In Revoking the Appointment of a Notorious Anti-Israel Obsessive, a Harvard Dean Stands on Principle

January 16, 2023 | New York Sun
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Few individuals have done so much to grant legitimacy to the distorted fantasies of the Jewish state’s enemies than Kenneth Roth, who presided over the transformation of Human-Rights Watch (formerly Helsinki Watch) from an institution that helped to bring down the Warsaw Pact regimes by exposing their abuses, to one that elevates the defamation of Israel above all else. This record may have been a factor in the decision of the Harvard Kennedy School dean, Douglas Elmendorf, to retract an offer of a fellowship to Roth, who recently retired from his position at Human-Rights Watch. The editors of the New York Sun place Elmendorf’s decision in the context of a larger effort to bring high standards to America’s most distinguished school of public policy:

To have made Mr. Roth a fellow would have aligned the school with those hostile to the Jewish state and thus Jews more generally. Too, it would have been an affront to the memory of the president for whom the school is named, John F. Kennedy.

Mr. Elmendorf has taken criticism for his practice of running a tight ship on personnel. A former governor of Michigan, Rick Snyder, withdrew from a fellowship amid student complaints about how he handled the drinking-water crisis at Flint. Congresswoman Elise Stefanik was removed from an advisory committee for what Mr. Elmendorf considered inaccurate statements. Even JFK’s own daughter, Caroline, quit in a quarrel with Mr. Elmendorf.

It turns out that instead of a kind of leftist or Democratic partisan, Mr. Elmendorf is starting to come into focus as a dean prepared to enforce the principles for which he wants the school he leads to stand. Mr. Roth certainly isn’t the first person who failed to meet Harvard’s standards.

Yet Mr. Roth’s reaction to the situation was a Twitter tantrum blaming Israel for “repression of Palestinians” and suggesting his failure to get a fellowship at Harvard owes to pressure from Jewish donors. Mr. Roth’s reaction itself confirms that Harvard’s decision to award him a fellowship was the correct move. Apparently he’s been taken on at the University of Pennsylvania, instead.

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