Columbia Law Review Website Pulled Offline Over Essay by Palestinian

Board says the move is a temporary one
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 5, 2024 4:15 AM CDT
Columbia Law Review Website Yanked Over Essay Criticizing Israel
Protesters demonstrate against the war in Gaza outside the entrance to the campus of Columbia University, Tuesday, April 30, 2024, in New York.   (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

The Columbia Law Review website has been taken offline after an article by a Palestinian human rights lawyer was published there. As of this writing, the website URL leads to a page reading simply, "Website is under maintenance." The university's law review is, per the New York Times, "one of the United States' most prestigious student-edited law journals." Typically, its board of directors—consisting of alumni and faculty members—stays out of editorial matters, but in this case, it was the board that pulled the website for the 123-year-old journal offline. The Intercept spoke to multiple editors at the law review and has an extensive look at the timeline.

  • The beginning: The genesis of the issue dates back to November, when the Harvard Law Review censored an essay by Rabea Eghbariah, who would have been the first Palestinian legal scholar published in the journal. Eghbariah's article, per the Intercept, was "an argument for establishing 'Nakba,' the expulsion, dispossession, and oppression of Palestinians, as a formal legal concept that widens its scope." It was fully edited, but killed by the Harvard Law Review before it was published.
  • Columbia's involvement: The Columbia Law Review then reached out to Eghbariah asking for a new article, which Eghbariah says he and editors worked on for more than five months. Editors say that despite a much more extensive than normal editorial process, the board pressured them to delay publication of the essay. A letter from the board to the editorial staff accused staffers of handling the essay's publication with an "unacceptable" and unusual amount of secrecy.
  • The publication and backlash: Amid discussions with the board, editors became concerned the essay had been leaked, so they published it online Monday. Board members asked them to take it down, they refused, and the entire website was then pulled. The board claims in a statement that not every student on the law review read the essay before it was published, and that editors refused to delay its publication to Friday so that more people could read it first. It says the temporary yanking of the website will give the law review "time ... to determine how to proceed."
  • A quote from the essay: In the essay, Eghbariah accuses Israel of crimes against humanity, arguing that Palestinians are living under a "brutally sophisticated structure of oppression." Per the Intercept, the essay "significantly expands on Eghbariah's argument for Nakba as its own legal concept in international law" in a manner "similar to genocide and apartheid, which were concretized as crimes in response to specific atrocities carried out by Nazi Germany and white minority-ruled South Africa, respectively."
Critics are accusing the board of stepping in only because the essay was critical to Israel. "I don't suspect that they would have asserted this kind of control had the piece been about Tibet, Kashmir, Puerto Rico, or other contested political sites," says one Columbia professor. (More Columbia University stories.)

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