It was reported in several news sources yesterday that a student at Harvard Law School made some antisemitic and really quite childish comments to visiting Israeli dignitary Tzipi Livni recently. Here’s a partial transcript,
— (((Yair Rosenberg))) (@Yair_Rosenberg) April 19, 2016
The student in question has issued a thoroughly lame apology, claiming that he did not realize that his comments were antisemitic, and he did not realize that there is a historical context to calling Jews “smelly.” The alleged apology only seems to beg the question of why a Harvard law student — or really, any adult — would use a first-grade level insult at an Israeli government official, if his intent was not to be antisemitic.
Despite the apology, Tablet reported that the student in question was a leader of Harvard Law’s Justice for Palestine chapter and that the name of the person who made this public statement at a public event was being withheld.
Unsurprisingly, it turns out Husam El-Coolaq has been in the spotlight before. He appears to be listed here (with the spelling Husam El-Qoulaq) as the organizer of an event that took place this past fall called, “The Palestine Exception to Free Speech: A Movement Under Attack.” The sponsoring group, HLS Justice for Palestine, subsequently described the event as follows,
Between bites of Milbank-funded formaggio, event attendees listened as speakers discussed the widespread suppression of Palestinian rights advocacy in the United States. One of the cases highlighted was that of STEVEN SALAITA, an academic whose tenure position at the University of Illinois was revoked after he tweeted criticism of Israel’s 2014 aerial bombardment over Gaza. SALAITA’s lawyers later discovered that the university had caved in to significant pressure from donors who had threatened to pull their donations if the university insisted on retaining him.
(Links added by me.)
The referenced law firm, Milbank, subsequently pulled its funding. (I’ll save for another time the rant about why these Harvard law students seemed not to understand that the right to free speech also includes the right of private funders to not pay for speech they find objectionable.)
HLS Justice for Palestine also noted that one of Milbank’s complaints was the use of this cartoon to advertise the event.
To sum up: It seems that El-Coolaq organized an event at which he defended Steven Salaita, and used a cartoon showing a big Jewish hand censoring a poor student activist who only wants to end the occupation, to advertise the event. But when he called Tzipi Livni “smelly,” that wasn’t antisemitic. Got it? Good.
Update: The page for HLS Justice for Palestine’s event “The Palestine Exception to Free Speech: A Movement Under Attack” has been modified and the name Husam El-Qoulaq deleted from it. That’s OK though.