Columbia Law Review Board Buckles to Student Editors and Publishes Controversial Article

'Nakba' piece that said Jews 'capitalized on the Holocaust' subverted standard editing process

MIT anti-Israel protests (Scott Eisen/Getty Images)
June 6, 2024

The Columbia Law Review's board of directors buckled to a group of student editors Thursday, restoring the Law Review's website and publishing a controversial article without so much as an editor's note indicating it did not go through the journal's standard editing process.

The move comes after the board "temporarily suspended" the site Monday after a group of roughly 30 student editors published the article—titled, "Toward Nakba as a Legal Concept"—around 2 a.m. that day, despite a request from the board to delay publication due to lapses in the editing process. Prospective pieces are typically available for the Review's roughly 100 members to assess ahead of publication; in this case, most editors were unaware of the "Nakba" piece's existence until Saturday, just two days before its surprise publication, the Free Beacon reported.

As a result, in a Tuesday letter to student editors obtained by the Washington Free Beacon, the Review's board demanded an editor's note be added to the piece outlining the lapses in the "usual processes of review and editing." One day later, a group of 25 student editors voted against adding the editor's note. By Thursday afternoon, the board reinstated the Review's website with no note added to the piece—instead, a statement from the board is linked to the bottom of the site's homepage that "memorializes" the board's "concerns with the process."

A Columbia faculty member expressed disappointment in the board's decision to forgo the editor's note. "There are major governance problems at Columbia that need to be resolved for the long-term health of the institution," the professor told the Free Beacon.

When asked about the decision to reinstate the website, Columbia Law School referred the Free Beacon to the board’s statement, which is different from the one originally proposed, signaling some sort of agreement was reached with the student editors.

"Rather than delay the publication of the May issue any further, the Board of Directors memorializes for now its concerns with the process and its long-term goal of protecting the integrity of the Review," says the statement. "The Board of Directors looks forward to engaging further with the Administrative Board on this matter." In addition to the statement, the Review's online masthead is now password protected.

Sohum Pal, one of the Review editors who rejected the board’s deal, told the Intercept that "this last semester, has been about students recognizing, stepping into their power," adding that he was "very glad that the law students at the law review are doing the same." Pal is also a Ph.D. student in the Department of History.

The ordeal comes as Columbia University leaders continue to grapple with anti-Israel and anti-Semitic demonstrations.

Student protesters at the Ivy League school promised a "summer of disruption," after the school’s Students for Justice in Palestine chapter erected a third unauthorized encampment over the weekend, which coincided with the school’s alumni reunions. Those who attended the festivities were greeted by a sign that read, "I want your hands on Israel’s neck."

The "Nakba" piece, written by Harvard University doctoral candidate Rabea Eghbariah, includes an array of inflammatory rhetoric toward Jews.

In one footnote, he wrote that Israel "capitalized on the Holocaust to create a powerful narrative that monopolizes victimhood to the state." In another passage, he argued that the Holocaust created an "ethnonationalist Jewish identity" that turned a "victimized group" into "victimizers."

"The rise of Nazism to power and its culmination in the Holocaust contributed to the creation of an exclusivist and ethnonationalist Jewish identity among European Jewry, ultimately popularizing the political project of Zionism," Eghbariah wrote.

"If Apartheid taught us about the dangers of racialism and the possibility of reconciliation, and the Holocaust taught us about the banality of evil and warned 'Never Again,' the Nakba can complicate our understanding of these lessons by reminding us that group victimhood is not a fixed category, and that a victimized group may easily become victimizers."

The 2024-2025 board is chaired by Columbia law professor Gillian Metzger and includes Columbia Law School dean Gillian Lester. Neither responded to requests for comment.

The law review’s editor in chief is Alexandria Iraheta Sousa, an incoming third-year law student who has worked for numerous progressive nonprofits, including a dark money group, Demand Justice, that advocates packing the Supreme Court. Other student leaders of the Review include executive articles editor Juan Ramon Riojas, executive essays editor Mohamed Camara, executive forum editor T.J. (Tyrone) Braxton, executive managing editor Susie Emerson, and executive notes editor Tashayla Borden. They did not respond to requests for comment.

Eghbariah, the author of the "Nakba" piece, is no stranger to inflammatory rhetoric toward Jews. Last month, he spoke at an alternative graduation at Harvard, which was meant to honor students who were prevented from graduating thanks to their participation in an unauthorized encampment. Eghbariah urged attendees to fight for "liberation."

"The student movement will not stop and will not rest," he said. "You understood that liberation is never granted but taken; that freedom is a daily practice and struggle; that there is value in speaking up here and now."