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Palo Alto Online

Publication Date: Friday, November 14, 2003

Students say 'One Truth' full of lies Students say 'One Truth' full of lies (November 14, 2003)

Ad campaign puts Stanford Daily on the defensive

by Lorraine Sanders

A series of controversial ads considered "racist" toward Palestinians has left the Stanford Daily struggling to defend itself and its advertising policy.

One campus group even tried to recall the Daily's editor-in-chief, Ramin Setoodeh, a staunch defender of the paper's right to publish the ads.

The ads, paid for by a nonprofit group called the One Truth Foundation, juxtapose photographs of Israelis and Palestinians. Under each ad, the same caption reads, "there are two sides to every story, but only one truth."

One ad shows an Israeli candlelight vigil on Sept. 11, 2001. Opposite this picture is a Palestinian man wielding a semi-automatic machine gun. Another ad presents the effects of a suicide bombing by listing the number of Israeli citizens killed and wounded during the bombing on one side and the benefits to the suicide bomber's family -- including $25,000 and a pension for life -- on the other.

The advertisements, placed in college papers nationwide, sparked student protests and anger that pressured campus newspapers at The University of Michigan and Rutgers University to pull the ads. The Stanford Daily is scheduled to run them until Nov. 21, despite one of the strongest student backlashes against the paper in recent years.

"I saw the second ad that was published in the Daily, the one with the 9/11 reference," said Abdullah Al Misnad, one student who asked the Daily to remove the ads. "Once I saw the ad I was immediately shocked at the intolerance and racism it promoted. Basically, I didn't think that anyone would actually publish an ad with the sole aim of defaming and smearing the Palestinian people."

Setoodeh struggled over whether to publish the ads and withheld one he found to be factually inaccurate. Ultimately, Setoodeh decided he could not withhold the ads based on offensiveness alone.

"The issue I deal with isn't, 'how will I help the student body,'" Setoodeh said, "it's 'what will I report?' They've forgotten the reason the press exists isn't to just pump out positive info."

Stanford student group Coalition for Justice, angered and offended by the ads, began circulating a petition to recall Setoodeh, who has the final say regarding all Daily content, on Nov. 5. By Monday, the group had gathered 300 signatures asking for the ads' removal from the paper and 120 signatures asking for Setoodeh's removal from his job.

The petition says the ads are in conflict with the Daily's advertising policy, which bars an ad that "tends to incite violence, is obscene or libelous, or casts aspersion on individuals or groups on the basis of race, religion, sexual preference, national origin, age, physical disability, or other invidious grounds."

The petition also criticizes Setoodeh for not contacting student organizations about the inflammatory ad prior to publication.

"We feel that these advertisements went far beyond controversy and into the realm of unacceptable ignorance, intolerance, and hatred," states the Coalition for Justice petition.

For his part, Setoodeh said what began as legitimate controversy about the ads has turned personal.

"People are now attacking me and trying to get me fired from a job I've worked three years to get," Setoodeh said last Friday, three days before the recall effort was stopped by the newspaper board's vote.

At Monday's Daily board meeting, members also agreed to assemble a panel about newspaper advertising so students could better understand the process.

Marcella Rosen, president of One Truth Foundation and its Web site campustruth.org, said the ads are supposed to help students think and question.

"We discovered that students don't know the history," Rosen said of the Israel/Palestine conflict. "College is supposed to be the time when you hear other points of view."

Rosen, who lives in Manhattan, said the ads combat lies about Israel that appear in the media and on campuses. In its coverage of the April 2002 Israeli-backed raid on Jenin, Rosen said the media was "demonizing Israel for what it did" by calling the incident a massacre. Rosen felt she had to speak out in Israel's defense and began placing ads in campus papers last year. Rosen insists the ads are based on provable, documented facts.

"It's real, it's true," Rosen said, "and I wish to hell it weren't. But it's part of [Palestinian] culture and their school system to hate. I'm not saying every Palestinian, but a large majority do."

Rosen said students who call the ads racist are "fussing," and being "ridiculous."

Other college newspapers have experienced similar inflammatory reactions to the ad campaign. Northwestern, Yale, and UCLA, along with Stanford, are among the school newspapers that continued to run the ads.

Loraine Sanders can be e-mailed at lsanders@paweekly.com


 

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