US university had blocked decision to award recently-retired son of Jewish refugee who campaigns for human rights after reports of pressure from pro-Israeli donors, but has now reversed course
Harvard University has u-turned on its decision to veto the university’s Carr Center for Human Rights Policy’s award of a fellowship to recently-retired Human Rights Watch (HRW) director Ken Roth. The university’s Harvard Kennedy School dean had been reported to have come under pressure from pro-Israel donors who objected to HRW’s coverage of that country’s apartheid, abuse and murder toward Palestinians.
The veto triggered a storm of criticism of the influence of donors on academic freedom and freedom of speech, including a letter from more than a thousand Harvard students, faculty and former students condemning the “shameful decision to blacklist Kenneth Roth”, who is the son of a German Jewish refugee.
This week the dean, Douglas Elmendorff, wrote to teaching staff and students to say that the decision had been an ‘error’ and the fellowship would be offered. Elmendorff also denied that donor pressure had led to the original decision.
Pro-Israel pressure groups have waged war on freedom of speech in UK universities, leading to the removal of the National Union of Students president, Shaima Dallali – a black Muslim woman of Tunisian descent – under pressure from student groups with close ties to the Israeli embassy. The same groups secured the shameful dismissal of Professor David Miller by Bristol University, despite two separate lawyer-led inquiries finding he had neither done nor said anything antisemitic.
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