Recently, extreme pro-Israel (or perhaps better characterized as anti-Palestinian) ads in The Michigan Daily have elicited a strong campus-wide reaction. The Michigan Daily advertising policy states that the Daily reserves the right to refuse any ad at any time for any reason. Ads are judged on an ad-by-ad basis. However, if an advertising account executive or department manager feels the content of the ad is controversial, it will be brought before a student committee for approval, composed of student advertising managers at the Daily and the business manager. The Daily’s editorial staff (i.e., those who write the content of the Daily) has no formal means of input into this decision.

When even the most controversial ads appear in a publication, the content of the ad does not necessarily indicate the official opinion of the newspaper carrying the advertisement. There are a litany of reasons why a publication could choose to run such a potentially controvertible item, reasons ranging from mundane necessity – advertising dollars finance operation, to a principled choice – a belief in absolutely advancing free speech. For the newspaper’s official positions, one need merely consult the unsigned editorials which speak for the paper.

Whether an ad is controversial and passes the business staff’s scrutiny is less important than addressing the problems inherent in certain types of advertisements, in this case, those ads that have recently run in the Daily and which are meant to stoke the fires already raging on campus concerning the State of Israel.

It works to the detriment of all concerned parties when inflammatory advertisements serve as the opposing sides’ primary delegates; the support of those indifferent is not garnered and the ire of the other side is merely raised. Certain propaganda which has run recently has momentarily shifted the balance of blame toward the pro-Israeli parties who purposely denigrated Palestinians, yet sadly, these sorts of tactics are foreign to neither of the two sides of this debate.

As is true of most discourse, the general quality and credibility of the arguments advanced are both diminished when the dialogue degenerate into degradation meant only to evoke visceral response. Nothing new or engaging is contributed by deliberately antagonizing the other side, and the method of attack only works to obscure the actual facts and opinions which should be considered. Publishing these sort of attack ads only serves to polarize those on both sides of the debate. In this specific case, the extreme pro-Israel ads have put moderately pro-Israel supporters on the defensive and offered pro-Palestinian groups excuse for misplaced outrage at the entire pro-Israel camp.

Those on both sides of this debate would do well to refrain from publishing these sorts of ads. Instead, groups who have spent time, energy, and money seeking to impugn their opponents should focus those resources on generating more forums for informed and civil exploration of the battery of considerations entailed when assessing this issue. Then, the advertising space could be used to enfranchise more citizens by informing them of opportunities to be educated and involved. While those sorts of ads will not have the same startling effect that showing Palestinians holding guns does, the results yielded will be more beneficial for everyone and keep attention focused on what is truly important.

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