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Middle East Studies Group Blasts New York Times

May 18, 2012

The Middle East Studies Association on Thursday released a letter it sent to The New York Times, criticizing the newspaper for refusing to run a letter to the editor by 151 faculty members objecting to an ad that the newspaper did run. The ad -- by the David Horowitz Freedom Center -- identified 14 "professors of hate" who the center said advocate a boycott of Israel. The ad called for these professors to be "publicly shamed" and urged alumni and students to contact the presidents of the professors' universities. The opening of the ad noted that boycotts of Jewish stores were an early tactic of the Nazis. In response to the ad, 151 professors wrote a letter to the editor of the Times, arguing that the ad unfairly linked their criticism of Israel to the Nazis, distorting their views.

Eileen M. Murphy, vice president of corporate communications at the Times, told Inside Higher Ed via e-mail that the letter was rejected based on policy. "The decision not to run this particular letter to the editor was based on the fact that our letters space is reserved for comment about our journalism, both news and opinion, not about paid advertisements," she said.

The Middle East Studies Association's letter questions that logic. "With this decision, the Times has failed in its duty to act in the public interest by fostering the open and vigorous exchange of ideas and opinions and by giving those who have been subjected to defamation by means of a paid advertisement a reasonable opportunity to respond," the letter said. "We call on The New York Times to offer the scholars and teachers who have been personally attacked, and those who support them, the opportunity to respond to the vicious allegations made against them by an organization which, unlike those of us in the academic world, seems to possess both the desire and the means to engage in character assassination in the pages of The New York Times."

A spokesman for the Horowitz Center said that the group had not yet responded to the Middle East Studies Association letter.

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Scott Jaschik

Scott Jaschik, Editor, is one of the three founders of Inside Higher Ed. With Doug Lederman, he leads the editorial operations of Inside Higher Ed, overseeing news content, opinion pieces, career advice, blogs and other features. Scott is a leading voice on higher education issues, quoted regularly in publications nationwide, and publishing articles on colleges in publications such as The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, Salon, and elsewhere. He has been a judge or screener for the National Magazine Awards, the Online Journalism Awards, the Folio Editorial Excellence Awards, and the Education Writers Association Awards. Scott served as a mentor in the community college fellowship program of the Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media, of Teachers College, Columbia University. He is a member of the board of the Education Writers Association. From 1999-2003, Scott was editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education. Scott grew up in Rochester, N.Y., and graduated from Cornell University in 1985. He lives in Washington.

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