Harvard Law Review rejects Palestinian scholar’s essay on Gaza genocide, igniting debate on academic freedom

This decision has sparked debates about academic freedom and the suppression of Palestinian voices in legal academia.

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he Harvard Law Review, a prestigious student-run journal known for its impactful legal scholarship, recently faced controversy when its editors voted against publishing an essay by Palestinian scholar Rabea Eghbariah. This decision, revealed in a report by The Intercept, has sparked debates about academic freedom and the suppression of Palestinian voices in legal academia.

Eghbariah, a doctoral candidate at Harvard Law School and an experienced human rights lawyer, was approached by the journal’s online editors a week after the October 7 massacre by Hamas, during which Israel’s assault on the Gaza Strip resulted in thousands of civilian deaths. His proposed essay titled “The Ongoing Nakba” was intended to assess Israel’s actions in Gaza within the context of genocide.

Despite following standard procedures for blog essays, including solicitation, commissioning, editing, and approval, Eghbariah’s piece faced an unusual level of scrutiny and was ultimately not published. Online chair Tascha Shahriari-Parsa called the decision “outright censorship” and “dangerous and alarming,” stating that it contradicted the values of uplifting marginalized voices and academic freedom.

The essay underwent several rounds of deliberation, initially delayed by Harvard Law Review President Apsara Iyer over safety concerns and later voted down by the journal’s editors in an emergency meeting. The decision not to publish the essay was criticized by some of the journal’s editors, who viewed it as a suppression of Palestinian perspectives and a threat to academic freedom. These concerns were echoed in a forthcoming public statement by 25 Harvard Law Review editors.

The piece’s rejection came amidst a broader academic crackdown on pro-Palestinian advocacy, particularly following the October 7 Hamas attack and Israel’s subsequent military actions. This atmosphere has led to increased censorship and challenges for students, writers, and activists advocating for Palestinian rights, especially within Ivy League institutions.

Ryan Doerfler, a Harvard Law professor, praised Eghbariah’s draft for its forceful scholarship and courageous stance. Doerfler and other experts noted the importance of such scholarship in fostering healthy academic debate and challenging prevailing narratives.

Eghbariah’s essay eventually found a platform at The Nation, published under the headline “The Harvard Law Review Refused to Run This Piece About Genocide in Gaza.” The article’s publication elsewhere highlights the ongoing struggle for academic freedom and the representation of diverse voices in legal scholarship, particularly on contentious issues like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The decision by the Harvard Law Review raises questions about the role of academic journals in facilitating open discourse on controversial topics and their responsibility to uphold principles of academic freedom and equity in representation. This incident at Harvard Law Review signifies a pivotal moment in the ongoing conversation about academic freedom, the representation of marginalized voices, and the challenges faced by scholars advocating for Palestinian rights in the current academic climate. You can read the article, published by The Nation, here.

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