the report sought to demonstrate that the Israeli authorities had met the legal definition of the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution (the severe deprivation of fundamental rights on racial, ethnic, or other grounds) by pursuing policies in both Israel and the Occupied Territories that “methodically privilege Jewish Israelis and discriminate against Palestinians.” Those policies included facilitating the transfer of Jewish Israelis to the Occupied Territories and granting them rights superior to those of Palestinians living there; the widespread confiscation of privately held land in much of the West Bank; and the building of the separation barrier “in a way that accommodated anticipated growth of settlements”—all dispelling the notion “that Israeli authorities consider the occupation temporary.”
Another prominent donor is Robert Belfer, who has donated more than $20 million to the Kennedy School, as well as donating to the ADL and the American Jewish Committee—both of which defended Israel against attacks by human rights groups (Beinart). “In a 2006 interview with the US Holocaust Museum, Belfer observed that most of his extended family (including his paternal grandparents) perished in World War II—a loss that gave him “a sense of identity” of “being Jewish, of being very supportive of Israel.” Ironically, Belfer funds the professorship of Stephen Walt whose book The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy was highly critical of the Lobby.
Belfer’s influence at the Kennedy School extends far beyond his center. He and his son Laurence sit on the Dean’s Executive Board—“a small group of business and philanthropic leaders who serve as trusted advisors to the Dean and are among the most committed financial supporters of the School,” according to its site. The board’s chair, David Rubenstein, is the cofounder and former CEO of the Carlyle Group, the private equity giant, and one of the most well-connected members of the US financial and cultural elite; among the many prestigious boards on which he sits is the Harvard Corporation, the university’s main governing body.
The 16 members of the Dean’s Executive Board also include Idan Ofer and his wife, Batia. Idan is the son of Sammy Ofer, an Israeli shipping magnate who until his death in 2011 was one of Israel’s richest men. Worth about $10 billion, Idan has come under fire in Israel for moving to London to reduce his tax bill and for a lavish lifestyle highlighted by the €5 million party that he threw on the island of Mykonos for his 10th wedding anniversary. …
In 2018, the Kennedy School opened a renovated campus, made possible by a capital campaign that raised more than $700 million. Anchoring it were three buildings bearing the names Ofer, Rubenstein, and Wexner.
All three buildings named after Israeli patriots. But that couldn’t possibly influence whether Roth would get the fellowship.
At least that’s the view of the ADL’s Jonathan Greenblatt. It’s a conspiracy theory!! “Harvard’s critics should do better than concoct anti-Jewish conspiracies.” It’s a case study in how antisemitic tropes can infect even a journalist of author Michael Massing’s standing.” Greenblatt:
the article further devolves into Jewish-macher name-dropping: Leslie Wexner, Jeffrey Epstein, Robert Belfer, David Rubenstein, and notes their supposed close ties to the big Jewish organizations. It’s a textbook case of classic antisemitism: It’s not the leadership of the Kennedy School that made this decision, oh no. It’s the powerful and monied Jewish elite that really influences things behind the scenes.
In short, the article plays into the classic antisemitic trope of Jewish power and control – without providing any evidence that any of these Jewish donors or groups played any role in influencing the decision to derail Ken Roth’s fellowship.
Yeah, just because the most prominent donors to the school are Jewish and tied not only to Jewish organizations but also to Israel, why should that matter? Jews would neve donate their money in a quid-pro-quo arrangement.
Greenblatt is correct that the dean didn’t come out and say, “look we have to look after our donors, and that means we have to reject Roth.” But in what universe would that ever happen? Deniability is the watchword of the day, whether it’s Hunter Biden’s laptop, the Clinton Foundation, or big pharma.
But amazingly, Elmendorf relented.
I am grateful to the many people, including scholars and students, who expressed outrage over @Harvard @Kennedy_School Dean Douglas Elmendorf's veto of a fellowship for me due to my criticism of Israel. He clearly would not have reversed course without it. https://t.co/zKJrZXaQIP
— Kenneth Roth (@KenRoth) January 20, 2023
It would be nice to know exactly what happened to cause the reversal. It never looks good for a university supposedly dedicated to free inquiry to rescind an appointment when there are obvious suspicions it was because powerful people don’t like it. And the reversal has to be seen as a barometer of the fact that the pro-Israel lobby is finally starting to lose the public relations battle, especially on the left.
Of course, this reappointment won’t really change anything in Israel or in U.S.-Israel relations, any more than Mearsheimer and Walt’s book did. The big money will still be distributed by AIPAC to influence elections, the media will generally be pro-Israel, and the Republicans, likely looking for moral cover in a pervasive atmosphere of wokism, will continue to support all things Israel. Still, the dam is breaking.