Controversial Middle East commentator Daniel Pipes- a darling of the pro-Israel, neo-conservative right- threatens legal action against the New London Day unless it withdraws an anti-Zionist op-ed published last month. Will the independently-owned daily buckle?

Daniel Pipes, founder of the Philadelphia-based think tank Middle East Forum, operates in a volatile political sphere. His railings against what he calls radical Islam have won him the ardor of pro-Israel neocons, an affinity best symbolized by President George W. Bush’s 2003 appointment of Pipes to the board of the U.S. Institute of Peace, a federal outfit that hands out research money.Likewise, many American Muslims- along with critics of Bush’s foreign policy and of Israel’s occupation of Palestine- loath Pipes for his defense of ethnic profiling in the United States and tendency to group all Muslims in the same conversation as terrorists.Such was the theme of an op-ed published in the New London Day July 24, written by Hassan Fouda, a Groton resident active in Al-Awda, an anti-Zionist group that advocates for Palestinians’ right to return to their homes in Israel. But Fouda’s piece- which attributes a litany of sentiments to Pipes- prompted Pipes to threaten legal action unless the newspaper retracted the story.The piece appeared in response to a Day editorial, which had criticized worldwide Islam for not denouncing the London terrorist bombings. That’s hypocritical and wrong, Fouda wrote, pointing out the many Muslim leaders who have, in fact, condemned terrorism. Besides, asking an entire religious group to make a apology mimics “classic, anti-Semitic stereotypes,” Fouda wrote, where one group can be accused of disloyalty and collective responsibility for the crimes of a few.To illustrate the sentiments Fouda sees as destructive, he attributed several quotes to Pipes that are derogatory towards Muslims, and describes Pipes as supporting the internment of American Muslims, the same treatment meted out to Japanese-Americans during World War II.But Pipes vehemently denied believing in any such policy, according to a letter he wrote to the Day’s editorial page editor, obtained by Pipes denounces Fouda as an “extremist,” and describes Fouda’s characterizations of his writings as “fabrications.” “I now demand an apology and correction for this passage,” Pipes wrote, referring to the Muslim internment idea. “If one is not swiftly provided, I will consider legal remedies.“In response, Fouda provided the Day with published sources for all of the quotes he attributed to Pipes. “I stand by every word I wrote about him and have documented every point mostly from Pipes’s own web site,” Fouda said.“I’m trying to talk to Mr. Pipes about it now,” said the Day’s Editorial Page Editor Morgan McGinley when asked about the status of the dispute. The two are playing phone tag, and McGinley refused to comment on any action the paper may take.If Pipes brought a libel complaint against the Day, his chances of success might hinge on whether he is considered a public figure under the law. If a judge decided Pipes is a public figure, then he would be required to prove two facts to prevail: First, that Fouda’s statements are actually false, and second, that the Day knew they were wrong before publishing them and recklessly disregarded their falsity, said Daniel Klau, a partner at Pepe & Hazard in Hartford who specializes in media law.