By Abraham H. Miller/JNS.org
Every people has its betrayers. And if Jews needed a reminder of that adage, 11 Jewish law students and alumni at Harvard Law School just might have provided it. Indeed, the surprise was that it was only 11.
These students and alumni became witting apologists for Husam El-Qoulaq, the Harvard law student and Palestinian activist who invoked the anti-Semitic stereotype of the smelly Jew, when he hurled a question at former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni as to why she was so “smelly.”
Livni was a panelist at a law school-sponsored forum and a guest of the university. As such, she was entitled to the norms of civility and decency that govern such discussions. Harvard has rules against personal harassment which this clearly was.
El-Qoulaq chose not to contribute to the discussion, but to sling a personal insult worthy of a gutter snipe. In an anonymously rendered apology for an incident at a public and recorded event, El-Qoulaq denied that he knew of the stereotype of the smelly Jew, albeit he offered neither justification nor regret for the insult of Livni.
But leave it to his Jewish apologists to do it for him—justification that is. Indeed, reading their open letter published in the Harvard Crimson, one expected all but to learn that indeed Livni was smelly and El-Qoulaq was only making an observation.
There is testimony that El-Qoulaq is not an anti-Semite. This requires suspension of disbelief, as El-Qoulaq has been active in Students for Justice in Palestine, a group widely denounced by Jewish organizations for its annual “Israeli Apartheid Week,” which is considered nothing less than an anti-Semitic hate fest.
But the apologists really outdo themselves when they say they are adding context to the incident. Here is their disingenuous and naïve rationale in their own words: “To add some context that has gone largely unreported, the target of Husam’s protest that day was Tzipi Livni, a former Israeli foreign minister. Livni played a key role in Operation Cast Lead, a 23-day military operation that was condemned by the U.N. and other credible organizations for the brutality it visited upon Palestinian civilians. In 2009, a British judge even issued a warrant to arrest Livni on allegations of war crimes for her involvement in that operation.”
Yes, Livni did play a key role Operation Cast Lead, a defensive military operation launched after Israel absorbed more than 10,000 rockets and missiles, including advanced Iranian Grad missiles, from Gaza. In the southern Israeli town of Sderot, the dragon in the elementary school playground is not just a piece of playground equipment but a bomb shelter. Sderot, constantly in the eye of Hamas terrorists in Gaza, has one of the highest rates of PTSD among children anywhere in the world. The appropriate question about Operation Cast Lead is not that it was launched, but what took the Israelis so long to defend their citizens.
When it comes to Israel, the U.N. is hardly a credible organization. It routinely condemns Israel for offenses real and imaginary while ignoring far and away more egregious offenses by the world’s dictatorships. In 2015, the U.N. had passed 20 resolutions against Israel and three against the rest of the world’s nations. If Arab delegates sponsored a resolution saying that Israelis had horns and worshipped the devil, they would get at least 70 votes.
As for Livni’s warrant, it happened because the United Kingdom had the only legal system in the Western world in which activists could go before a sympathetic judge and obtain an arrest warrant without prosecutorial intervention, judgment, or discretion.
Palestinian activists in the U.K. used this kind of jihadi lawfare against Israeli officials with such frequency that it became a source of national embarrassment. As our Jewish defenders of El-Qoulaq undoubtedly know, but did not take the trouble to mention in their letter to the Harvard Crimson, the U.K. had enough of this lawfare and modified the warrant law in 2011. This was in direct response to the Livni warrant two years earlier and the law’s abuse.
Distinguished Jewish scholar Daniel Gordis noted on his Facebook page that we are a sick people, and the letter in defense of El-Qoulaq confirms it. We do have among us people who seem to have found a need for identifying with their aggressors.
Abraham H. Miller is an emeritus professor of political science, University of Cincinnati, and a distinguished fellow with the news and public-policy group Haym Salomon Center.