A Law Blog’s Double Standards on Disclosures

In a recent post on Opinio Juris, the international law blog apparently decided to forgo its own policies by failing to disclose the relevant affiliations of the author. In doing so, the blog’s readership was left without important information relevant to its readers’ assessment of the author’s arguments and credibility.

The December 23, 2022 post, with the exceptionally lengthy title of “The Illegality of the Israeli Occupation of the Palestinian West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and Gaza: What the International Court of Justice Will Have to Determine in its Advisory Opinion for the United Nations General Assembly,” was authored by Ralph Wilde, who is described only as a faculty member at the University of London, a fellow at the Ålands fredsinstitut, and a research fellow at the British Academy Council for British Research on the Levant Kenyon Institute.

Left unmentioned is that according to Wilde’s own curriculum vitae, Wilde directly worked for one side of the legal dispute (the Palestine Liberation Organization) and has repeatedly been involved in legal work on questions directly related to the subject of his article. He served as a “legal advisor to the Palestinian Negotiation Support Unit on the range of options for internationalization and shared sovereignty of Jerusalem in the context of peace negotiations.” Additionally, he served as “legal adviser to Palestinian NGO Al Haq on legal issues arising out of the UK administration of the Palestine Mandate…”

Opinio Juris’ contributions policies state:

Please also send us a one-sentence bio and photo along with your proposed contribution. With that, disclose any relevant affiliations, including–but not limited to–work done on the particular case or content of your blog post and any relevant governmental, institutional or organizational affiliations.

Despite having its attention drawn to Wilde’s relevant affiliations and past legal work by a Twitter user and by email from CAMERA, Opinio Juris has thus far failed to edit the post to disclose Wilde’s affiliations.

What makes this failure even more jarring is that one of the blog’s cofounders and editors, Kevin Jon Heller, is on record attacking a different legal blog over a much less clear case of disclosure. In relation to a post by the legal scholar Eugene Kontorovich on the EJIL: Talk! blog, the editor chastised the latter’s failure to disclose that Kontorovich lives in an Israeli settlement in a post he wrote discrediting Human Rights Watch’s accusation of “apartheid” against Israel. As Heller tweeted at the time:

Despite expressing such a strong position in favor of greater disclosures about an author’s potential conflicts of interest at a different legal blog, Heller and Opinio Juris’ actions thus far indicate they do not apply that standard to themselves.

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