‘Why are you so smelly?’ Harvard student leader asks Livni
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‘Why are you so smelly?’ Harvard student leader asks Livni

Presidents of school's Jewish association brand comment anti-Semitic, demand formal apology

Zionist Union MK Tzipi Livni speaks to the press in the Knesset on July 29, 2015. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Zionist Union MK Tzipi Livni speaks to the press in the Knesset on July 29, 2015. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The head of a student group at Harvard Law School has been accused of anti-Semitism and urged to apologize after she asked Zionist Union MK Tzipi Livni during a panel discussion why she was “so smelly.”

The former foreign minister was taking took part in a debate alongside American diplomat Dennis Ross, sponsored by the Jewish Law Students Association, on the complexities of the negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.

During the Q&A section of the event, one of the law students asked Livni: “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.”

In a letter posted online by The Harvard Law Record, the co-presidents of the Jewish Law Students Association, Jeremy Salinger and Jacqueline Wolpoe, and immediate past president Jonathan Gartner, condemned the remarks and demanded that the student apologize for using anti-Semitic language. The name of the student and the group she represented have been kept out of the media.

In their condemnation, Gartner, Wolpoe and Salinger argued that calling Jews smelly is an anti-Semitic stereotype from as far back as the 1800s, and one also used by the Nazis.

“The idea that Jews can be identified by a malodor is patently offensive and stereotypes Jews as an ‘other’ which incites further acts of discrimination,” the statement said. “The fact that such a hate-filled and outdated stereotype reemerged at Harvard Law School is nothing short of revolting.”

The president of Harvard Law School’s Middle East Law Students Association, Sahand Moarefy, also condemned the remarks as anti-Semitic.

“I unequivocally and unwaveringly condemn the recent anti-Semitic remarks at Thursday’s event on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict,” he wrote in The Record on April 19.

“As the President of an organization dedicated to representing and serving students across the Middle East, including Israel, I deplore any attack on individuals based on their race, religion, or cultural heritage.”

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