January 10, 2023
For Immediate Release


Laila El-Haddad (Harvard Kennedy School, Masters in Public Policy, 2002) 
Ahmed Moor (Harvard Kennedy School, Masters in Public Policy, 2013)
Co-Conveners, Harvard Kennedy School Palestinian Alumni Collective 

Harvard Kennedy School Palestinian Alumni Call for Resignation of HKS Dean Douglas Elmendorf and Reinstatement of Human Rights Defender Kenneth Roth

Statement by the Harvard Kennedy School Palestinian Alumni Collective (original text)

Dean Douglas Elmendorf’s recent decision to rescind Kenneth Roth’s appointment at the Harvard Kennedy School is profoundly wrong and demonstrates his hostility to academic freedom and honest human rights discourse. Dean Elmendorf has abrogated his responsibility to the HKS community and the principles underpinning free thought in a free society. As the body representing Palestinian alumni of HKS, we call for HKS Dean Douglas Elmendorf’s resignation.

The Harvard Kennedy School is dear to all of us. Yet, our collective experiences with institutionalized anti-Palestinian discrimination at HKS have included the administration’s support for Israeli state-sponsored violence and apartheid. We are deeply dismayed that this support continues. 

It is egregious that Dean Elmendorf’s decision to withdraw Roth’s fellowship appointment to the Carr Center for Human Rights was due to Roth’s criticism of Israel’s mistreatment of Palestinians. We have followed the news coverage in Inside Higher Education, The Nation, The Guardian, and in The Crimson. We read Roth’s public statement and the laudable responses of organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union and PEN America in defense of academic freedom. 

The various standards applied by Dean Elmendorf are noteworthy. While rescinding Roth’s appointment, the Dean has chosen to host Israeli officials who bear responsibility for war crimes perpetrated against Palestinians, including the crime of apartheid, a crime against humanity. Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and Palestinian and Israeli human rights organizations have all issued reports documenting the realities of Israeli apartheid.  

In light of pro-Israel campaigns against Kenneth Roth’s human rights advocacy, it is important to note that Roth is a prominent and well-respected global civil society leader. He has devoted his career to exposing human rights violations around the world, and has been banned from states, including China and Russia, for his work in those countries.

As Eric Goldstein, Deputy Director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa division, has commented, “If Harvard feels empowered to block a slam-dunk candidate @KenRoth over Israel criticism, imagine the chilling effect across academia on lesser-known – and particularly Palestinian – critics of Israeli repression.” 

We call on the Harvard Kennedy School to appoint a new Dean who is truly committed to academic freedom.

We also call for the reinstatement of Kenneth Roth’s fellowship at the Carr Center for Human Rights. 

We welcome the invaluable contributions of human rights advocates, progressive Jewish civil society leaders, and other voices committed to the humanity of the Palestinian people. We are buoyed by the outpouring of solidarity from members of the Harvard community and beyond. 

We hope that HKS can become a more welcoming institution for Palestinians and those who stand with us in our struggle for freedom from occupation and colonization. We look forward to the day when defending our rights and freedom is a cause for recognition and commendation rather than sanction.

Harvard Kennedy School Palestinian Alumni Collective