Vice President Kamala Harris’ office is rushing to repair ties with pro-Israel Democrats in Washington after she encouraged a student who accused Israel of committing “ethnic genocide.”
Harris’ senior staffers began putting in calls to influential groups and lawmakers to soothe any rifts the vice president may have caused at an event Wednesday at George Mason University, according to Politico. Harris exhorted one student, telling her that her voice “must be heard” after that student had falsely accused Israel of massacring Palestinians.
The vice president’s staff contacted the Democratic Majority for Israel and its president, Mark Mellman, to reaffirm her support for Israel. “We were pleased Vice President Harris’s senior staff reached out to us today to confirm what we already knew: Her ‘commitment to Israel’s security is unwavering,’” Mellman said. Politico reports:
A senior adviser to Harris also reached out to Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fl.) the co-chair of the Bipartisan Anti‐Semitism Taskforce, a source familiar with the outreach told POLITICO.
Deutch and his office did not respond to a request for comment. But the source said it was “fair to say that the group of House Democrats that super care about this noticed it and talked about it.” Harris’ office also called Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, Thursday afternoon, the source said.
Harris spoke at George Mason to a classroom of students. After the prepared remarks, she held a question-and-answer session during which one student blasted Israel and pushed the vice president to redirect funding spent on Israel toward expanding federal health care and welfare. As The Daily Wire reported:
“You brought up how the power of the people and demonstrations and organizing is very valuable in America,” the student began. “But I see that over the summer there have been protests and demonstrations in astronomical numbers standing with Palestine. But then just a few days ago, there were funds allocated to continue backing Israel, which hurts my heart because it’s ethnic genocide and displacement of people, the same that happened in America, and I’m sure you’re aware of this.”
The student, who identified herself as part-Yemeni, part-Iranian, suggested that the U.S. should expand publicly-funded health care and the welfare state rather than funding Israel’s defense.
“Americans are struggling because of lack of public health care, affordable housing, and all this money goes to funding Israel and backing Saudi Arabia and whatnot and I think that the people have spoken very often in what they do need, and I feel like there is a lack of listening,” she continued. “And I just feel like I need to bring this up with you because it affects my life and people I really care about.”
Instead of correcting the student, Harris encouraged the student to speak out more, saying she was “glad” that the student spoke up.
“This is about the fact that your voice, your perspective, your experience, your truth cannot be suppressed, and it must be heard,” Harris said.
“A democracy is its strongest when everyone participates. It is its weakest when anyone is left out,” she continued. “That’s not only about being physically present, but that your voice is present.”
“Our goal should be unity, but not uniformity,” the vice president said. “Unity should never be at the expense of telling any one person, ‘For the sake of unity, oh you be quiet about that thing. You suppress that thing. Let’s not deal with that thing.’ That’s not unity. True unity is everyone in that room has a voice. And then we see where that ends up in terms of a healthy debate on the issues.”