Harvard backs out on refusing to appoint a critic of Israel to teach

Harvard backs out on refusing to appoint a critic of Israel to teach

The prestigious Harvard University in the northeastern United States finally offered a teaching and research position to former emblematic NGO Human Rights Watch chief Kenneth Roth, known for his criticism of Israel.

After provoking controversy over academic freedom by declining the appointment of Kenneth Roth to Harvard a few weeks ago, Kennedy School of Public Policy dean Doug Elmendorf admitted on Thursday in an internal letter consulted by AFP that the he had written a mistake”.

The former director of the NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW), who will retire in the summer of 2022, will be able to teach at the Carr Center for Human Rights at the Kennedy School for a year, Elmendorf admitted.

He said he was “sorry” that his initial rejection decision “could call into question the school’s mission and commitment to open debate.”

It all started a few weeks ago when The Nation magazine revealed that Mr. Elmendorf had blocked Mr. Roth’s nomination because of HRW’s alleged “anti-Israeli bias” and his boss’s repeated criticism of Israeli policies.

Indeed, in 2021, the powerful New York-based organization, which is often close to the positions of American diplomacy under the Democratic administration on human rights, had accused Israel, an ally of the United States, of “crimes of apartheid and persecution.” … against the Palestinians.

Many Jewish political groups in the United States had criticized this report and denounced the NGO, the American Jewish Committee, as HRW “sometimes flirting with the border of anti-Semitism”.

The United States has the largest Jewish community in the world after Israel.

Kenneth Roth, who ran HRW from 1993 to 2022, said he was “very glad” that Mr Elmendorf had changed his mind after he accused him in the British newspaper The Guardian of fearing the “reaction ‘ by Pro-Israel supporters of Harvard University, based in Cambridge near Boston, Massachusetts since 1636.

“The problem of people being punished for criticizing Israel is not unique to my case, but most academics and students don’t have the same ability to mobilize,” Mr Roth continued to denigrate in a Thursday press release.

In his letter, Mr. Elmendorf denied having been “influenced by the founders” of Harvard and that he believed there were “no boundaries to the human rights debate at the Kennedy School in any country.”