newspaper ad stirs protest
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 papers 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, MSUs 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 campustruth.
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
Confronted by the roughly 40 students, The State News editor-in-chief,
Kevin Hardy, said the ads didnt violate advertising policies because
they were specific enough not to address any race, so a reasonable
person will see that these groups dont 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 MSUs 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 machines disinformation
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
The director of MSUs Hillel Jewish Student Center, Cindy Hughey,
said she also wasnt 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. Were
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 doesnt
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 shed become the Hillel Centers 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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