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Columbia Law Review Shut Down for Article Sympathetic to Palestinians

According to the New York Times on June 4, after 123 years of publishing, one of the nation’s premier student-run journals, the Columbia Law Review, has been shut down for the “crime” of publishing an article by a Palestinian human rights lawyer. The law review’s website went blank with a message that the site is “under maintenance.” It was the law review’s Board of Directors that pulled the plug on the website, yet traditionally the board doesn’t meddle in editorial policy and has certainly never stopped the presses over a disagreement. The Board of Directors consists of faculty from the law school and alumni.

The article in question, “Toward Nabka as a Legal Concept,” charges that Palestinians are living under a “brutally sophisticated structure of oppression” by Israel and that it is a crime against humanity. The censorship over this article fits a pattern across the country where student voices are silenced when they question American policy towards Palestine. Across the country dozens of faculty members have been investigated, suspended, and fired over comments about the Gaza crisis. This has triggered an even bigger backlash against censorship, for free speech, and over concerns for academic freedom.

The core pretext of a complaint of the Columbia Law Review Board of Directors was that the article was not selected by the entire editorial staff, but rather a committee selected by the entire staff. The committee responded that that process has been used in the past and in the end the article underwent six rounds of intense review and fact checking by 30 editors over several months. They argued that hundreds of man-hours were spent reviewing the article and that this is similar to the process and standards that every other article is required to meet. One Columbia law professor who supported publishing the article, Katherine Franke, said, “It’s a little hard for me to believe that if the article had been about anything else, the board would have cared about the process.”