SJP protest
SJP protestWilliam Stadtwald Demchick

A group of self-described ‘progressive’ Jewish students at Harvard Law School has rallied behind Husam El-Qoulaq, a Students for Justice in Palestine activist who smeared former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni as “smelly”, during a panel discussion earlier this month.

During the event, which included guest speakers Dennis Ross and MK Livni (Zionist Camp), El-Qoulaq asked the former Israeli minister during a question and answer session, “How is it that you are so smelly?”

“A question about the odor of Ms. Tzipi Livni,” El-Qoulaq clarified, “she’s very smelly, and I was just wondering.”

The comments, which were widely perceived as drawing upon classic anti-Semitic canards, were quickly condemned by the Harvard Law Record, the school’s student newspaper.

At the same time, however, the university took measures to protect El-Qoulaq’s identity, scrubbing the incident from a video of the event.

El-Qoulaq later apologized, denying that the comments were intended to be anti-Semitic.

Last Wednesday El-Qoulaq’s name was publicized by a campus activist.

El-Qoulaq, a leader of the Harvard Law School’s Students for Justice in Palestine chapter, has been involved in anti-Israel demonstrations for years, including a 2011 protest at UC Berkeley condemning the effort to “quell the Palestinian narrative.”

On Monday a group of self-proclaimed ‘progressive’ Jewish students at Harvard circulated a petition in support of El-Qoulaq, the New York Observer reported.

The letter not only denied El-Qoulaq’s comments had malicious intent but also legitimizes his attack on the former Israeli minister, castigating Israel for defending itself against attacks from the Gaza Strip in 2008-2009.

“To add some context that has gone largely unreported,” the petition reads, “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.”

The petition goes on to praise El-Qoulaq as “one of a small handful of Palestinians on a campus where the prevailing sentiment is to back Israeli actions that he – along with much of the rest of the world – views as war crimes against his people.”