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April 22, 2016 11:30 am

BDS Activist Named as Harvard Law Student Behind ‘Smelly’ Remark Directed at Visiting Israeli Politician

avatar by Lea Speyer

HLS student Husam El-Qoulaq. Photo: LinkedIn.

HLS student Husam El-Qoulaq. Photo: LinkedIn.

The identity of the Harvard Law School (HLS) student who publicly insulted a visiting Israeli politician by asking why she was “so smelly” has been revealed.

Husam El-Qoulaq, a third-year law student and Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) activist, has been named by various online sources as the audience member who asked former Israeli foreign minister and current member of Knesset Tzipi Livni an offensive question about her body odor.

At a public forum last week on Israeli-Palestinian negotiations — attended by several hundred people — El-Qoulaq said, “My question is for Tzipi Livni. How is it that you are so smelly? It’s regarding your odor — about the odor of Tzipi Livni, very smelly.”  

A quick online search shows El-Qoulaq is affiliated with the Harvard Arab Student Association and Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) — an anti-Israel organization that routinely accuses the Jewish state of ethnic cleansing and war crimes against Palestinians. Harvard’s SJP chapter holds routine anti-Israel events, including annual Israeli Apartheid Week activities. Photos on the group’s Facebook page show MK Haneen Zoabi — who participated in the controversial “Free Gaza” flotilla in 2010, and who has compared Israel to Nazis — was hosted by the student organization in April.

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A source at HLS told The Algemeiner that school officials attempted to keep El-Qoulaq’s name out of the public eye. The comments section in an article about the incident that appeared in The Harvard Law Record was closed after several responders identified El-Qoulaq by name. A video of the full forum published by HLS edited out the “smelly” incident. Efforts to keep El-Qoulaq’s identity secret are reportedly related to his efforts at securing a job post-graduation.

Screenshot of Husam El-Qoulaq's profile on a Harvard student organization website prior to being deleted. Photo: Screenshot.

Screenshot of Husam El-Qoulaq’s profile on a Harvard student organization website prior to being deleted. Photo: Screenshot.

Almost all traces of El-Qoulaq’s online identity have been erased, including the removal of his Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Angel accounts. In October 2015, El-Qoulaq helped organize an event titled, “The Palestine Exception to Free Speech.” According to Canary Mission — an organization that documents and combats antisemitism on campus — following the incident, the Facebook page for the event removed El-Qoulaq’s name as an organizer. An April 2016 event, “Using Water As A Weapon: How Israel Uses Water to Oppress Palestinians,” also removed mention of El-Qoulaq and changed its title to “Student Orgs Event.” In September 2015, regarding a Harvard event featuring former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, El-Qoulaq posted on Facebook, “Will tomatoes be allowed inside the venue?”

El-Qoulaq anonymously issued a public apology several days after the Livni incident, saying he hadn’t meant to “invoke a hateful stereotype.” As reported by The Algemeiner, the dean of HLS, Martha Minow, issued a public condemnation of the incident via a campus email without referring to El-Qoulaq by name.

The comment was offensive and it violated the trust and respect we expect in our community. Many perceive it as antisemitic, and no one would see it as appropriate,” she wrote. “It was an embarrassment to this institution and an assault upon the values we seek to uphold.”

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