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Columbia Law Review website back online after shut-down over criticizing Israel

Alumni of Columbia law school carry out silent pro-Palestinian protest with keffiyehs and banners, calling for ceasefire during their graduation ceremony in New York, United States on May 13, 2024. (Photo by Getty Images)

The website of the Columbia Law Review, a prestigious student-run law journal in the United States, has been restored a few days after it was shut down over the publication of an article critical of Israel.

The journal’s board of directors on Monday took the website offline after the editors refused to halt publication of an academic article by a Palestinian human rights lawyer that was critical of Israel.

On Thursday afternoon, the board of directors reinstated the website with the article, titled “Toward Nakba as a Legal Concept”, by Rabea Eghbariah, and a link at the bottom of the homepage directing readers to a statement from the board about the piece.

In the statement, the board said it had “received multiple credible reports that a secretive process was used to edit the article and that “some individuals reporting exclusion expressed concerns with the process and the denial of their opportunity to provide input.”

The restoration of the website came as students threatened, in an email sent to board member Gillian Metzger, a Columbia law professor, that the staff of CLR would stop all work on the journal if the board continued to hinder the publication of Eghbariah’s piece.

They made the threats after the students who run CLR voted on Wednesday to reject an offer from the board to reinstate the website with a note attached to the lengthy article, which was published after months of revisions, disclaiming what the directors, in an unsigned letter to students, described as “secrecy and deviation from the Review’s usual processes,” The Intercept reported.

The student editors rejected the deal for a disclaimer by a 20-5 vote.

“I think that this whole year, and particularly this last semester, has been about students recognizing, stepping into their power,” Sohum Pal, a CLR articles editor, said, adding, “And I’m very glad that the law students at the law review are doing the same.”

“Powerful legal scholarship cannot be silenced,” Pal said.

“It’s already been circulating. It’s already gotten far more views or reads than the average law review article. And, yeah, to the extent that they’re trying to censor Rabea, that simply won’t happen — that simply hasn’t happened and can’t.”

Eghbariah, the first Palestinian legal scholar to publish in CLR, told The Intercept he viewed the board of directors’ actions as an example of a “Palestine exception” to free speech and academic freedom.

The shutdown of the website was the latest in a battle on Columbia’s campus, and on campuses across the US, over free speech and Israel’s genocidal war on Gaza.

Protests were held on many of the campuses, demanding an end to the US-backed war, which has killed more than 36,654 Palestinians, and injured 83,309 others. The demonstrators were met with brutal police violence.

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