Harvard Reverses Decision on Fellowship for Former Human Rights Watch Head

    Harvard Reverses Decision on Fellowship for Former Human Rights Watch Head
    Last updated Jan 19, 2023
    Image credit: Jerusalem Post


    • The dean of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, Douglas Elmendorf, on Thursday reversed his decision to block Ken Roth, the former head of Human Rights Watch (HRW), from becoming a senior fellow at the institution.[1]
    • The decision, which was made earlier this month, sparked intense controversy and criticism regarding Harvard's posture toward Palestinian activism, as Roth claimed that his fellowship was blocked due to his and HRW's criticisms of Israel. In his statement, Elmendorf said that this was not the case.[2]
    • NGO Monitor, an Israeli organization that screens NGOs for "anti-Israel bias," initially celebrated the decision, saying that the dean "recognized Roth's central contributions to legitimizing antisemitism."[3]
    • Ken Roth spent nearly 30 years as the executive director of HRW before announcing his retirement in April. Under his leadership, HRW grew its budget from $7M to nearly $100M and went from 60 employees to 550, monitoring more than 100 countries.[4]
    • Roth called the initial decision "crazy." In response, a Kennedy School spokesman said, "We have internal procedures in place to consider fellowships...and we do not discuss our deliberations about individuals who may be under consideration."[5]
    • Roth, who has been critical of Israeli military and political actions, is himself Jewish and the son of Jewish parents who fled Nazi Germany.[3]


    Establishment-critical narrative

    Though this reversal is, of course, good news, ultimately it's a drop in the bucket regarding Palestinian advocacy on college campuses. Roth is highly regarded within the Human Rights community, and the fact that this decision was even made in the first place speaks volumes to the level of influence Israel and the US security apparatus have over established academic institutions. The school was able to accommodate a former senior CIA official who apologized for torture but not a critic of Israel.

    Pro-establishment narrative

    Ken Roth's antisemitism has no place in any academic institution, and even the founder of HRW has disavowed Roth for his obsession with delegitimizing the Jewish state. In a region full of murderous dictators, brutal war criminals, and religious extremists, Roth wanted to focus on the only flourishing democracy in the Middle East: Israel. Anti-Israel activists like Roth should be disavowed and sidelined.

    Establishment split



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