The Commissars at Georgetown

March 5, 2018

In Blog News

Finkelstein comments:  I recently posted an unorthodox article on the current situation in Venezuela by respected international jurist and UN Special Rapporteur Alfred de Zayas (  He submitted his article to the Georgetown Journal of International Affairs, which rejected it.  Below is his exchange with the journal editors.  In 2007 I submitted an article to the Georgetown Journal of International Law.  It ultimately met the same fate as the article by de Zayas, but via a more convoluted route.  Below I reproduce a Memorandum I wrote at the time.  It can be safely predicted that the editors of Georgetown’s journals are destined for bright futures.



  • De Zayas v. Georgetown Journal of International Affairs


On Thu, Mar 1, 2018 at 12:20 AM, Michaela Colangelo <> wrote:

Dear Mr. de Zayas,


My name is Michaela Colangelo, and I am one of the Section Editors for the Georgetown Journal of International Affairs. Copied on this email is my co-Section Editor, Abigail Ulman.


Andres Marquez passed along your submission to us last week. While we really appreciated the first hand perspective and expertise you offered, we unfortunately are not in a position to publish this content at the moment.


We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you and thank you very much for your collaboration.


Best wishes,

Michaela Colangelo



Alfred de Zayas


Dear Ms Colangelo,


I am used to enduring various kinds of censorship

Evidently your journal is not interested in independent expert opinions or in academic scholarship not in open debate, not in the market place of ideas, not in methodology, not in objectivity your journal evidently wants me to sing a particular song your journal is playing the stale political game, joins the bandwagon like so many others in the “academic industry” — and in the “human rights industry” —


Not good for democracy, not good for the freedom of others to have access to pluralistic views based on facts.


Kind regards


  • Finkelstein v. Georgetown Journal of International Law





In this memorandum I want to retrace the steps from Georgetown Journal of International Law’s initial acceptance of my submission to its final rejection.


1) On 22 January 2006 I submitted to Georgetown Journal of International Law an article entitled Reconciling Irreconcilables: How Israel’s High Court Proved the Wall Was Legal.


2) On 25 January I received an email from Senior Articles Editor Alex Little stating that “I am delighted to extend an offer to publish your article” and that “the Editorial Board of the Georgetown Journal of International Law was extremely impressed with your article.”


3) It was requested that I make a final decision by 1 February.  In the meantime I also submitted the article for publication to the Israel Yearbook on Human Rights.  Its editor, Yoram Dinstein, one of the world’s leading authorities on international law (and the President of Tel Aviv University), tentatively accepted the article for publication.  However, he stated that the “current volume (36) is complete” and the next volume wouldn’t be published for another 20 months (email dated 2 February).  Because of the timeliness of the subject matter of my article, I decided to publish it in GJIL which, I was told, would go to press in May 2006.


4) On 1 February I wrote Little that “I’ll publish the article with you.  Please stay in close touch so we can make sure everything goes right.”


5) On 2 February Little wrote me that “We are excited to hear that you have accepted our offer and look forward to working with you” and on 3 February Managing Editor Susan McMahon wrote me that “We are truly excited to see your work in our journal.”


6) On 3 February I signed and submitted to GJIL the publication agreement, copyright license, and offprint form.


7) After a false start in the editing process, GJIL Editor-in Chief Shawn Bates took over editorial responsibility for the article on 12 May.  He stated that “many” of my concerns regarding the original edit were “certainly warranted” and expressed “some concerns about the sourcing support.”  Regarding the publication schedule, he stated that “if we can agree to the edits on your piece, I believe we can send this issue to the printer on Monday.”


8) On 17 May I informed Bates that I had still not received the edited version of the article.


9) On 18 May Bates replied that he had already emailed me the edited version of the article.


10) Knowing that the issue deadline was fast approaching (or had already passed), I left Bates repeated phone messages and sent him repeated emails stating that I still hadn’t received anything from him.


11) After not hearing from Bates for fully two weeks, I had no recourse except to contact the Dean’s Office at Georgetown Law Center.


12) On 7 June Bates finally contacted me after the Dean’s Office spoke to him.  He claimed to have already sent me the edited version of the article and not to have heard from me during those two weeks when I had sent him multiple emails and left multiple phone messages pleading with him to contact me.


13) Regarding substantive criticism of the article itself, he stated that a) the “problems with material support” for “some” of my assertions were indicated in the newly edited version (“you will see comments in the text where this was thought to be a concern”); and b) “I have also removed a few of your characterizations of the Israel High Court or its opinion.”


14) Just when I thought the editing process was finally on track again, I received a bizarre email from Bates on 14 June stating that I should submit the article to “another journal or other publication” due to “the various difficulties we have had in communicating with one another” and because “I am no longer certain that it is in either of our best interest for the Georgetown Journal of International Law to be the one to publish it.”  He went on to elaborate that there would inevitably be delays in publication of my article “because of the extent of the edits” and that this delay “also impacts the other authors being published in this issue, and I must recognize my responsibilities to them as well as to you.”  He concluded that “I am truly sorry that this relationship did not work out for us, but I do believe it in both of our best interests to discontinue it.”


15) I immediately contacted Monica Stearns, who is responsible for journal oversight at Georgetown Law Center, and asked that we speak either personally (I expressed a willingness to fly to Washington) or via a conference call with Bates.  She agreed to a conference call, but then wrote me on 19 June that the conference call had been cancelled and that she would “be in contact in the near future.”  As the clock ticked away I repeatedly beseeched Stearns to intervene.  She wrote me on 21 June that “I expect to be in further contact with you by the end of the week,” and on 22 June asking me “to be patient for a few more days.”


16) On 27 June Stearns wrote me that “We see no basis for questioning the editors’ judgment” and that “the outcome of the matter now resides between you and the editors of the Georgetown Journal of International Law.”


17) On 30 June Bates reestablished contact and stated that I needed to submit a tentatively edited version by 7 July and that “we will need to have a mutually agreed upon final version of the piece completed no later than July 14.”


18) On 6 July I submitted the newly revised version to Bates.


19) After the 14 July deadline had passed, I assumed that the article had been accepted and published.


20) On 16 August, six weeks after I submitted the edited version and while I was on summer vacation, I received another bizarre email from Bates.  He stated that the article required a “major edit” and that I would have six days to submit it or else it could not be published.  The requested revisions fell into four categories:


  1. a) Citations. “It is of paramount importance that these be filled in with the sources you reference as being in Beyond Chutzpah….Without these citations, the piece will not hold up under the scrutiny of a legal audience, and does not meet the standards for citation that the Journal requires.  If we cannot find these pieces, these references, and their accompanying text, will have to be removed from the piece, potentially removing so much of it that it is unpublishable.”


A close comparison of the edited text I received from Bates on 7 June with the revised version I submitted on 6 July shows, however, that in every place that source citations were requested I submitted them.


  1. b) Argumentation. On a technical point, Bates maintains that I did not demonstrate that the High Court deferred absolutely to the military authority in the first part of its decision.


It is pointless to go over this ground in a memorandum.  Suffice to say that many leading authorities in international law reviewed the article prior to its submission to GJIL yet none found my argument wanting.  In addition, I cited for Bates the numerous occasions in the Court’s decisions where it explicitly stated that it was giving absolute deference to the military authority.  Finally, Bates alleges that I contradicted myself in the article by first alleging that the Court gave absolute deference to the military authority and then stating that the Court challenged the military authority.  It seems Bates did not grasp the core argument of the article captured in its title (“Reconciling Irreconcilables”): that the Court’s decisions were internally contradictory because they both gave absolute deference to the military authority and subsequently challenged this authority.


  1. c) Rhetoric. Bates objects to certain of my verbal characterizations in the article as “emotional appeals [that] are not appropriate to a legal analysis of the different opinions.”


A close comparison of the edited text I received from Bates on 7 June with the revised version I submitted on 6 July shows, however, that without exception I removed every single phrase and word that he found objectonable.  In this regard I might also quote the opinion of Vaughan Lowe of Oxford University who argued the Wall case before the International Court of Justice.  Regarding my manuscript, which I submitted to him for critical comment, he wrote that it is “an exceptionally clear account of the courts’ decisions” and, in his concluding sentence, “It is a beautifully clear account” (email dated 10 March 2006).


  1. d) New data. Bates alleged that the High Court had rendered a new decision that “might” undermine my argument.


My article dealt with what are called the “principled” rulings of the High Court, which lay out the Court’s jurisprudence.  It had not rendered a new “principled” decision in the interim so this point was irrelevant.



21) On 17 August I requested a meeting with Bates and Stearns.


22) Stearns never got back to me.   On 18 August Bates replied, however, reiterating his criticisms and stating that this major edit had to be submitted by August 23 or else

“I will assume we have been unable to come to an agreement on the editing of your piece.  In this event, I will move forward with the publication of the issue without the inclusion of Reconciling Irreconcilables.”


23) In replies to Bates on 18 and 22 August I stated that I had not heard from him in six weeks; that to request a “major edit” at the end of August to be submitted within six days was outrageous; that a comparison of the text he submitted to me on 7 June with the version I resubmitted on 6 July showed that I accommodated all his criticisms; and that the latest requests for revisions lacked any merit.


24) On 22 August Bates replied that the version of the article I submitted on 6 July “did not make all of the requested changes, or provide the additional citation.”  A comparison between the version he sent me on 7 June and the revised version I resubmitted on 7 July shows, however, that this claim is flat-out false.  He concluded that “I will accept for consideration a draft which includes the necessary citations and edits until tomorrow, Wednesday, August 23, at 5:00 PM Eastern Standard Time.”


25) Yet again I sought to contact Monica Stearns hoping against hope that this matter could yet be resolved amicably.  I left her dozens of phone messages.  Although her colleagues indicated that she was in the office, Stearns never returned any of my calls.


26) On 31 August Bates wrote me that “the Journal has decided not to publish the piece.”


All supporting documentation for this memorandum is available on request.