Vertiv Introduces New Single-Phase Uninterruptible Power Supply for Distributed Information Technology (IT) Networks and Edge Computing Applications in Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA)Read more Students from JA Zimbabwe Win 2023 De La Vega Global Entrepreneurship AwardRead more Top International Prospects to Travel to Salt Lake City for Seventh Annual Basketball Without Borders Global CampRead more Rise of the Robots as Saudi Arabia Underscores Global Data and Artificial Intelligence (AI) Aspirations with DeepFest Debut at LEAP23Read more Somalia: ‘I sold the last three goats, they were likely to die’Read more Merck Foundation and African First Ladies marking World Cancer Day 2023 through 110 scholarships of Oncology Fellowships in 25 countriesRead more Supporting women leaders and aspirants to unleash their potentialRead more Fake medicines kill almost 500,000 sub-Saharan Africans a year: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reportRead more Climate crisis and migration: Greta Thunberg supports International Organization for Migration (IOM) over ‘life and death’ issueRead more United Nations (UN) Convenes Lake Chad Countries, Amid Growing Regional CrisisRead more

Harvard backtracks on Israel critic after outcry

show caption
Kenneth Roth ran Human Rights Watch for 29 years before stepping down last August./AFP
Print Friendly and PDF

Jan 20, 2023 - 06:20 AM

NEW YORK — America’s prestigious Harvard University said Thursday it would offer a fellowship to a leading human rights advocate after an initial snub over his criticism of Israel sparked a backlash.

The dean of Harvard Kennedy School caused an outcry when it was revealed this month that he had blocked the hiring of long-time former Human Rights Watch (HRW) executive director Kenneth Roth.

Critics said the move went against academic freedoms and raised questions about the limits of free speech regarding US ally Israel and the influence of college donors.

In a letter to staff and students Thursday, Douglas Elmendorf said he had “made an error” and that the school will now “extend an offer to Mr. Roth to serve as a fellow.”

“I am sorry that the decision inadvertently cast doubt on the mission of the school and our commitment to open debate in ways I had not intended and do not believe to be true,” Elmendorf wrote in the statement, seen by AFP.

The furor erupted when The Nation published an article saying Elmendorf had stopped the school’s Carr Center for Human Rights Policy from offering Roth a one-year position last summer.

The magazine quoted a faculty member as saying the explanation Elmendorf gave her was HRW’s “anti-Israel bias” and Roth’s criticism of the country, including in tweets.

The American Civil Liberties Union called the refusal “profoundly troubling — from both a human rights and an academic freedom standpoint.”

Pen America, a freedom of expression group, said it had raised “serious questions about the credibility of the Harvard program itself.”

More than 1,000 Harvard students, staff and alumni signed a letter condemning Elmendorf’s decision.

Roth wrote in the Guardian that he suspected the dean was worried about the “reaction” of Israel-supporting donors although he couldn’t prove it.

In his statement, Elmendorf insisted his decision “was not influenced by donors” or made “to limit debate at the Kennedy School about human rights in any country.”

Rather his motivation was based on “my evaluation of his potential contributions to the school,” Elmendorf said.

Roth, who ran HRW for 29 years before stepping down last August, said in a statement that he was “thrilled” that Elmendorf had changed his mind.

“I look forward to spending time there with colleagues and students,” the 67-year-old said.

He added though that he remained worried about academic freedom, noting that his case had received intense coverage because of his three decades at the helm of HRW.

“The problem of people penalized for criticizing Israel is not limited to me, and most scholars and students have no comparable capacity to mobilize public attention,” said Roth.

In April 2021, HRW released a report accusing Israel of “crimes of apartheid and persecution” against Palestinians.

The American Jewish Committee said the report’s arguments “sometimes border on antisemitism.”

Roth’s father was a Jewish refugee who fled Nazi Germany.

MAORANDCITIES.COM uses both Facebook and Disqus comment systems to make it easier for you to contribute. We encourage all readers to share their views on our articles and blog posts. All comments should be relevant to the topic. By posting, you agree to our Privacy Policy. We are committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion, so we ask you to avoid personal attacks, name-calling, foul language or other inappropriate behavior. Please keep your comments relevant and respectful. By leaving the ‘Post to Facebook’ box selected – when using Facebook comment system – your comment will be published to your Facebook profile in addition to the space below. If you encounter a comment that is abusive, click the “X” in the upper right corner of the Facebook comment box to report spam or abuse. You can also email us.