NEW YORK - The American Jewish Congress is assailing Ms. magazine as hostile toward Israel for refusing to run an ad submitted by the organization that heralds the fact that women now hold three of Israel's most powerful positions.
"What other conclusion can we reach except that the publishers - and if the publishers are right, a significant number of Ms. magazine readers - are so hostile to Israel that they do not even want to see an ad that says something positive about Israel?" asked Richard Gordon, the group's president.
He termed the rejection "disgusting and despicable."
The ad rejected by Ms. had a three-word message - "This is Israel" - accompanied by photographs of Supreme Court President Dorit Beinish, Vice Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Tzipi Livni, and Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik.
The executive editor of Ms., Katherine Spillar, said yesterday that the allegation that the feminist magazine is anti-Israel is "untrue and unfair." She cited numerous articles it has run on Israeli women, including a profile of Livni in its current issue.
Spillar said Ms. accepts only "mission-driven advertisements" primarily from nonprofit, nonpartisan organizations that promote women's equality and social goals.
"In Ms. magazine's judgment, the ad submitted by AJCongress for consideration was inconsistent with this policy," Spillar said.
"Not only could the ad be seen as favoring certain political parties within Israel over other parties, but also with its slogan 'This is Israel,' the ad implied that women in Israel hold equal positions of power with men," Spillar added. "Israel, like every other country, has far to go to reach equality for women."
Two of the three women pictured in the ad, Livni and Itzik, are members of Israel's governing Kadima Party.
At a news conference yesterday, officials and allies of the American Jewish Congress criticized Ms.'s explanation for rejecting the ad. Gordon said the magazine's contention that the ad was politically partisan was "a legal fiction. . . . to cover their bias."
The director of the Jewish organization's Commission for Women's Empowerment, Harriet Kurlander, said the Ms. article about Livni did not provide an excuse for rejecting the ad. "Our ad was not about the accomplishments of any one Israeli woman, no matter how outstanding her individual accomplishments might be," Kurlander said. "Our ad is about Israel and the way in which Israel empowers women."
Kurlander said that when she initially tried to place the ad, she was told by a Ms. employee, Susie Gilligan, that it was unacceptable because it would "set off a firestorm."
Spillar, in a telephone interview with the Associated Press, said this remark had been taken out of context, but she also suggested that Ms. should have moved sooner to provide a more detailed explanation for the rejection. "We would have done the same with any other country - we don't do country ads," Spillar said. "To accuse us of being anti-Israel is so outrageous."
Spillar detailed some of the coverage that Ms. has devoted to Israel, including a feature article in 2006 by feminist Alice Shalvi of Israel about efforts to rectify gender inequality. Spillar said women hold only 14 percent of the seats in the Knesset, Israel's parliament, placing its 74th in the world in terms of women's representation.