During a discussion with students about National Voter Registration Day on Tuesday, US Vice President Kamala Harris did not challenge a comment by a student at George Mason University in Virginia who accused Israel of “ethnic genocide” and defended her right to say it.
The student, who identified herself as part-Yemeni, part-Iranian and “not an American,” also expressed outrage at US funding of the Iron Dome.
She said America affects her life “every day” due to military funding it gives to Saudi Arabia and Israel.
“You brought up how the power of the people and demonstrations and organizing is very valuable in America,” she said. “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 questioned why money was going to Israel and Saudi Arabia instead of to social issues in America.
“The people have spoken very often of what they do need, and I feel like there’s a lack of listening, and I just feel like I need to bring this up because it affects my life and people I really care about’s [sic] life,” she said.
In response, Harris said she was “glad” the student spoke up.
“Your voice, your perspective, your experience, your truth cannot be suppressed, and it must be heard,” she said.
Harris said democracy is strongest when everyone participates and is weakest when anyone is left out.
“That’s not only about being physically present but that your voice is present,” she said. “Our goal should be unity, but not uniformity. Unity should never be at the expense of telling any one person, ‘For the sake of unity, oh you be quiet about that thing.’ That’s not unity. Then we see where that ends up in a healthy debate about the issue.”
Regarding the student’s reference to Middle East policy, Harris said: “We still have healthy debates in our country about what is the right path, and nobody’s voice should be suppressed on that.”
Former US ambassador to Israel David Friedman expressed outrage at Harris’s statements, tweeting: “Shameful. There is truth and there are lies. No one is entitled to their personal truth. This attack on Israel is simply a lie and VPOTUS should have called that out.”
Harris has consistently expressed support for Israel, telling former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu the US is against the International Criminal Court’s investigation into alleged war crimes by Israel and supporting Israel’s right to defend itself against rockets from the Gaza Strip.
In a call with President Isaac Herzog in August, Harris expressed a “strong commitment” to Israel’s security.