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US: Columbia Law Review website shut down over article critical of Israel

Law journal's board took the website down after student editors published an article called, 'Nakba as a Legal Concept'
Pro-Palestinian protestors shout slogans during a protest outside Columbia University, in New York City on May 23 2024 (AFP)

The board of directors at the Columbia Law Review shut down its website after student editors refused a request to stop the publication of an academic article accusing Israel of committing genocide in Gaza.

The board of the New York-based law school at Columbia University sent a letter to the student editors on Tuesday, issuing concerns about an article titled, "Nakba as a Legal Concept", and said it hadn't done the "usual processes of review or selection for articles at the Law Review". The board said that some editors were not aware of the article's existence.

“In order to preserve the status quo and provide student editors some window of opportunity to review the piece, as well as provide time for the Law Review to determine how to proceed, we temporarily suspended the website,” said the letter, seen by the Associated Press.

As of Wednesday afternoon local time, the law review's website still appears to be "under maintenance" and not accessible.

The letter says that student editors who did not work on the piece should have been given an opportunity to read the article, saying that the piece "will clearly be controversial and potentially have an impact on all associated with the Review".

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Editors at the journal pushed back on the notion that they did not complete a rigorous review process. Erika Lopez, one editor who worked on the article, told AP it is "completely false to imply that we didn’t follow the standard process".

Once Columbia Law Review's website was shut down, the article was uploaded to a publicly accessible website where it quickly went viral on social media.

The piece, written by Harvard doctoral candidate Rabea Eghbariah, accuses Israel of “crimes against humanity” against Palestinians, and calls for a new legal framework to tackle the "ongoing structure of subjugation in Palestine" and the "Palestinian condition".

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"The law does not possess the language that we desperately need to accurately capture the totality of the Palestinian condition," the article says.

"From occupation to apartheid and genocide, the most commonly applied legal concepts rely on abstraction and analogy to reveal particular facets of subordination. This Article introduces Nakba as a legal concept to resolve this tension."

According to a report in November by The Intercept, the article was previously rejected by the Harvard Law Review journal after internal deliberations. The move to block the publication at Harvard was seen as an "unprecedented decision" at the journal.

The shuttering of the website of one of the country's most prestigious law review journals is one of the latest and most striking examples of how Israel's war on Gaza has led to a growing crackdown at US universities over speech critical of Israel.

Late last year, Columbia University moved to ban two pro-Palestinian student groups, Jewish Voice for Peace's student chapter and Students for Justice in Palestine.

After the creation of a student encampment on campus in solidarity with Gaza which also called for the university to divest from companies profiting off the war on Gaza, Columbia University president Nemat Minouche Shafik ordered the New York Police Department to forcibly remove the encampment.

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