The current issue of Newsweek magazine says New York Times Executive Editor A.M. Rosenthal and Deputy Managing Editor Arthur Gelb have used the power of the Times to reward friends and punish enemies.

In its News Media section, Newsweek cites the Times' Nov. 7 publication of a 6,500-word "apologia" for author Jerzy Kosinski -- a personal friend of the two editors -- as "the most dramatic evidence to date" of that alleged practice.

A spokesman for the Times said last night he had not seen the Newsweek article and had no comment.

The Times piece, entitled "A Case History: 17 Years of Ideological Attack on a Cultural Target," was a response to a story last June in the Village Voice that questioned whether Kosinski -- who wrote "The Painted Bird" and other novels -- was the sole author of all his works.

The Times story, which ran on the front page in the newspaper's Arts and Leisure section, suggested that the Voice piece had been indirectly inspired by a smear campaign conducted by the Polish government.

The Times had run an equally long, and favorable, profile of Kosinski on the cover of its Sunday magazine in February written by Arthur Gelb's wife Barbara.

The Newsweek article says some Times staffers feel the appearance of the two stories in such a relatively short time can be traced to the friendship between Kosinski and Rosenthal and Gelb. Both Rosenthal and Gelb were involved in the preparation of the piece, which was written by John Corry. According to the magazine, the story had been assigned to cultural reporter Michiko Kakutani, who apparently said -- after several weeks of research -- that she didn't want to write the article.

Gelb denies that his friendship with Kosinski played any role in the treatment of the article. Rosenthal describes himself as unaffected by the criticism. "You can't do anything to an editor of the Times," he is quoted as saying.

"It's just an astonishing and deeply disturbing thing," one Times editor told Newsweek of Gelb's and Rosenthal's involvement.