Ariel Beery
Dedicated to solving problems facing humanity with sustainable and scalable solutions

No justice, no peace: How anti-Zionists conquered international law

As law journal gatekeepers, second-year law students have quietly decimated a profession that the world needs now more than ever
Karim Khan, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (center), announces he is seeking arrest warrants from the court’s judges for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, along with Hamas leaders Yahya Sinwar, Mohammed Deif and Ismail Haniyeh, May 20, 2024. (ICC)

Days before the special prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced he would seek an arrest warrant for the prime minister and defense minister of Israel, and before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) held its second hearing on Rafah, I spoke with a friend who is a law professor at a major university. One thing that stood out from our conversation was how corrupted the professor felt the field of international law has become.

This professor, an Israeli who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution, lived and worked for more than half a decade at a major US university currently roiled by anti-Zionist protests. “There were two cycles of escalation between Israel and Gaza. Each time there was an escalation the situation became a little bit more intense, but nothing like what we see today.”

It was then that the professor saw a trend among the topics Israeli and Jewish colleagues were pushed to pursue. Those who continued their academic work in international law either wrote about Palestinians as victims or Israel’s violations of humanitarian international law. “Israelis would either write about IP law or business law, or about how Israel is being awful, violating human rights and all of that.”

This stood out because the professor noticed their colleagues from Latin America and China weren’t expected to work on topics that criticize their home countries as a condition for receiving faculty support. Yet when it came to Israelis, it was “clear to us this is what we need to deliver on.”

In the professor’s discussions with the senior faculty, especially the progressive liberal Jewish faculty, it came through clearly that support for Israeli students was conditioned on being the right type of Israeli, “and there were fellowships and scholarships and grants available to students who are willing to do that. In Hebrew we say that a person knows which side of the bread is buttered, right? So it’s pretty clear what pays off is to distance yourself from a mainstream Israeli kind of discourse.”

Understanding who holds the power and influences decisions is important in any profession, the law included. “You need to have the support and the mentors to advance in your career,” the professor explained, “and for that, you look for cues on what should I do, how do I make these people like me. Why would you bother, why would you take the risk of saying something that is controversial or put yourself in the position of protecting Israel or speaking on behalf of Israel when there is only a price to pay for that?”

“For example, there is an institute that gives out scholarships to doctoral students who are writing dissertations about Israel. I was advised not to take their money because then it’s going to be on my CV and people will interpret that as if I don’t have the right kind of politics. So even when there are economic incentives to write different kinds of scholarship,” under the current academic incentives, the professor concludes, scholarships and point-interventions will not work “because it’s more about selection and authority and networks and connections and less about economic incentives.”

One of the key shapers of behavior in the legal academic profession is the Law Reviews. As in other academic circles, peer-reviewed journals signal to university administrations that a researcher’s work is valued. In practice, however, the dynamic is easily corrupted. At American universities such as Harvard, Stanford, and NYU, the law reviews are controlled by the second-year law students. These students determine which articles to accept, which articles to share with academic peers for review, and which articles to publish. A look at law reviews from the past decade shows alignment with the student body’s politics, often avoiding pieces that conflict with the more vocal, anti-Zionist views of a minority within those bodies.

Knowing what these students would be willing to accept is critical for one’s career. “For me to get tenure I need to publish with one of the top journals such as Harvard Law Review, Stanford Law Review, NYU Law Review, that’s the dream. That’s my Science or Nature.” But to do so, academics are “always trying to kind of think what American second-year law students would like, because that is what they will publish.”

It is hard to overestimate how deeply publication venues – and therefore the administrators of publications – affect the legal profession and the zeitgeist. For example, in Israel, the Council of Higher Education’s committee on standards determines the ‘grade’ of each journal, to compensate for the difficulty of providing a quantitative grade for a paper that is qualitatively assessed. The committee assigns a grade to each of the journals: A+, A, B, and so on. The grade a scholar receives for publishing a paper is critical for their career and the funding their institution receives from the Council’s governmental budget allocation.

A paper can be worth between 100,000 and 350,000 shekels, the professor notes, depending on the journal’s grade. This means that second-year law students protesting at Columbia, Harvard, or Yale against Israel largely determine the career prospects of legal scholars in Israel and their institution’s financial well-being. The same is true in other countries.

It gets worse: papers in a journal are published based on consensus. That means even the fields’ top scholars could be blocked by second-year law students who “don’t have to say ‘I’m voting against this paper because it was written by an Israeli professor,’ they’re just going to not vote.” With enough papers seeking publication at any time, a silent boycott is all it takes to push Israeli scholars to the back benches, careers in jeopardy, their institutions impoverished. Which is why the legal profession is becoming more and more anti-Zionist, why the field of international law is nearly entirely anti-Zionist, and why Israelis studying the law are rushing towards corporate law to avoid this minefield.

Israel is not the first, and will hardly be the last, country attacked by non-state actors claiming to be on a holy mission of eradication. Given the great dislocation we are about to experience due to climate migration, liberal democracies need to develop new approaches to international law to defend against messianic murderers. That will not happen at today’s captured academy. There will be no justice for law-abiding people, and therefore no peace for the innocent, until we unlock the illiberal grip on the Academy. Israel should lead the charge. The best way to do so is to build a new Academy, a future-oriented catalyst for knowledge creation, in Israel by transforming Israel into the World’s Campus.

About the Author
Ariel Beery is a strategist and institution builder dedicated to building a better future for Israel, the Jewish People, and humanity. His geopolitical writings - with deeper dives into the topics addressed in singular columns - can be found on his substack, A Lighthouse.