Harris' Staff Goes to Work After Her Answer on Israel

Vice president didn't contest student's claim about ethnic genocide
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 1, 2021 4:50 PM CDT
Staff Spreads Word That Harris Still Backs Israel
Vice President Kamala Harris speaks to students Tuesday about voting rights at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va.   (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Vice President Kamala Harris had a chance to argue the point made by a college student who asked her about "ethnic genocide" supposedly committed by Israel. But she didn't. That's got her staff scrambling now to reassure allies that her support for Israel remains "consistent and unwavering," CNN reports. Members of Congress and several organizations have heard from Harris aides. "At no time did we doubt her support of Israel. We wanted additional context to understand what occurred," said Halie Soifer, CEO of Jewish Democratic Council of America and a former Harris staffer.

During a visit to George Mason University in Virginia on Tuesday, Harris took questions in a political science class. "I see that over the summer, there have been, like, protests and demonstrations and astronomical numbers done with Palestine," one student said, "but then just a few days ago there were funds allocated to continue backing Israel, which hurts my heart because it's an ethnic genocide and a displacement of people—the same that happened in America and I'm sure you're aware of this." The student added, "And I feel like there's a lack of listening, and I just feel like I need to bring that up because it affects my life and people I really care about's life."

Harris' answer began, "I'm glad you did." Nothing she said after that contradicted anything the student said. "Your perspective, your experience, your truth cannot be suppressed, and it must be heard," the vice president said, adding, "Our goal should be unity, but not uniformity." Israeli newspapers also noticed, per Politico. "Kamala Harris doesn't reject US student's 'ethnic genocide' claim against Israel," read a headline in the Times of Israel. Jewish organizations expressed satisfaction with the reassurance, but the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League would like to hear more. "Looking fwd to a clearing of the record so there's no ambiguity that what that student said was hateful/wrong," Jonathan Greenblatt tweeted. (Read more Kamala Harris stories.)

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