Eleven Jewish students and recent alumni of the Harvard Law School have signed a letter defending the law student who asked former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni why she is “so smelly.”
In a letter to the Harvard Law Record, the students defend “our friend and peer” Husam El-Qoulaq, whose comment at an April 14 panel event on the Israel-Palestinian conflict was condemned by Harvard Law dean Martha Minow, the Jewish Law Students Association and others, with many saying it evoked an anti-Semitic stereotype.
Qoulaq, whose identity was not made public until this week, published an apology in the Record last week saying he had not intended to be anti-Semitic and was “entirely unaware” of any stereotypes about Jews being smelly. The apology did not explain what he had intended to convey, however, nor did it acknowledge that whether anti-Semitic or not, calling a panelist “smelly” is generally considered impolite.
The incident comes at a time when speeches by Israelis on campuses throughout North America and in the United Kingdom are frequently disrupted by anti-Israel protesters. Many campus activists are calling for universities to boycott or divest from Israel. It also comes amid fierce debate as to whether anti-Zionism is inherently anti-Semitic or is merely legitimate criticism of the Jewish state.