Thursday, January 19, 2023


Former Human Rights Watch director Ken Roth was interviewed on NPR and continued his jihad of falsely accusing Harvard University of denying him a fellowship because of rich donors objecting to his "criticism of Israel."
ROTH: ...the Carr Center called me up and sheepishly had to admit that the dean had vetoed my fellowship because of my criticism of Israel....Apparently, what they objected to in my case was that I'm not partial. I'm an impartial critic of Israeli repression. And that seems to have been the stigma that the Israeli government didn't like, that its supporters didn't like. And that was why my fellowship was vetoed.

FADEL: What does this say about freedom of academic expression on campus? This is an Ivy League campus in the United States.

ROTH: This would suggest that Harvard is allowing donors to compromise intellectual independence at the university.
The original Michael Massing article in The Nation - which was itself biased and filled with baseless allegations - did not say that the Carr Center told Roth he was rejected for "criticism of Israel" but because Roth had an "'anti-Israel bias'; Roth’s tweets on Israel were of particular concern." There is a world of difference between "bias" and "criticism," bias means Roth is not impartial, as he claims he is. 

But there has been not a single thread of evidence that Harvard's decision was based on donor pressure. That was completely made up in The Nation article. Roth - who clearly coordinated his anti-Harvard campaign with the writer of that article - has deliberately been pushing that narrative even though the entire theory is based on antisemitic tropes of rich Jews controlling how people could think.

At the very end of the NPR piece comes a piece of information that we had not seen before: 
Kennedy School media relations director James Smith said the decision not to offer Roth a fellowship was based on an evaluation of his potential contributions to the school. Smith also said  “[It is Harvard Kennedy School’s explicit and consistent policy that] we do not engage with donors or funders in our deliberations or decisions related to fellowship appointments." 

(Bracketed quote fragment from this Daily Beast article.] 

So Harvard's Kennedy School forcefully denies that donors are part of any decision-making. They have refuted The Nation and Roth's entire accusation - and yet this refutation is only mentioned as an afterthought, after allowing Roth to freely spread his antisemitic conspiracy theories of rich Jewish donors controlling HKS' academics.

But it turns out that even if the Kennedy School was not pro-active in getting this message out while Roth has been spouting his lies, the information about Harvard's policy has been on its website for years.

Any reporter could have looked at Harvard Kennedy School's statement on transparent engagement and funding, written in 2020. HKS explicitly says that funders do not and cannot have any influence over academic matters, including hiring:
It bears emphasis that HKS’s funders do not control the way we carry out our work. For all of our activities conducted using external funding, we protect our academic integrity and independence by maintaining full intellectual control: HKS faculty and staff make the decisions about research methodologies and policy findings, about the content of our courses, and about whom we accept into our community as students, faculty, staff, and visitors. No funder is allowed to interfere with those decisions, and all of our funders are aware of that point. We work to ensure that public communications about gifts and grants are clear that HKS is the intellectual driver of the activities.
Written policies have the force of law. The institutions that do not follow their own policies can be sued. Any major corporation or institution takes them very seriously, and Harvard clearly does based on how extensive these and other policies are. 

The idea that donors pressured Harvard is complete fiction - that has been spread by media that also happens to share Roth's anti-Israel bias.

If donor pressure wasn't the reason for Harvard's decision not to hire Roth, then what was? Well, NPR quoted the reason:  they did not think that he would provide a positive contribution to the school.

It is also notable that Dean Doug Elmendorf who vetoed Roth's proposed fellowship  has spoken about this exact topic, about the potential downsides of inviting someone who can tarnish HKS' reputation, in a 2018 speech:

One key reason to invite visitors with a wide range of views is that a vigorous discussion of their actions and words can illuminate crucial issues in public policy and leadership, and thereby improve policy and leadership over time. Another key reason to invite visitors with a wide range of views is that the values of our community, and assessments of who is living up those values or not, are often matters of debate themselves.

At the same time, inviting visitors inevitably conveys, to at least some people, positive recognition by Harvard Kennedy School, whether we intend it or not. That positive recognition is greater for visitors who receive a particular title or honor, such as giving a named lecture or becoming a “Fellow.” We should not ignore the effects of such recognition in inviting visitors or choosing visitors to give named lectures or become Fellows. I learned this lesson the hard way. As a consequence of my learning, we are now adopting a set of standards and processes for naming Fellows, including the ideas that people proposing the appointment of a Fellow should affirm that the candidate has a professional record consistent with the values of public service to which the Kennedy School aspires, and that the dean may ask an ad hoc faculty committee to evaluate a proposed Fellow.
As part of HKS' stated policies, because of the potential of Roth to embarrass Harvard Kennedy School, Dean Elmendorf almost certainly created an ad hoc faculty committee to discuss the pros and cons of allowing Roth to become a fellow. They decided that the cons of hiring someone with a track record of lies and bias outweigh the pros. 

And one does not need to prove Roth's anti-Israel bias to see that he would not have provided a positive contribution to the school. His constant lies about this Harvard episode and his baseless accusations themselves prove that Roth has no regard for the truth or fairness.

No decent school would want a vindictive liar on their staff. 

Unless, of course, that person is only hired to attract rich donors to begin with.




Buy the EoZ book, PROTOCOLS: Exposing Modern Antisemitism  today at Amazon!

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