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You are here News Human Rights Why are America’s elite universities so afraid of this scholar’s paper?

Why are America’s elite universities so afraid of this scholar’s paper?

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Rabea EghbariahWhen the Palestinian human rights lawyer Rabea Eghbariah arrived at a Manhattan cafe on Thursday afternoon, he had just learned that his article had been reinstated in the Columbia Law Review. After a weeklong censorship controversy, the prestigious journal’s website was back online, too.

The law school journal’s faculty and alumni board had shuttered the website for most of the week rather than publicize Eghbariah’s 105-page article, titled Toward the Nakba as a Legal Concept. In it, he proposed a new framework to explain the complex, fragmented legal regimes governing Palestinians. He wanted to bring the word Nakba – which translates from the Arabic as catastrophe, and is better known for describing the displacement and dispossession of Palestinians in 1948 – to the center of a new legal conversation.

Wearing a white T-shirt and linen pants and sipping iced coffee, he reflected on an extraordinary week that saw his legal theories – ordinarily the stuff of arcane law school debates – ignite emotive conversations about the legitimate bounds of debate about Israel and Palestine.

What’s more, it wasn’t the first time his ideas were deemed too dangerous to publish by the Ivy League.

He had worked on his contribution for almost half a year, finding a home for it at the Columbia Law Review after a shorter web piece he had written for the Harvard Law Review had been blocked at the last minute.


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