The website of the Columbia Law Review, one of the United States’ most prestigious student-edited law journals, was taken offline Monday by its board of directors after its editors published an article that argues Palestinians are living under a “brutally sophisticated structure of oppression.” ” by Israel that amounts to a crime against humanity.

As of Tuesday evening, visitors to the website of the 123-year-old journal saw only a blank page with the message “Website is under maintenance.”

The decision to suspend access to the website is the latest example of how US universities have sought to regulate expression that is highly critical of Israel amid concerns that it veers into antisemitism. That, in turn, has spurred complaints about censorship and academic freedom when it comes to Palestinian scholarship.

In a statement, the board of directors, which consists of faculty members and alumni, said it had decided to suspend the website Monday after learning two days earlier that not all of the students on the Law Review had read the essay before publication.

The board said that it had asked the editors to hold the article until June 7, to give others time to read it, but that they had published it on Monday instead. The board then decided to take the website down temporarily “to provide time for the Law Review to determine how to proceed.”

In a letter Tuesday to the editorial staff that was provided to The New York Times, the board charged that the article had been handled with unusual secrecy, calling that “unacceptable.”

The involvement of the 12-member board, which includes Gillian Lester, the law school dean; Gillian Metzger, a constitutional law scholar at Columbia; and Ginger Anders, an alumna and former assistant to the US solicitor general, was also unusual. The board is not typically involved in the editorial decisions of the student-led organization.

Also Read: | No date set for Netanyahu’s address to US Congress, Israel says

“To my knowledge, this is the first time ever that the board of directors of the Law Review has intervened in any way in the publication of an article,” said Katherine Franke, a Columbia law professor who supported the piece’s publication.

“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,” she added.

The 105-page article, written by Rabea Eghbariah, a Palestinian human rights lawyer and a doctoral candidate at Harvard, calls Zionism a form of colonialism and racism and argues that a new legal concept is needed to fully encapsulate the extent of its harms. That concept, Eghbariah argues, is nakba, the Arabic word for catastrophe, which is also the word used by Palestinians for their forced displacement from Israel in 1948.

Eghbariah called the website’s shutdown an attempt to silence his scholarship.

“What is so scary about Palestinians speaking their truth?” he said.

Also Read: | India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor: Significance and Prospects for India

The editors on the Review did use a “somewhat irregular process” in editing the piece, “Toward Nakba as a Legal Concept,” because they were concerned about censorship, Franke said. Students involved in the editing said that among the roughly 100 people involved with the journal, they had created a smaller committee to solicit and select the piece, a procedure the Review does not always use.

That committee defended the process. In a statement, it said that the article “went through at least six rounds of intensive editing and fact-checking over several months to prepare for publication. Thirty editors collectively spent hundreds of hours working on the article — numbers consistent with other articles the Review publishes.”

Since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel, dozens of university faculty members across the country have been investigated, suspended or fired for making statements that critics charge are antisemitic or supportive of the attack. Student protests have also been widely condemned as antisemitic, even when the protesters say that their anti-Zionist views do not mean they are against Jews.

In November, a shorter version of Eghbariah’s article was fully edited at the Harvard Law Review but was pulled from publication at the last minute after an emergency vote by the entire editorial staff, The Intercept reported. The Nation later published that essay in full.

In its letter to the Columbia Law Review editorial staff, the board of directors said Tuesday that it would like to restore the website soon but requested that a note be appended to the article stating that it has not been “subject to the usual processes of review and editing.”

Also Read: | Netanyahu to address US Congress on June 13, Punchbowl reports

“It was solicited outside of the usual articles selection process and edited and substantiated by a limited number of student editors,” the board wanted the note to read. “Contrary to ordinary practice, it was not made available for all student editors to read.”

The board also noted that some members of the Law Review had complained of issues beyond being excluded from the article’s editing.

“We are concerned about the atmosphere on the Review, and about statements some students have made to us about feeling excluded and unwelcome at the Review,” the board wrote to the staff. “We hope to work with you to address those issues going forward.”