A student at Harvard Law School provoked outrage after asking a visiting Jewish Israeli politician why she was “so smelly.” The student’s identity remains unknown despite using the slur in a public forum.
Tzipi Livni is a former Israeli foreign minister and is currently a part of the center-left Zionist Union in the Israeli Knesset. She is generally regarded as the most powerful woman in Israel, and is one of the most important figures in the push for a two-state solution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Livni appeared at Harvard Law last Thursday for a panel discussion about the Palestinian peace process, but when the time came for questions from the audience, things went in a stinky direction.
A student in the back piped up to ask Livni an important question: Why exactly did she smell so bad?
“OK, my question is for Tzipi Livni, um, how is it that you are so smelly?” the student asked, according to a transcript of the event released Wednesday. When the panel replied with confused looks, the student clarified exactly what he meant: “Oh, it’s regarding your odor.”
“I’m not sure I understand the question,” the event moderator replied.
“I’m question (sic) about the odor of Tzipi Livni, very smelly, and I was just wondering,” the student said.
Insults deriding Jewish people as smelly or otherwise possessing a unique odor are quite old, and the notion was included in anti-Semitic propaganda used by the Nazis.
In an apology published in the Harvard Law Record, the student responsible tried to make amends by saying he merely wanted to rudely insult Livni personally, and that his invocation of an anti-Semitic stereotype was unintentional.
“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 said. “To those people I say, please reach out. Give me an opportunity to make it right.”
Despite apologizing for invoking the stereotype, at no point does the student ever apologize for asking a pointless, rude question of Livni during the question and answer portion of the event.
While the Harvard student encouraged others to “reach out,” that will likely be hard for most people to do, because the identity of the student responsible is being actively suppressed. Harvard Law Dean Martha Minow dubbed the remark “an embarrassment to this institution” in a campus email obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation, but the school hasn’t done anything that would reveal the name of the student. Video of the event exists, but it has been censored to remove the offending question.
Other write-ups of the event, such as one at the Harvard Law Review, have similarly concealed the name. It is currently unclear whether the student will face any repercussions for his stunt.
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