Harvard Middle East expert Sara Roy: “I have never experienced such…blatant..censorship.”

The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs, the official foreign-policy journal at the Fletcher School at Tufts University, asked Sara Roy of Harvard’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies to review a new book on Hamas.

A political economist, Dr. Roy has worked in the Gaza Strip and West Bank since 1985 conducting research primarily on the economic, social and political development of the Gaza Strip and on U.S. foreign aid to the region… Her current research, which was funded by a grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, examines the social and economic sectors of the Palestinian Islamic movement and their relationship to Islamic political institutions, and the critical changes to the Islamic movement that have occurred over the last seven years.”

This expertise would seem to make her an ideal person to review Hamas: Politics, Charity and Terrorism in the Service of Jihad, written by Matthew Levitt “in cooperation with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.” WINEP was started by Martin Indyk after he left AIPAC and the two now share a loose affiliation. (An interview with Indyk is featured in the Winter edition Fletcher Forum of World Affairs)

Roy’s thoughts on the Levitt book? From the review:

While there can be no doubt that, since its inception, Hamas has engaged in violence and armed struggle, and has been the primary force behind the horrific suicide bombings inside Israel, Levitt’s presentation reduces this increasingly complex and sophisticated organization to an insular, one-dimensional…entity dedicated solely to violence…and Israel’s destruction.

Roy writes in the author’s preface to the full book review now published in Middle East Policy and not the Fletcher Forum, that after being commissioned to write the review, she went through a substantive process with the editorial board over content. In the end, all seemed to feel good about it:

During a subsequent exchange the editor-in-chief wrote, “Thank you for your hard work as well. It’s a good review.” I believed that was the end of the matter. Just a few days later, I received the following e-mail message from the same editor-in-chief:

Dear Ms. Roy:

…After careful review and much consideration of the merits of your piece, we have decided that we are ultimately unable to publish your review for this edition. Your review was evaluated by several of our editors and an external editor for objectivity. Unfortunately, they disagreed with my decision to publish your review for the following reasons: despite their agreement with many of your points, all reviewers found the piece one-sided. This one-sidedness dissuaded readers from reading the piece to the end; ultimately, this last point is the most important. Although I found your arguments valuable, if readers consistently feel this way, I am unable to move forward with a piece. My apologies for the way in which this process was carried out, and for the time that you spent on editing the piece. Thank you once again for your submission and your efforts. If you would like to discuss this further, please feel free to e-mail me.

In more than 20 years of writing and publishing I have never experienced such behavior or encountered what to me, at least, is so blatant a case of censorship. I am therefore extremely grateful to Anne Joyce and Stephen Magro for agreeing to publish the review in Middle East Policy.

Read Roy’s preface and the entire review here.

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