A Harvard School Distances Itself from Dean’s Paper

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WASHINGTON – Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government is removing its logo from a paper about the “Israel lobby” that was co-authored by its academic dean.


The new version of the paper also has a more prominent disclaimer warning that the paper’s views belong only to its authors.


The changes appear to be a sign that the university is distancing itself from the document in the face of a furor from faculty members, Jewish leaders, and a congressman who say it fails to meet academic standards and promotes anti-Semitic myths.


The paper, “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy,” was written by the Kennedy School’s Stephen Walt and a political science professor and the codirector of the Program on International Security Policy at the University of Chicago, John Mearsheimer, and published by the Kennedy School.


In the 83-page “working paper,” the professors allege that a vast network of journalists, think tanks, lobbyists, and largely Jewish officials have seized the foreign policy debate and manipulated America to invade Iraq.


Components of or influenced by the purported network include major publications, “Christian evangelicals,” top-ranking officials in the Bush administration, and scholars at prominent think tanks. The paper has won praise from Islamist groups and white supremacist and anti-Semite David Duke.


It also has drawn sharp criticism from prominent Harvard faculty, including Kennedy School lecturer Marvin Kalb, literature professor Ruth Wisse, and law professor Alan Dershowitz; Harvard students, and Rep. Eliot Engel, a Democrat of New York. Many critics have called for Harvard to withdraw the paper until it can be brought up to acceptable standards of scholarship, alleging that the document is riddled with factual inaccuracies and suffers from bias and faulty research.


Against this backdrop, the Walt-Mearsheimer paper – which had been published online at the Kennedy School’s Web site – underwent a makeover yesterday that downplayed ties between its contents, its authors, Harvard, and the University of Chicago.


As initially published, the top of the cover page bears the logo and name of Harvard and the Kennedy School, and identifies the paper as part of a “Faculty Research Working Papers Series.”


In the revised version currently on the Web site, the cover page is stripped of the Harvard and Kennedy School imprimatur, and the paper is identified as a “Working Paper,” without any mention of a “faculty” affiliation.


The new cover also bears a more prominent disclaimer distancing the schools from their respective professors. In the original version, a disclaimer at the very bottom of the page, in small font, read: “The views expressed in the KSG Faculty Research Working Paper Series are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the John F. Kennedy School of Government or Harvard University.”


The new disclaimer is moved higher up on the page, and in a substantially magnified typeface.


“The two authors of this Working Paper are solely responsible for the views expressed in it,” the new disclaimer reads. “As academic institutions, Harvard University and the University of Chicago do not take positions on the scholarship of individual faculty, and this article should not be interpreted or portrayed as reflecting the official position of either institution,” it continues.


The strengthened language of disassociation, and the removal of the logo, amount to “a terrible slap in the face” to the authors, said Alex Safian, the associate director of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America – one of the purported “lobby” components.


“It’s a total distancing,” Mr. Safian said, describing the revision as “a devastating vote of no confidence by the respective universities.”


Mr. Safian said that while he thought revising the Walt-Mearsheimer paper was “not sufficient” as a response to the metastasizing quarrels with the work, he said yesterday’s developments were “definitely a vindication” of the paper’s targets and critics.


Messrs. Walt and Mearsheimer did not respond yesterday and Tuesday to calls and e-mails requesting comment in response to the ongoing “Lobby” imbroglio. Phone calls and e-mails placed to the Kennedy School and University of Chicago requesting comment and an explanation of the new cover page yesterday also yielded no response.


Yet according to an observer familiar with the situation at Harvard, the makeover comes amid snowballing outrage from Harvard donors who are making their discontent known to the university.


Harvard, the observer said, had received “several calls” from “pro-Israel donors” expressing concern about the Walt-Mearsheimer paper. One of the angered contributors is said to be the donor who underwrote the chair occupied by Dean Walt, Robert Belfer. Mr. Belfer, a 1958 graduate of Harvard Law School, endowed a faculty chair as part of a $7.5 million gift to the Kennedy School in 1997. In addition to bearing the title of academic dean of the Kennedy School, Mr. Walt is also the Robert and Renee Belfer Professor of International Politics.


According to the observer, “Since the furor, Bob Belfer has called expressing his deep concerns and asked that Stephen not use his professorship title in publicity related to the article.”


Reached yesterday by phone in Florida, Mr. Belfer declined to comment on the situation.


Related articles & editorials:


The Belfer Declaration, March 23, 2006
Harvard’s Paper on Israel Called ‘Trash’ By Solon, March 22, 2006
Kalb Upbraids Harvard Dean Over Israel, March 21, 2006
David Duke Claims to Be Vindicated By a Harvard Dean, March 20, 2006
Discredited Dean, March 20, 2006.
Harvard, Chicago, and the ‘Lobby’, March 17, 2006


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