HBS Jewish Students Association Writes Letter in Support of JLSA

We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant.

                                                                                                            -Karl Popper

Last week, the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School hosted Israeli politician Tzipi Livni for a panel on Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. During the Q+A session, a student at Harvard Law School asked Ms. Livni the following: “How is it that you are so smelly? . . . A question about the odor of Ms. Tzipi Livni, she’s very smelly, and I was just wondering.”

Calling Jews “smelly” or “dirty” has a long history. The Nazis promoted the idea to label the Jews an inferior people. In France, the term sale juif (dirty jew) has been the go-to anti-Semitic slur for centuries and in the US, Jewish immigrant neighborhoods were often described by the press as smelly and dirty[1].

By using an old anti-Semitic stereotype to attack a foreign dignitary, the Law student willfully and publicly violated core values of the university. Hate speech is against everything we stand for. It hurts us all, shuts down conversations, silences those who wish to be heard, and betrays our core values as a diverse and open student body.

We stand with the Jewish Law Students Association and the Middle East Law Students Association in denouncing the verbal attack. We applaud Dean Minow for calling the remarks what they are: “an embarrassment to this institution.” We agree with her that free speech “does not mean that hateful remarks should go unacknowledged or unanswered” in our community. But we must go further: we must make clear that it is unacceptable in our community.

The student’s public, bigoted remarks violate our most important ethical standards. If we as a community fail to unite to condemn those remarks, then we condone them. We must reject hate directed against members of any race, gender, sexual identity, disability group and religion, within the Harvard network or outside of it. We add our voices to those who are calling upon the administration to unequivocally identify these remarks as anti-Semitism, to explicitly identify the academic policies the student violated, and to clearly articulate the formal process the school will use to appropriately respond to such conduct.

We must hold individuals accountable for their actions. We must do so in a way that makes it clear that bigotry has no place in the Harvard community nor in the hearts and minds of the world’s future leaders.

The Harvard Business School Jewish Students Association’s leadership has and will continue to work to defend the values of the Harvard community. We thank all our fellow student leaders, the members of the Student Association, friends, and classmates for your unwavering support in the pursuit of this goal.

Tom Dan                     Co-President of the Jewish Students Association at HBS ‘17
Gavin Ellman              Co-President of the Jewish Students Association at HBS ‘17
Maximiliano Grass      Co-President of the Jewish Students Association at HBS ‘17

[1] “African, Native, and Jewish American Literature and the Reshaping of Modernism”, https://books.google.com/books?id=6J82LY3jaW8C&pg=PA124&hl=en

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