Israel supporter refuses to share Bard stage with Dima Khalidi and cites stereotypes about Jews smelling bad

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An upsetting/weird incident at Bard College in the Hudson Valley. On Friday Kenneth Marcus, an advocate for Israel, refused to share the stage with Dima Khalidi of Palestine Legal during a two-day conference on free speech on campus. The organizer of the conference — who identified himself and the Bard president as Jewish in remonstrating with Marcus — changed the program to accommodate Marcus by allowing him to speak first, followed by Khalidi.

When a member of the audience objected to aspersions Marcus cast on Khalidi, Marcus said his refusal was based on the principle that one should refuse to share a space with Holocaust deniers or deniers of racism or people who say that Jews smell.

“One of the historical stereotypes of Jews is that they smell bad. You don’t have a debate about whether Jews smell bad or not. You can have a discussion about what are the reason why historically some non-Jews have developed kind of disgusting and false stereotypes about Jews. But you don’t get into whether gentile breath is fresher than Jewish breath.”

Marcus was apparently objecting to Palestine Legal’s support for the right to speak out for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, or BDS, against Israel.

Marcus was once director of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, under George W. Bush. He founded the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law five years ago to combat anti-Semitism on campus.

Let’s go to the videotape (part 2, minute 272). The incident took place during a conference staged by Bard’s Hannah Arendt Center, titled, “REAL TALK: Difficult Questions about Race, Sex and Religion.”

Roger Berkowitz, an associate professor of politics, philosophy and human rights, was hosting the conference. On Friday afternoon, he announced something “very important.” He had planned the gathering for over a year, and had thought the hardest questions to have speakers publicly disagreeing about would be race and sex. “I was almost worried that religion would be an afterthought.” But it turned out that religion was the hardest issue on which to get speakers who disagreed with one another.

He finally found two lawyers, but one of them, Kenneth Marcus, “who is a really brilliant lawyer and an advocate for Israeli students and free speech, wouldn’t share the podium” with Dima Khalidi, and Berkowitz accepted the arrangement.

“And the argument was principled, I want to be very clear. And the principle was that the arguments he thought she made were arguments that came out of anti-semitism. It was not my choice to separate the speakers and it wasn’t Dima’s, it was Ken’s.”

Marcus then took the stage with Ken Stern, a Bard alumni, and sought to explain himself. “My concern was not about a particular individual but a particular posturing about the issue,” he said. “If we were going to have a conversation about sexism in which we had someone who denied that sexism exists as a problem or who minimized it, I would have a problem with that.” Similarly if there was a debate about racism in which someone said that racism was “a hoax or not a problem, I’d have a problem with that.” He said that anti-Semitism was being treated in that manner — implicitly, Dima Khalidi denied its existence.

“For all I know she is a very lovely person. She happens to be the president of an organization that has taken positions because of which I thought that having her in the same conversation would posture the issue differently than I felt comfortable with.”

Marcus cited Berkowitz’s Jewishness. “You have mentioned the fact that you’re Jewish, the president of the institution [Leon Botstein] is Jewish– I didn’t think there is bad faith… but I was concerned about a nonparallel structure.”

Marcus’s answer was not good enough for a young woman questioner who at 3:03 challenged the fact that he had not even mentioned Khalidi by name. She went on, “Who gets to decide that you don’t have to listen to another person, you don’t have to share space with another person…In my experience… it’s not always an option to opt out of a difficult conversation or sharing space with someone you don’t want to share space with.”

Now the discussion got even weirder. Marcus said, “I believe I do know her name,” but he felt that if he had mispronounced it, he would embarrass himself or offend Dima Khalidi. He then said her name: Dima Khalidi. Though he said he was not sure he was pronouncing it right.

The questioner asked what he objected to. Marcus:

“I think I need to go into this explicitly, and I’ll just say it. There are some kinds of debate that are appropriate and some kinds are not appropriate. There are  some stereotypes about Jews and other minorities that you just shouldn’t debate. I did not want to have an inappropriate kind of debate. And I believe that the way that Doctor Berkowitz was posturing it would have led to the wrong sort of situation, and would have preferred a different sort of issue.”

The young woman asked politely: Would you say more about the particular issue that you are seemingly avoiding, because this panel is called Real Talk.

Marcus finally got real: “There are two related issues. One is Holocaust denial and the other is anti-semitism denial.” As to Holocaust denial, he said the consensus emerging from Deborah Lipstadt’s experience with the Holocaust denier David Irving was that anti-Semitism experts should not debate Holocaust deniers.

“And the reason is first, that it’s not a scholarly appropriate debate, and second, there are some sorts of stereotypes that if you debate them you are demeaning people. So for example, there are some minorities who are stereotyped that they smell bad. That includes Jews. For instance, one of the historical stereotypes of Jews is that they smell bad. You don’t have a debate about whether Jews smell bad or not. You can have a discussion about what are the the reasons why historically some non-Jews have developed kind of disgusting and false stereotypes about Jews. But you don’t get into whether gentile breath is fresher than Jewish breath. So my concern was we don’t have certain kinds of debate, certain kinds of stereotyped discussions.”

Marcus said he had come to Bard to discuss free speech and didn’t want to have a debate even sequentially with Khalidi.

The questioner said she’d like to hear from Khalidi if she is a Holocaust denier.

Marcus said, “I don’t think she is a Holocaust denier.”

Marcus and Stern exeunt left.

Dima Khalidi and Bard professor Peter Rosenblum, enter right.  

Dima Khalidi

Dima Khalidi

Khalidi said:

“I’m really glad to be here. Not on I think the terms that Ken Marcus described. But I think this really is one of the issues on campuses that is at the center of all these questions about free speech and limitations and regulation and what we can and can’t say.”

The lawyer was typically lively and positive.

What was Marcus’s problem? Khalidi is the founder and director of Palestine Legal, which is dedicated to fighting for the rights of Palestinian solidarity activists to advocate for BDS, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign.

Marcus recently characterized that movement, in a Jewish publication, as anti-Semitism traceable to Nazism: “The BDS movement extends age-old anti-Jewish hatreds in new settings… I trace BDS’ origins back to the Nazi boycott of 1933 and beyond. We must remember that the Nazi boycott was one of the first steps in the planned extermination of the Jewish people. ” Even boycotts of settlement goods are anti-Semitic: “Whether consciously or unconsciously, Europe’s leaders are treating Israel as the collective Jew, assailing its legitimacy in the same way that their ancestors challenged the legitimacy of the Jewish people.”

P.S. Palestine Legal was started with the help of the great Michael Ratner, whom Khalidi eulogized beautifully in New York last June. (Minute 50 at that livestream). She spoke of Ratner turning against Zionism after a very Zionist youth, and spending much of his last years working for Palestinian rights. Ratner was Jewish, and smashed anti-Semitism wherever he saw it.

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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32 Responses

  1. John Douglas
    October 23, 2016, 4:48 pm

    Marcus: “For all I know she is a very lovely person. She happens to be the president of an organization that has taken positions because of which I thought that having her in the same conversation would posture the issue differently than I felt comfortable with.”

    I almost can’t imagine what he’s talking about here and in the other quotes, and it’s not just the horribly tortured grammar.

    Maybe he’s saying: “I won’t talk about whether anti-Semitism is bad or good, Khalidi thinks BDS is good, BDS is anti-Semitic so Khalidi thinks anti-Semitism is good so I won’t talk while she is in the room?” There are more than several reasons why that’s pretty stupid.

    And what’s all this about smells? At first I thought he was claiming that Khalidi said that. But he seems not to be claiming that.

    Maybe it’s just that he knows that he’ll get his backside whupped if he debates an intelligent woman supporting Palestinians and the BDS because they are in the right so he utters nonsensical gibberish as a way to escape. Poor man should find a different occupation.

    • a blah chick
      October 23, 2016, 8:28 pm

      “I almost can’t imagine what he’s talking about here and in the other quotes, and it’s not just the horribly tortured grammar.”

      I know, I was confused too. And what was all that “I didn’t want to mispronounce her name” crap? Does he really think we’re all too stupid to see though him?

      • patrickb57
        October 24, 2016, 8:49 am

        He most certainly would have pronounced her family name correctly. Although he is not an Israeli — but, remember, he does have the “right of return” — it is the heavy “h” in Arabic that Israelis always mispronounce. “Kh” doesn’t present a problem. Now if her name were Hawa or Helu, he’d have massacred it.

  2. a blah chick
    October 23, 2016, 5:57 pm

    It sounds like Marcus is being really mealy mouthed here; he wants to call out BDS as anti semitic but does not want to explicitly go on record as saying that. Probably because he knows this accusation won’t hold up under scrutiny.

    This seems to be happening more lately with a lot of big shot Zionists. They would rather run away or silence their critics rather than argue in the marketplace of ideas. It’s much harder today to defend Jewish privilege, especially when you have to use the language of white supremacy.

    • echinococcus
      October 24, 2016, 2:50 am

      Anyway, this time it misfired big time: the language he used, the abstruse arguing, the hiding behind shadow, the breathtaking stupidity beyond anything one would credit even politicians, all that must have repelled even his sympathizers big time. One more Zionist self-goal.

  3. Sibiriak
    October 23, 2016, 11:19 pm

    One of the historical stereotypes of Jews is that they smell bad. You don’t have a debate about whether Jews smell bad or not.
    ——–

    Huh? Where does that even come from, with regard to Khalidi?

    Reminds me of:

    • jd65
      October 24, 2016, 11:45 am

      Dude! Any reference to Kingpin, in any context, must be acknowledged w/ props. Thank you.

      My personal favorite quote from that movie: “Nasty cheese gratin’ accident as a young man.”

  4. RoHa
    October 24, 2016, 12:06 am

    “You don’t have a debate about whether Jews smell bad or not.”

    Why not? Can you have a debate about whether Irishmen are violent drunks or not? About New Zealanders and sheep? About Christians and logic? About [insert offensive stereotype]?
    If not, how are you going to arrive at the truth?

    “You can have a discussion about what are the the reason why historically some non-Jews have developed kind of disgusting and false stereotypes about Jews.”

    Can you have a discussion about true stereotypes? Or one about Jews having disgusting and false stereotypes about Gentiles?

    It seems to me that he wants to ban discussions that might say bad things about Jews. No interest in truth or freedom of speech there.

    “If we were going to have a conversation about sexism in which we had someone who denied that sexism exists as a problem or who minimized it, I would have a problem with that.”

    I would think that the question of whether sexism exists is fundamental to any discussion of it.

    Compare:
    “If we were going to have a conversation about demonic possession in which we had someone who denied that demonic possession exists as a problem or who minimized it, I would have a problem with that.”

  5. Dan Walsh
    October 24, 2016, 1:24 am

    Q: What is the Kenneth Marcus/Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law definition of antisemitism?
    Q: What is Mondoweiss’ definition of antisemitism?
    Q: What is Bard College’s definition of antisemitism?
    Q: What is Palestine Legal’s definition of antisemitism?
    Q: What is BDS’ definition of antisemitism?

    If MW posted its own definition of antisemitism at the head of every article it published that touched on antisemitism it could launch a revolution…one that would rock Zionism to its foundations.

    • Ellen
      October 24, 2016, 7:19 pm

      Well, we can start with purging the expression “antisemitism,” which had no honest meaning anyway. It is, nothing more than a term adopted by Zionists to promote the Idea of Jews (who are a people of the world from around the world ) as Semites.

      After all it was a Central European Judeophobe who ignorantly described Jews of Europe as Semites. At that time Westen Jews had no concept of themselves as a Semetic people. But the idea was attractive just as other myths of race and origins and Volk were the rage as feudalistic orders were falling apart.

      Every little group had their own from the Polish aristocracy who believed they were descendent of Pesian Warriors ( and had nothing to to with polish peasants ) to Germans who latched onto myths of Ayrian Kingdoms to Jews of Europe who embraced thoughts of being a an ancient and closed Semitic people wandering around.

      Forget ideas of “Semitism,” to describe Jews and call it what it is : anti Judaism, or Judeophobia for those who harbor ill thought to people of the Jewish faith.

      With that it is clear what we are talking about and what is to be confronted.

      • YoniFalic
        October 25, 2016, 4:38 am

        I addressed the origin of the term anti-Semitism previously.

        Moritz Steinschneider coined the term anti-Semitism, and he did not restrict it to hostility toward Jews.

        Just as racist “Jewish” propagandists work to redefine usage of Semitism/anti-Semitism, likewise German Nazis tried to rewrite the meanings of Aryan and non-Aryan in order to define Poles and Russians as non-Aryans.

        In the struggle against Zionism and against the continued existence of the State of Israel, not even a single term can be conceded to the racist Zionist genocide-advocates and supporters, for they would try to leverage it to justify their whole perverted and criminal ideology.

      • jd65
        October 25, 2016, 11:11 am

        YoniFalic:

        not even a single term can be conceded to the racist Zionist genocide-advocates and supporters, for they would try to leverage it…

        Yup. This, I think, is the point in Clark’s quoting of Lewis Carrol under Norr’s recent Petition/Open Letter article here at MW…

  6. Krauss
    October 24, 2016, 7:05 am

    “Whether consciously or unconsciously, Europe’s leaders are treating Israel as the collective Jew, assailing its legitimacy in the same way that their ancestors challenged the legitimacy of the Jewish people.”

    I didn’t know Marcus had the ability to conduct brainreading mindbeams.

    It’s also noticable that he uses the whole ancestry card. That is a form of blood libel, the notion that some people are genetically/by blood bound by certain behaviours. Of course Marcus would be the first to protest if that sort of argument was used against his kin.

    I long for the day when people like him can be flushed from history. And he will. I felt dirty even reading this post. I hope we’ll get less coverage on the paranoid fears of bigots like him. They don’t matter.

  7. oneangrycomic
    October 24, 2016, 8:24 am

    Translation of Marcus’ Hasbara rant: “BDS is effectively outing the terrorism of Israel. I can’t debate facts, so I’m going to refuse to take the stage with anyone who can expose my lies!”

  8. btbLondon
    October 24, 2016, 8:40 am

    Who’s the one giving visibility to and spreading antisemitic myths – oh yes it’s the Zionist.

  9. YoniFalic
    October 24, 2016, 9:26 am

    Kenneth Marcus and Abigail Thernstrom turned the US Commission on Civil Rights into a battle-ax for racist Jews to attack pro-Palestinian activists.

    Here is a representative document “Anti-Zionism as Racism: Campus Anti-Semitism and the Civil Rights Act of 1964” by Kenneth Marcus. Marcus’ bigotry and partisanship speaks for itself.

    I must make an historical comment.

    The stereotype of Jewish dirtiness and smelliness seems to start internally as the economic niche for the itinerant Jewish peddler retailer began to vanish in Central and Eastern Europe.

    Especially in Slavic areas the itinerant Jewish peddlers that were traditionally hosted by Jewish communities for Shabbes were reinterpreted from אורחים פורשים (itinerant guests) to אורחים parszywe (mangy guests) especially in SE Yiddish and Slavic speaking areas.

    Somewhat later German Jews that encountered relatively more traditional Ostjuden (Eastern Jews) in Slavic areas during WW1 accused Ostjuden of stench far more than German non-Jews did.

    In this particular case, Marcus was probably making a reference to last April’s smelly Livni Harvard debacle.

    I have to confess bafflement. It is idiomatic English to assert bad policies or corruption along with the associated people stink. I certainly consider racism, Zionism, Livni, Marcus, and Thernstrom to stink.

  10. Misterioso
    October 24, 2016, 10:34 am

    To quote Marcus:

    “The BDS movement extends age-old anti-Jewish hatreds in new settings… I trace BDS’ origins back to the Nazi boycott of 1933 and beyond. We must remember that the Nazi boycott was one of the first steps in the planned extermination of the Jewish people. ”

    Apples and oranges. To state the obvious, in 1933, Jews were the victims of the Nazis whereas today, Palestinian Arabs are the victims of Zionist Jews.

  11. Marnie
    October 24, 2016, 11:11 am

    “One of the historical stereotypes of Jews is that they smell bad. You don’t have a debate about whether Jews smell bad or not. You can have a discussion about what are the the reason why historically some non-Jews have developed kind of disgusting and false stereotypes about Jews. But you don’t get into whether gentile breath is fresher than Jewish breath.”

    Holy shit what a screwball! I’ve never ever heard anything quite like this, is he for real?

    If he’s worried about his breath though, honestly, follow tRUMP’s lead and pop a few Tic-Tacs. Just in case you have to talk to a non-Jew.

  12. jd65
    October 24, 2016, 12:53 pm

    Odd question thrown out to all here: Does anyone have recommendations for good, free video downloader software (for Mac)? One that works w/ pretty much all sites? I ask because sometimes certain sites “lock” their videos so that they’re not downloadable. Like the video linked to in this above article. I assume there are programs that can deal w/ this issue but I cannot for the life of me find one. Thanks…

  13. amigo
    October 24, 2016, 1:26 pm

    Marcus looks just like a slightly younger version of Foxman. Sounds a lot like him also.

    The whole universe is out to kill “all” the Jews.If Marcus has an issue with people conflating all Jews with Israel then he should address his concerns with his King.”BIRI”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abraham_Foxman

    • echinococcus
      October 24, 2016, 2:14 pm

      BNRI

      • amigo
        October 24, 2016, 2:52 pm

        “BNRI” echinococcus

        BIRI = Bibi of Israel , King of the Jews but I have to say yours is closer to the original version, INRI.

  14. Talkback
    October 24, 2016, 7:18 pm

    According to Marcus’ logic the boycott of Nazis by Jews was only hatred against Germans. Therefore Germans shouldn’t debate Jews. What a brilliant lawyer.

  15. Ossinev
    October 25, 2016, 1:13 pm

    @Amigo
    “Marcus looks just like a slightly younger version of Foxman”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abraham_Foxman

    I think you may have unearthed something here – spooky likeness .

  16. lyn117
    October 25, 2016, 1:13 pm

    “Smelly” isn’t a stereotype of Jews that I’ve heard before. Funny, someone insults a specific Jew, and suddenly it’s an antisemitic stereotype.

    • jd65
      October 25, 2016, 3:56 pm

      lyn117: “Funny, someone insults a specific Jew, and suddenly it’s an antisemitic stereotype.”

      Yup. Or, to quote Max Blumenthal (probably paraphrasing someone else…):

      “I’d always believed an anti-Semite was someone who hates Jews. But now I find that it’s someone who a few Jews hate.”

      http://mondoweiss.net/2015/03/blumenthal-exploits-semitism.html/

      • Talkback
        October 26, 2016, 8:25 am

        “Formerly an anti-Semite was somebody who hated Jews because they were Jews and had a Jewish soul. But nowadays an anti-Semite is somebody who is hated by Jews.” – Hajo Meyer

      • jd65
        October 26, 2016, 12:13 pm

        Thanks Talkback…

  17. Nevada Ned
    October 26, 2016, 1:34 am

    I hate to stay this, but if you go back a few centuries, ALL of our ancestors bathed rarely and smelled bad. For example, check out this website about European royalty and their bathing habits.

    After you finish reading about this stuff, spray your computer monitor with Lysol !!!!!

    • echinococcus
      October 26, 2016, 9:32 am

      As observed by Falic, above, it was reported by urban German Jews about the itinerant peddlers of the Yiddish-speaking Slavic East (so-called “Vigets” because of their greeting.) Quite truthfully, I suppose, considering the BO that anyone would develop walking incessantly from one village to the next carrying a heavy bag and no means of daily showering and changing.

      Now, how did that Marcus pest manage to connect that to his own racist behavior?

  18. Amar
    October 26, 2016, 7:22 am

    He looks like George Costanza.

  19. Talkback
    October 26, 2016, 8:43 am

    Kenneth Marcus is a supremacist, antisemitic Holocaust denier.

    Jews started to boycott Nazi Germany, because of the criminal behaviour of the Nazi towards Jews. And then Germany reacted with boycotting Jews. But Marcus accusation implies that Jews are the only people that are allowed to boycott a state which commits crimes and human rights violations against them.

    He is an antisemite because his reasoning implies that Jews as such who suffered from Nazi persecution are on the same immoral stand as the Jews as such who persecute Palestinians which is a total reversal of victim and perpetrator. He is a Holocaust denier because his reasoning implies that the suffering of the Jews under Nazi persecution is on the same stand as the “suffering” of the the Jews who persecute Palestinians.

    He even uses a definition of antisemitism which is not only ludicrous but invented by another racist bigot, the Israeli Nathan Sharansky: “Actions may generally be identified as anti-Semitic when they demonize Israel, delegitimize Israel, or subject Israel to double standards.”
    http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Why-universities-need-a-definition-of-anti-Semitism-408178

    Of course there is nothing antisemitic about attacking Israel, if Jews as such (as Jews) are not targeted. But this is something racist, delegitimizing hypocrit Hasbara trolls would never admit.

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