise only 17% of the Congress, ranking 65th in the world in women's representation, and continue to face discrimination in every aspect of American society." But the AJCongress refused to accept the magazine's explanation. AJCongress president Richard Gordon blasted the argument that the ad could be construed as politically partisan. "In any parliamentary democracy, the foreign minister and leader of the parliament are going to be from the same party," he said. "Showing both of them in the same picture, alongside someone who is not affiliated with their party, clearly is not a partisan political statement. Moreover, none of the three women pictured in the ad are running for office, nor is their party affiliation mentioned. Finally, the ad did not advocate voting for them or call for supporting them. Ms. magazine obviously is trying to create a legal fiction after the fact to cover their bias at the time of the incident." According to Kurlander, at the time she had tried to place the ad, she had been told by the magazine's Susie Gilligan that the magazine "would love to have an ad from you on women's empowerment, or reproductive freedom, but not on this" - suggesting that the problem was the topic of Israel, not the alleged partisanship of the presentation. Kurlander added that other Ms. personnel had explained to her that the ad could not run because it "will set off a firestorm" and "there are very strong opinions" on the subject. The organization also claims that following the ad's rejection, "numerous" phone calls and even one certified letter from Gordon to magazine publisher Eleanor Smeal were not answered. Kurlander insisted that the ad met Ms. magazine's stated policy. "Our ad was clearly mission-driven [women's empowerment] and from a - non-profit, non-partisan organization that promotes women's equality, social justice, [and] sustainable environment,'" she said.