This past Tuesday, Vice President Kamala Harris spoke at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, to commemorate National Voter Registration Day on Tuesday. After she completed her speech, VP Harris opened the floor to questions.
One student said the following:
“I see that over the summer there have been, like, protests and demonstrations in astronomical numbers” [regarding the Palestinian Arab cause] … 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.”
This student then added:
“I bring this up because Americans are struggling with lack of healthcare, lack of affordable healthcare, and lack of housing, and all this money [the $1 billion Congress just allocated to fund the Iron Dome missile defense system] goes back to funding Israel.”
In the first comment, the student incorporated two antisemitic libels, often weaponized against Israel primarily by the far-left.
The “genocide” accusation is one of the favorite modern day blood libels of the antisemitic far-left when it comes to Israel. This is in spite of the fact that in the entire 85-year history of the Arab-Israeli conflict approximately 26,000 Israelis and 91,000 Arabs have been killed (including approximately 50,000 Arab soldiers in the Egyptian, Syrian and Jordanian armies that fought against Israel in four wars between 1947 and 1973) and the Palestinian Arab population since 1948 has grown (according to the Palestinian Authority itself) from barely over one million to nearly 14 million. By contrast, 76 years after the Holocaust, the worldwide Jewish population is still one and a half million people short of its total before the start of World War II.
The second antisemitic libel, the new favorite talking point of far-left extremists like Cori Bush and Rashida Tlaib, is that among the near $60 billion that the U.S. spends annually in foreign aid, within the $5 trillion that the U.S. federal government spends per year, it is the $3.5 billion per year designated for America’s military aid package with Israel that is somehow to blame for the economic woes of ordinary Americans.
VP Harris could have responded to this student by setting the record straight. She could have shown no tolerance for outright lies that also serve to demonize the world’s only Jewish state and spread Jew-hatred.
VP Harris could have said: “While everyone in this democracy is entitled to their opinions and to voice those opinions, they are not entitled to their own facts. You claim Israel is committing a “genocide.” Do you know what a ‘genocide’ is? Six million Jews killed in four years. One million Armenians killed in two years. 800,000 Tutsi killed in five months. These are actual ‘genocides.’ Approximately 15,000 Palestinian Arabs killed in nearly 100 years of conflict with Israel does not constitute genocide. A conflict that began in 1937 with the Palestinian Arab leadership’s decision to say no to the first independent Arab state west of the Jordan River. And to compare the tragic deaths in the Arab-Israeli conflict caused by nearly 100 years of war to what happened to Native Americans in this country is not only a libel against the Jewish people, but also it is an insult to the suffering and the history of Native Americans.”
“And to compare the tragic deaths in the Arab-Israeli conflict caused by nearly 100 years of war to what happened to Native Americans in this country is not only a libel against the Jewish people, but also it is an insult to the suffering and the history of Native Americans.”
VP Harris could have also said: “While it is perfectly acceptable to make the argument that given its internal needs, the U.S. spends too much money on foreign aid or on military alliances, to focus on military aid to Israel, which is spent almost entirely in America with American employers, and amounts to less than one tenth of one percent of the total US federal budget, is inherently antisemitic.”
But, VP Harris said none of these things. Instead, what VP Harris said, as she nodded approvingly at the student espousing far-left hate speech, was that she “was glad” the student brought up her concerns, and then added: “[a]nd again, this is about the fact that your voice, your perspective, your experience, your truth, should not be suppressed and it must be heard, right? And one of the things we’re fighting for in a democracy, right?”
Imagine that instead of utilizing two of the mendacious talking points of the far left, this student had engaged a false far-right talking point (for example, the claim that the federal government is manipulating the COVID-19 pandemic to conspire with big pharma to either kill or control U.S. citizens)—the type of misinformation and “fake news” that VP Harris and many others in the Democratic Party have repeatedly and rightly said is dangerous for democracies.
Can anyone imagine VP Harris nodding approvingly throughout such an anti-vaxx conspiracy diatribe, and in the end telling the student that she “was glad” the student had shared “her truth”? Of course not. It’s equally hard to imagine her saying to this student: “Again, this is about the fact that your voice, your perspective, your experience, your truth, should not be suppressed and it must be heard, right?”
VP Harris would have set the record straight on such misleading and dangerous far-right nonsense in a New York minute.
But, when a student shares with a blood libel about the one Jewish state committing “genocide” and then adds to her genocide libel the claim that among the approximate $60 billion per year in foreign aid, it is somehow the $3 billion spent on military programs with Israel that is responsible for Americans not having healthcare or “struggling with housing,” then VP Harris simply nods approvingly, tells the student how much she appreciates this student having a platform to share “her truth,” and never bothers to clarify that this student’s “truths” are actually dangerous lies that promote and exacerbate Jew-hatred.
VP Harris’s failure to stand up for the truth and her decision instead to utter platitudes about freedom of speech and “personal truth” in the face of outright antisemitic libels brings to mind a famous saying: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
Here, unfortunately, VP Harris did worse than nothing. By nodding with approval and praising this student for “speaking her truth,” VP Harris, at a minimum, implied that these antisemitic lies are not outside the pale of polite discussion, that they can be part of credible discourse and debate, when in fact they should be treated exactly the same as far-right anti-vaxx, Pizzagate or QAnon conspiracy theories—protected by the First Amendment, but understood to be the ravings of unhinged and sometimes dangerous extremists.
At an event promoting the importance of voting in a democracy, VP Harris had an opportunity to stand up for truth, for the importance of facts, and against the lies and libels that actually undermine democracy. Sadly, she failed to do so.
Micha Danzig served in the Israeli Army and is a former police officer with the NYPD. He is currently an attorney and is very active with numerous Jewish and pro-Israel organizations, including Stand With Us and the FIDF, and is a national board member of Herut North America.