fbpx

How Princeton is Whitewashing the Shameful Record of Ken Roth

A fawning profile of Roth in the Princeton Alumni Weekly whitewashes his 29-year record as head of Human Rights Watch, in which he led the organization and the entire human rights movement to irrelevance and worse.
[additional-authors]
January 10, 2024
Kenneth Roth (Photo by Riccardo Savi/Getty Images for Concordia Summit)

In tracing the many sources for the explosion of hate directed at Israel, Zionists and Jews, Human Rights Watch (HRW) stands out. Although founded in the 1970s by Robert Bernstein as a bastion of morality in support of the post-Holocaust Universal Declaration of Human Rights, by the beginning of the 21st century the leaders of the organization had betrayed these principles. HRW became a central force in weaponizing human rights for antisemitism, and is continuing to promote this agenda in the wake of the October 7 massacre and the war in Gaza that it triggered.

The individual most responsible for this record is Ken Roth, Executive Director from 1993 to 2022. He controlled HRW’s agenda, particularly the obsessive singling-out of Israel for demonization, regardless of borders or policies. Under his guidance, HRW hired a number of individuals with clear records of antisemitism, and devoted a major part of its $100 million annual budget (as of 2022) to the unique and blatant vilification of the Jewish State. Roth and HRW championed the slogans – war crimes, apartheid, genocide, deliberate killing of children, etc. – displayed on signs and chanted by the mobs that today block access to airports, bridges and tunnels, and set fire to Jewish-owned businesses in North American cities.

After he retired from HRW in 2022, Roth began to work hard to rewrite this legacy. He attempted to remake himself into an academic expert, notwithstanding a lifetime devoted to advocacy and slogans, in contrast to serious peer-reviewed research. After receiving a strong rejection by the Dean of Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, Roth and his acolytes launched a wide media manipulation campaign and eventually succeeded in forcing the Dean to capitulate. It was a pyrrhic victory, as the one-year fellowship was soon over. For the following year, Roth engineered a special title as “Thakore Family Global Justice and Human Rights Visiting Fellow” at the University of Pennsylvania.

Princeton University is Roth’s current stop in this redemption parade, where he has jumped from a lowly fellow to the status of “visiting professor” (again, with no academic credentials) in public and international affairs. A predictably fawning profile of Roth in the Princeton Alumni Weekly whitewashes his 29-year record as head of HRW, in which he led the organization and the entire human rights movement to irrelevance and worse. The title of the profile, “Kenneth Roth Champions Universal Human Rights,” is itself a mockery – Roth, perhaps more than any other individual, is responsible for erasing the universality of these principles. The profile opens by repeating Roth’s standard exploitation of the Holocaust as a shield against criticism, as if the stories of “his father fleeing Nazi-controlled Frankfurt, Germany” somehow justify his perversion of morality and the legacy of the victims to demonize Israel.

Not surprisingly, the pseudo-profile erases the denunciation of Roth in the New York Times by HRW founder Robert Bernstein for betraying the core principles of human rights and “turning Israel into a pariah state.”  And there is no mention of the detailed condemnation from a senior HRW editor turned whistleblower. In her parting email to the NGO’s staff, Danielle Haas blasted the “years of politicization” that stained all of HRW’s activities related to Israel, violating “basic editorial standards related to rigor, balance, and collegiality.” She described the “shattered professionalism, abandoned principles of accuracy and fairness,” the ways that HRW “surrendered its duty to stand for the human rights of all,” and the methods used by HRW, under Roth, to manipulate journalists. According to Haas, there are others among the staff who agree, “but are fearful to speak out.”

Not surprisingly, the pseudo-profile erases the denunciation of Roth in the New York Times by HRW founder Robert Bernstein for betraying the core principles of human rights and “turning Israel into a pariah state.”

Similarly, and following Roth’s standard operating procedures, the Princeton Alumni Weekly article conspicuously erases major questions regarding Roth’s fundraising, particularly among Arab dictatorships. In 2009, Roth started hiding HRW’s full list of donors – a clear red flag – and sent Sarah Leah Whitson, then head of the Middle East division and a career Israel-hater, to Saudi Arabia and Gaddafi’s Libya. Details remain hidden, but in 2020, an internal leak was published revealing a $470,000 “donation” from a corrupt Saudi billionaire. And in November 2023, MEMRI (Middle East Media Research Institute) posted a letter apparently showing that Qatar – the petroleum-rich Gulf kingdom that supports Hamas, runs Al Jazeera’s propaganda, and buys influence through multi-million dollar donations to universities, the prestigious Brookings Institution and elsewhere — also secretly funds HRW. (The little that is known about these “donations” implicates HRW’s hand-picked board of Roth loyalists.)

The three universities – Harvard, Penn and Princeton – that have helped Roth whitewash his record through the facade of academic respectability, to the extent that this still exists, are deeply stained by antisemitism. And since October 7’s inhumanly brutal slaughter perpetrated by Hamas, Roth has continued to erase the Israeli victims, redoubling the campaign to demonize Israel, including apartheid, ethnic cleansing and “genocide”, again twisting and exploiting the Holocaust. While the heads of American universities are confronting the costs of Jew-hatred, their assistance to a leader in the subversion of the principles of universal human rights is entirely immoral.

Gerald M Steinberg is professor emeritus of political science at Bar Ilan University and president of NGO Monitor.

Did you enjoy this article?
You'll love our roundtable.

Editor's Picks

Latest Articles

Beauty Without Borders

I was amused by this scene of an elderly, ultra-Orthodox couple enjoying a coffee while a sensual French song came on. Do they have any idea what this song is about? I wondered.

More news and opinions than at a
Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.

More news and opinions than at a Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.

More news and opinions than at a Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.