Every morning I wake up, check out what’s going on in the world, scan my inbox, and start pondering what to write about. That’s the process. ICYDK, you can send me tips, ideas, articles you think I should riff on. And yes, I am a real journalist who never reveals sources. Really.

What’s on my mind today is a story my wife emailed me, “Harvard Law Student Asks Israeli Official Why She’s ‘So Smelly’.” I’m thinking about covering this for a Critical Thinking column on Fox Business, but before I do, I wanted get your opinion on what I’m calling Smellygate (remember, you saw it here first).

Apparently a student at Harvard Law School asked a former Israeli minister this question during the Q&A that followed her presentation: “How is it that you are so smelly?” the third-year student asked, “It’s regarding your odor—about the odor of Tzipi Livni, very smelly.”

If you read the student’s apology, you get that his question wasn’t anti-Semitic, as I suspected. I grew up in NY and am old enough to remember, but still, the “smelly Jew” thing is more than a little esoteric. It had to be something else on his mind. The question is what?

What in the world inspired a student to stand up in front of 150 colleagues and professors and ask a former high-ranking government official, who presumably came to impart some wisdom and knowledge on tomorrow’s political leaders (after all, this is Harvard Law), such a dopey question?

In short, if it wasn’t anti-Semitic, and I don’t believe it was, then what was it? I can think of several possibilities, and while each one reveals a significant cultural trend, not one of them is good. At this point in the process I’m wide open. Just so you know, half the time I start down the column-writing path, I end up somewhere entirely different. I really am that open-minded.

So what do you think? Why did he ask that question and what does it say about our culture, educational system, family values, politics, Millennials, future leaders, whatever?

Image credit Flickr user Alan Levine

  • E Van

    I can’t even begin to fathom a guess. It’s rude, whatever the reason. I, too, was unaware of the “smelly Jew” history. Common decency would not have us ask about bad breath, BO, spinach in your teeth, visible boogers, foot odor, acne, birthmarks, any deformities, missing or rotting teeth, stained or torn clothing, etc. no matter how curious we may be.

  • TLC

    This is exactly what it appears to be. It’s hatred and animosity for Isreal that has been pumped into his psyche most likely since he was born. Do you call that an apology? He’s not sorry. If anything smells bad It would that BS he gave to the media disguised as one. I still don’t understand why they are babying him. Growth is not possible for Husam El-Qoulaq without facing the fallout. https://canarymission.org/individuals/husam-el-qoulaq/

    • Steve Tobak

      Yes, you’re right. He was later identified as a pro-Palastenian who has spoken out against Israel in the past. [sigh] It’s telling how hard Harvard Law worked to try to hide his identity.