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.