- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 21, 2016

A Harvard Law School student is under fire after asking Israel’s former foreign minister and co-leader of the Zionist Union Party Tzipi Livni why she is “so smelly” during a public discussion on Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

During a Q&A section of the discussion on April 14, hosted by the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School and co-sponsored by the Jewish Law Students Association and Harvard Hillel, a law student asked Ms. Livni: “How is it that you are so smelly?”

After the panel looked confused, the student added, “Oh, it’s regarding your odor,” according to a transcript.

“I’m not sure I understand the question,” the event moderator, law professor Robert Mnookin, responded.

“I’m question [sic] about the odor of Tzipi Livni, very smelly, and I was just wondering,” the student said.

Leaders of the Jewish Law Students Association condemned the student’s comments as “blatantly anti-Semitic.”

“Given the opportunity to ask a question and to engage in productive dialogue with an Israeli political leader, this HLS student, who is the president of a student organization on campus, revived the antiquated and offensive notion of the ‘smelly Jew’ — a term reeking of anti-Semitism — in order to insult [Ms. Livni],” the students wrote in a statement.

Harvard Law dean Martha Minow also sent an email to the school community condemning the unnamed student, Tablet Magazine reported.

“The comment was offensive and it violated the trust and respect we expect in our community,” she wrote. “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 fact that speech is and should be free does not mean that hateful remarks should go unacknowledged or unanswered in a community dedicated to thoughtful discussion of complex issues and questions.”

The student issued an apology Wednesday explaining that he or she meant to insult Ms. Livni personally and didn’t mean to invoke a hurtful stereotype.

“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,” the student wrote. “To those people I say, please reach out. Give me an opportunity to make it right. I will assure you, as I have already assured many, that had I known it was even possible that some listeners might interpret my comments as anti-Semitic, there is absolutely no chance that I would have uttered them. … Many members of the Jewish community — some of whom hold strong differences of opinion with me — have reached out to me on their own to let me know that they did not interpret my words as anti-Semitic, because they know me well enough to know that that is not at all consistent with who I am as a person.”

The student has not been identified by the school and it is not clear whether he or she will face any consequences. The Harvard Law Record has actively scrubbed the student’s name from its comments section, and a transcript provided by the Harvard Program on Negotiation did not name the student. The Daily Caller noted that video of the event exists, but it has been censored to remove the offending question.

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