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MSU newspaper ad stirs protest

By DANIEL STURM

Five student groups rallied in front of the MSU student services building Monday, protesting The State News’ publication of a series of advertisements that protesters are calling “anti-Palestinian” and say promote hatred and racism.

Michael Perez, an anthropology masters student and the co-founder of Students for Peace and Justice, asked The State News to run a public apology “addressing its failure to meet its own ethical standards of advertising.” The university paper’s Code of Advertising Acceptability states that it will not publish advertisements that attack or criticize directly or by implication any race, sex, creed, religion, organization, institution, business or profession without a firm justification.


The State News, MSU’s student newspaper, is running a series of advertisements that portray Israelis as victims and Palestinians as aggressors. Five groups protested the ads Monday as promoting hatred and racism. The newspaper plans to continue running the ads, which are sponsored by an American organization called cam
pustruth.

The State News signed a contract to run 10 half-page advertisements, four of which have already been
published. The ad published on March 10 shows a

picture of an Israeli woman lighting a candle at a vigil, with a caption reading, “September 11, 2001 Israelis mourned in Tel Aviv.” Next to this is a picture showing three men holding semi-automatic weapons, with a caption

reading, “September 11, 2001 Palestinians celebrated in Lebanon.” The ad is framed by a red headline at the

bottom, stating: “There are two sides to every story, but only one truth.”

Confronted by the roughly 40 students, The State News’ editor-in-chief, Kevin Hardy, said the ads didn’t violate advertising policies because they were “specific enough not to address any race, so a reasonable person will see that these groups don’t represent how all Arabs feel and how all Jews feel.” Hardy said he knew the ad was going to be controversial, but thought it could promote a productive dialogue. He refused to publicly apologize or to stop the advertisement campaign, but agreed to explain his position at the Students for Peace and Justice meeting at MSU’s Baker Hall, on March 11 and at the local mosque on March 14.

The ads’ sponsor is an organization called campustruth, which describes itself on its Web site (campustruth.org) as a group of “Americans of all faiths who accept diversity of opinion but believe in truth and accuracy.” The organization claims that American college students are the targets of an “Arab propaganda machine’s disinformation campaign.”

Perez says that the complexity of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict cannot be reduced to a “two-sided” issue. In a March 10 column for The State News, he wrote, “If campustruth.org was sincerely interested in communicating the truth, then it might have included the simple reality that innocent Palestinians die too. This is an uncontroversial claim and is integral for understanding the cycle of violence that has permeated Palestinian/Israeli society.”

The director of MSU’s Hillel Jewish Student Center, Cindy Hughey, said she also wasn’t happy with the campaign. “These ads are causing unnecessary discomfort on campus.” Hughey said although some Jewish students were tired of reading anti-Israeli sentiment in The State News, this ad campaign was no improvement. “We’re not living on a militant campus. If somebody had asked me if I would publish the ad, I would have said no.” She said she doesn’t think the paper takes their advertising policy seriously enough, recalling that it published an ad which denied the existence of the Holocaust only recently after she’d become the Hillel Center’s director, in 2000. “My students were mortified.”

In 2001, a controversy arose when ultra-conservative David Horowitz tried to publish an ad presenting his argument against the proposal that reparations be given to descendants of slaves. The State News refused.

Perez, a Cuban Muslim born in the United States, argued that given the events of Sept. 11 and subsequent rise of anti-Arab and Muslim sentiment in the United States, such as acts that included a shooting at a local East Lansing mosque, the school paper “should have exercised a greater level of sensitivity to the potential effects of such a deplorable and narrow perspective.” Since January 2003 immigrants and students from Middle-Eastern and South-Asian countries are forced to go through a special registration procedure at the INS, and the FBI has begun compiling detailed information on mosques and communities of Middle-Eastern ethnic heritage. According to the Dearborn-based Blue Triangle Network more than 1,100 Arabs, Muslims and South Asians in the United States have been arrested by the FBI and INS in the wake of Sept. 11.


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