Pro-Palestine Harvard Law Student Asks Former Israeli Minister Why She Is ‘So Smelly’ During Q&A Session

A Harvard Law School student and president of the campus Justice for Palestine chapter was accused of making an anti-Semitic remark to the former Israeli Minister Tzipi Livni. The former minister was invited to speak as a guest at Harvard Law and was giving a Q&A session regarding Israeli-Palestinian relations when the student asked Livni why she was “so smelly.” As if the offensive remark alone wasn’t enough, the Harvard student is now stating that he was “entirely unaware” of any stereotype regarding the smell of Jews before making the statement and says it was most certainly not meant as an anti-Semitic sentiment.

The Daily Mail reports that a Harvard Law School student is in hot water after allegedly making an anti-Semitic remark to former Israeli Minister Tzipi Livni. The third-year male law student attended a speech given by Livni at Harvard Law and spoke up during a Q&A session regarding Israeli-Palestinian relations. The student, who is also the president of the Justice for Palestine chapter at Harvard, asked the former Minister why she was “so smelly.”

John Kerry and Livni
Tzipi Livni speaks with John Kerry long before a Harvard Law student would ask her why she is “so smelly.” (Image vai AP Photo/Mladen Antonov, Pool)

The room reportedly grew quiet as the student asked the seemingly offensive question to the guest speaker but that didn’t deter the student from pressing further. After a hush fell upon the crowd, the student continued his questioning by pointing to Livni as the smell offender and asked her again how it was possible for her to stink so badly.

“How is it that you are so smelly?… A question about the odor of Ms. Tzipi Livni, she’s very smelly, and I was just wondering.”

Following the comments, numerous people who attended the event were taken aback noting that the remarks were anti-Semitic regarding a stereotype that Jewish people “smell.” Fortunately for Jewish students at Harvard, the school was quick to call the remarks offensive and noted that the school expects much more from its students.

“The comment was offensive and it violated the trust and respect we expect in our community. Many perceive it as anti-Semitic, and no one would see it as appropriate. It was an embarrassment to this institution and an assault upon the values we seek to uphold.”

The co-president of the Jewish Law Students Association agreed noting that the question was so inappropriate that it was “blatantly anti-Semitic” in rhetoric. However, the offending student says he had no idea prior to a write-up in The Harvard Law Record that his statement could be viewed as anti-Semitic. He claims that he had no idea there was a “smelly Jew” stereotype and that had he know it was “even possible” for some listeners to interpret his comments as anti-Semitic he wouldn’t have made them.

“I am writing to apologize, as sincerely as I can via this limited form of communication, to anyone who may have felt offended by the comments I made last week. To be very clear, as there seems to be some confusion, I would never, ever, ever call anyone, under any circumstances, a “smelly Jew”. Such a comment is utterly repugnant, and I am absolutely horrified that some readers have been led to believe that I would ever say such a thing. With regards to what I actually did say, I can see now……how my words could have been interpreted as a reference to an anti-Semitic stereotype, one that I was entirely unaware of prior to the publication of this article. I want to be very clear that it was never my intention to invoke a hateful stereotype, but I recognize now that, regardless of my intention, words have power, and it troubles me deeply to know that I have caused some members of the Jewish community such pain with my words.”

While the student is claiming he had no idea about the Jewish stereotype he invoked with his crude statement to former Israeli Minister Tzipi Livni, he has yet to explain why he would use educational Q&A session time to ask such a blatantly unrelated and highly offensive question to a guest speaker. Even if the student did not know that the questions could be viewed as anti-Semitic, what does asking such a question say about the young law student?

While the school is refusing to name the student who asked Livni the offensive question, many who were present at the event have taken to Twitter to identify the student who they say stepped out of line by asking such an absurd and possibly anti-Semitic question to the former Israeli minister.

What actions do you think Harvard Law School should take against the student regarding the alleged anti-Semitic remark? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

[Image via Sebastian Scheiner/AP Photo]