Former Human Rights Watch Head Denied Harvard Fellowship

The dean of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, Douglas Elmendorf, reportedly blocked Ken Roth, the former head of Human Rights Watch (HRW), from becoming a senior fellow at the institution, allegedly due to his years of work criticizing Israel.

Former Human Rights Watch Head Denied Harvard Fellowship
Image credit: Jerusalem Post

Facts

  • The dean of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, Douglas Elmendorf, reportedly blocked Ken Roth, the former head of Human Rights Watch (HRW), from becoming a senior fellow at the institution, allegedly due to his years of work criticizing Israel.
  • Speaking to The Guardian, Roth reportedly said he began to feel something was wrong during his video chat with Elmendorf, adding that the dean seemed concerned whether he had any pro-Israel "enemies."
  • NGO Monitor, an Israeli organization that screens NGOs for "anti-Israel bias," celebrated the decision, saying that the dean "recognized Roth's central contributions to legitimizing antisemitism."
  • 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.
  • Roth called the 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."
  • Roth, who has been critical of Israeli military and political actions, is himself Jewish and the son of Jewish parents who fled Nazi Germany.

Sources: Guardian, Jerusalem Post, Al Jazeera, and Middle East Eye.

Narratives

  • Establishment-critical narrative, as provided by Nation. The decision to ban Roth from Carr is another clear example of the US security apparatus and Israel's influence over academic institutions. The school was able to accommodate a former senior CIA official who apologized for torture, but not the person who helped build the International Criminal Court and secure the convictions of war criminals. Even as Israel becomes more extreme in its treatment of Palestinians, the closer one gets to the US security establishment, the harder it becomes to criticize Israeli crimes.
  • Pro-establishment narrative, as provided by Jewish Journal. 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 must continue to be disavowed and sidelined.