At Harvard Law School, an event in the Program on Negotiation, sponsored by the Jewish Law Students Association and Harvard Hillel and titled “The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict & the U.S” consisted of an exchange of ideas between former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and American diplomat Dennis Ross.
Husam El-Qoulaq, a law student in the audience asked this:
My question for Tzipi Livni is, how is it that you are so smelly? It’s regarding your odor — about the odor of Tzipi Livni, very smelly.
How professional, civil, respectful and representative of the image that the nation’s most prestigious law school wishes to present to the world!
Harvard Law’s Jewish community reacted with indignation at this brazen display of anti-Semitism, while Harvard’s Law School Dean Martha Minow issued an official statement that the incident…
“…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 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.”
Husam El-Qoulaq then posted this astounding “apology”:
“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, after speaking with the authors of this article and many other members of the Jewish community at HLS, 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.”
Is this the most cynical and insulting non-apology apology ever? The Ethics Alarms Apology Scale doesn’t include an equivalent; the nearest would be #9, a deceitful apology, but even that doesn’t capture the true awfulness of what El-Qoulaq wrote. It is closer to “The Pazuzu Excuse,” a favorite among celebrities caught on tape uttering unequivocally racist, bigoted, misogynist or otherwise repugnant sentiments, when someone swears that what they said doesn’t in any way represent what they believe, they just happened to say it for no discernible reason. This one is special, though. “I would never call someone a smelly Jew, I would just call an Israeli guest smelly in public.” This guy wants to be a lawyer with a defense like that? Now he owes everyone who read his apology another apology for insulting their intelligence.
For its part, Harvard Law School seems intent on demonstrating how seriously dysfunctional the higher reaches of our education system have become. It released a video of the public event with the student’s outrageous question edited out. This cowardly, dishonest, Soviet-style act of air-brushing away inconvenient history was justified by the school as an effort to protect the student. What? Why does El-Qoulaq warrant protection? He engaged in the offensive conduct in a public forum. Moreover, Harvard is professionally obligated to made sure it does not inflict unfit lawyers on society. A bar association may reasonably feel that this incident calls into question Husam El-Qoulaq’s character. I assume the student is being disciplined exactly as a white student would be who hurled a racist slur at Valerie Jarrett.
(Maybe I shouldn’t assume that.)
El-Qoulaq’sdisingenuous apology alone raises questions whether El-Coolaq is fit to practice. I wonder why Harvard Law thinks he is fit to be a Harvard Law student?