Sara Roy was born and raised in West Hartford, Connecticut and is the daughter of Jewish parents who survived the Holocaust. Holding a non-tenured “research” position at Harvard’s Center for Middle East Studies (CMES), she presents herself as a “political economist” with expertise on the politics and economics of the Gaza Strip. She holds a Ph.D. in education, but no academic degrees in economics, political science, or Middle East Studies. In the mid-1980s she lived, for a short time, in Gaza, where she was paid as a research assistant by the West Bank Data Base Project — a propaganda campaign directed by non-academic, anti-Israel leftists.
Described by psychology professor Phyllis Chesler as one of academia’s “most savage critics of America and Israel,” Roy was born Jewish. Frequently citing her “Jewish roots,” she spends much of her time giving lectures and composing op-eds about the Arab-Israeli conflict. Her writings on the Middle East are, by and large, anti-Israel propaganda diatribes; many appear in CounterPunch and other non-academic periodicals and Web magazines that are openly hostile toward Israel; some of these publications have close ties to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
Roy has co-published at least one anti-Israel article with a member of a Hamas front group, the so-called Gaza Community Mental Health Program. In the Journal of Palestine Studies, a propaganda magazine controlled by the PLO, she has drawn parallels between the Nazis’ treatment of Jews during World War II, and Israeli soldiers’ treatment of Palestinians today. Roy views both modes of treatment as “absolutely equivalent in principle, intent, and impact” — most notably their effort “to humiliate and dehumanize.”
“Israel’s occupation of the Palestinians is not the moral equivalent of the Nazi genocide of the Jews. It does not have to be. The fact that it is not in no way tempers the brutality of the repression, which has become frighteningly normal. Occupation is about the domination and dispossession of one people by another. It is about the destruction of their property and the destruction of their soul. At its core, occupation aims to deny Palestinians their humanity by denying them the right to determine their existence, to live normal lives in their own homes. And just as there is no moral equivalence or symmetry between the Holocaust and the occupation, so there is no moral equivalence or symmetry between the occupier and the occupied, no matter how much we as Jews regard ourselves as victims.”
Such rhetoric is standard fare for Roy’s speaking tours, where she consistently contends that the Palestinian people are innocent victims of Israel’s brutal oppression; that terrorism by Hezbollah and Hamas is an entirely understandable response to Israel’s occupation; and that Israel gobbles up “Arab land” out of imperialist obsession. Middle East scholar Martin Kramer says that Roy habitually engages in the “whitewashing of Hamas.”
Writing in 2003 in the Al Jazeera newspaper – which has intimate links to al Qaeda – Roy insisted that the only way to stop Hamas terrorism was to first end Israel’s “occupation.” But when Israel did in fact entirely withdraw its military presence from Gaza in 2005, the direct consequence was the bloody, Gaza-based campaign of Hamas rocket attacks against Israeli civilians living inside Israel’s pre-1967 borders. Roy has never renounced or acknowledged the error of her earlier false prophecy. Instead she speaks of an allegedly moderate “New Hamas” that, according to Roy, seeks peace with Israel rather than a second Holocaust of the Jews. In her “study” of Hamas, Roy paints the terror group as a pastoral social-welfare movement. In July 2009, she opined:
“Gaza is an example of a society that has been deliberately reduced to a state of abject destitution, its once productive population transformed into one of aid-dependent paupers. This context is undeniably one of mass suffering, created largely by Israel but with the active complicity of the international community, especially the U.S. and European Union, and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.”
Roy claims that her criticisms of Israel are heavily censored by a right-wing conspiracy. For instance, when the Tufts University journal Fletcher Forum of World Affairs chose not to publish her review of Matthew Levitt’s 2006 book Hamas: Politics, Charity and Terrorism in the Service of Jihad (a book with whose criticisms of the terror group Roy disagreed), she complained about this “blatant … case of censorship.”
Similarly, Roy has denounced the website Campus Watch for its exposure of extremist propaganda in Middle East Studies classrooms. “What all this boils down to,” she says, “is an attempt to silence criticism of U.S. policy, and put an end to disagreement with the neo-conservative agenda. It is not diversity that is being sought but conformity.”
Roy is the author of two books: The Gaza Strip: The Political Economy of De-development (1995), and The Economics of Middle East Peace: A Reassessment(1999). These books echo the overriding theme of Roy’s speeches; namely, that there is nothing wrong with Palestinian society that cannot ultimately be blamed on the Jews. Roy writes, among other things, that Israel constructed its security fence mainly to destroy the Palestinian economy rather than to derail Palestinian terrorist plots.
This profile is adapted from the article, “Collaborators in the War Against the Jews: Sara Roy,” written by Steven Plaut and published by FrontPageMag.com on November 18, 2009.