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Israel: Ms. Magazine Shuns Ad Promoting Leadership of Israeli Women

In a surprising move last week, Ms. Magazine refused to accept an advertisement that highlighted the leadership of Israeli women in public service. The full page advertisement sponsored by the American Jewish Congress featured three high profile Israeli women with the statement, “This is Israel,” in large, bold letters. The female political figures featured were Tzipi Livni, vice prime minister and minister of foreign affairs, Dorit Beinisch, president of the Supreme Court of Israel, and Dalia Itzik, speaker of the Knesset.

Photo Leader Role
Tzipi Livni Tzipi Livni Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs
(No photo available) Dorit Beinisch President of the Supreme Court
Dalia Itzik Dalia Itzik Speaker of the Knesset

Magazine representative Susie Gilligan reportedly told the American Jewish Congress, “[We] would love to have an ad from you on women's empowerment, or reproductive freedom, but not on this.”

Ms. Magazine's executive editor, Katherine Spillar, further explained the rejection, saying: “Because two of the women were from the same political party, we understood it as political. [The magazine] does not get involved in the domestic politics [of foreign nations].”

(Both Vice Prime Minister Livni and Knesset Speaker Itzik hail from the Kadima Party.)

American Jewish Congress president, Richard Gordon, fumed, “The only conclusion that one can reach from this behavior is that Ms. Magazine feels that an ad highlighting the accomplishments of three incredibly talented and dedicated women would offend their readership. 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. 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,”

Bloggers Speak Out–

Observing the Israeli and Jewish blogosphere's reactions to the scandal, Women's Lens blogger Aimee Kligman remarks:

“I suppose we don't need Ms. Magazine at this point, because this ad is alive and well on the blogosphere.”

The author of the Hashmonean blog features a copy of the advertisement, commenting:

“Here’s the ad that has been refused by the Magazine because from my understanding it is too controversial. It features three prominent Israeli Women in positions of power to illustrate our free, equal society where Women are generally very well liked and considered quite competent (they also get to carry machine guns, you’d think this was a Feminist Mecca here [in] the holy land no!?) Apparently not.”

Note that in the tradition of leaders in the public sphere coming from elite military backgrounds, Dorit Beinisch was a first lieutenant in the Israel Defense Forces and Tzipi Livni was an IDF officer and served in the Mossad, Israel's intelligence agency.

Avi Green of Tel-Chai Nation believes that there is a:

“…double-standard being displayed by Ms. Magazine, which wouldn't run an ad featuring three left-wing – I repeat, LEFT-WING – women who have high positions in Israeli politics and government: Tzipi Livni, Dorit Beinish [sic], and Dalia Itzik. It's very bad, because it shows that Ms. is hostile to Israel even when it's leftists who are the focus.”

Solomon of Solomonia reacts to Ms.’ explanation for their rejection of the advertisement, saying:

“Lame excuse. Tzipi Livni isn't exceptional because she's a prominent female Israeli figure, Israel is exceptional in her region because females are prominent (and in Israel, their gender is unexceptional).”

Women Leading the Way–

Golda Meir

Livni, Beinisch, and Itzik aren't Israel's only prominent women. Galia Maor is the CEO of Bank Leumi, the national bank of Israel, Ester Levanon is president of the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, and Dalia Narkiss leads Manpower, the largest employment agency in Israel. Additionally, Golda Meir served as Israel's fourth prime minister and first women in that position, from 1969 to 1974 (pictured left). And that's not all, Israel's first Olympic gold medal was earned by Yael Arad in judo in 1992.

What's Your Opinion?–

So what do you think? Should the magazine have offered the American Jewish Congress an opportunity to submit the advertisement with alternative figures? Is the issue being overblown? Is Ms. Magazine truly anti-Israel as the bloggers claim? What could have been done to avoid this international snafu?

Let's hear what you have to say.

21 comments

  • Maya, this is a great article. I have to admit that I’m not surprised this ad was rejected by Ms. It’s very nice that Israel has women in high-power political positions, but the AJC made a mistake by trying to push that angle. Israeli politics is not exactly an area with positive connotations, both inside and outside of Israel. It would have probably been a better strategy to profile women involved in social issues in Israel, or in business. This would have been more palatable.

    As for Tel Chai Nation’s incredulity that the magazine wouldn’t feature left-wing politicians – that’s incredible naivety on their part. Do they really believe that the world takes the time to nitpick and differentiate between our political parties? Israeli politicians are Israeli politicians, and that is that.

  • Jillian,

    Thanks so much!

    Too bad this has become such a scandal. Seems like the best thing would have been for Ms. to say, sorry, this version is too political, but we’d love to see a similar version with cultural figures. Not that culture can’t be controversial as well, but it would have been an alternative.

    Maya

  • Hi Miriam,

    Because I write about the Israeli blogosphere, there were many bloggers writing about this who would not be Ms. readers (or even within range) anyway. You can see, for instance, that I quoted the reactions of three men, because those were the Israeli bloggers who were speaking of it. Ideally, I would have liked to include reactions from some women as well.

    I do agree with Avi Green of Tel-Chai that those particular women are more likely to be found agreeable by Ms. because they are left-wing, but that assumes an intimate level of knowledge about Israeli politics that there is no reason Ms. would have.

    Tell me what you think, but as an immigrant to Israel, I often find Israelis woefully misinformed about how much the world knows about Israel. Perhaps because we are used to seeing Israel’s role in the world vastly inflated and so therefore we think people in the international community know things about us in more detail than they would about other countries. Who knows, but it’s something I like to think about.

    Thanks for stopping by,

    Maya

  • Thanks, Anti-Racist Blog. Glad you liked it.

    Maya

  • Yi Ran Liu:

    It’s obvious you’re thinking a lot about this issue. I’m glad to learn from you.

    You are absolutely right in saying that Ms.’ own statement as published on their website should have been stated in my article. If I had seen it, it would have been referenced front and center, but I missed it because of their website’s colors and formatting. I was sloppy and am glad to have made this mistake once in order to prevent it happening again in the future.

    I agree with what you are saying about in that a publication’s advertisements should complement its content. Clearly Ms. agreed with you and the way they perceived the ad was as political.

    I think where we see things differently is how we understand the advertisement itself. My impression is that you think of it as saying, “Israel is the best,” while I see it saying, “We’re on the right track.”

    As Mac comments above, in the end, it doesn’t matter what we think if this is how Ms. saw it. Jillian and Miriam point out that if the AJC really wanted to talk about women in Israel, they may have been better approaching it from a less controversial angle as Israeli politics are inherently problematized.

    Thanks for your great comment.

    Maya

  • Mac,

    That sounds right on target.

    Advertising is all about changing people’s understanding of your product and the AJC clearly miscalculated their audience.

    Maya

  • Yi Ran Liu

    Thank YOU for the article Maya :) Hopefully I’ll be travelling to Israel in a few months’ time and seeing some bits and pieces for myself :D

  • Wouldn’t it be a breath of fresh air if Ms. Magazine and leftist feminists — any prominent Western feminists — spoke up on behalf of victims of honor killings?

    Interestingly and disgustingly, their voices remain silent on this issue.

    Are we not our sisters’ keepers?

    Karen Tintori, author
    Unto the Daughters: The Legacy of an Honor Killling in a Sicilian-American Family
    http://www.karentintori.com

  • Dear Karen,

    Sorry for my delay in responding. For some reason I didn’t receive your comment by mail.

    In my research for this article, it was my understanding that Ms. did indeed feature a recent article on honor killings, and if I remember from when I was a reader several years back, it was a topic on the agenda. I’m sure their website will be able to orient you on the details.

    I hope that the next time I am back in the US (what with its wonderful public library system), I will have a chance to read some of your books.

    Thanks for your comment and for helping us focus on the key issues at hand. We may not be our sisters’ keepers, but we should care about their health, happiness, welfare, and survival.

    If you haven’t yet read it, I recommend the book Princess, as told to Jean Sasson. It’s a first hand anonymous account from one of the women of the Royal House of Saud.

    Maya

  • Yi Ran Liu,

    I hope you have a wonderful trip. Please feel free to e-mail me via the sidebar and tell me all about it. It would be great to hear how it goes.

    Wishing you pleasant and easy travels,

    Maya

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