Harris fails by trying to please both sides - opinion

US VP Kamala Harris validated a student who accused Israel of ethnic genocide.

 US VICE PRESIDENT Kamala Harris listens to a question from student Jood Alkibsy about US arms deals in the Middle East and the US relationship with Israel. (photo credit: LEAH MILLIS/REUTERS)
US VICE PRESIDENT Kamala Harris listens to a question from student Jood Alkibsy about US arms deals in the Middle East and the US relationship with Israel.
(photo credit: LEAH MILLIS/REUTERS)

I nominate Vice President Kamala Harris for the first annual Donald J. Trump “There Were Very Fine People on Both Sides” Prize.

This award singles out the democratic leader who most confuses right and wrong, truth and lies, good and evil. You get extra points for coining a memorable phrase that further sends us into a moral abyss.

Harris earned her prize by validating a George Mason University student who objected to America funding Israel’s Iron Dome missiles, “because it’s an ethnic genocide and a displacement of people – the same that happened in America....”

America’s vice president could have defended America and Israel.

Harris could have cautioned against slinging words around so sloppily – “genocide” means systematically mass-murdering a people, yet the Palestinian population has quintupled since 1967.

She could have said, “you can always criticize what Israel or America does, without so exaggerating that you repudiate what Israel – or America – is.”

And she could have rejected false equations comparing imperfect democracies like America and Israel with perfectly awful regimes that brutally commit genocide.

 U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris talks with students during a visit to George Mason University to discuss voting rights and registration in Fairfax, Virginia, (credit: LEAH MILLIS/REUTERS) U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris talks with students during a visit to George Mason University to discuss voting rights and registration in Fairfax, Virginia, (credit: LEAH MILLIS/REUTERS)

Instead, relativizing truth, forgetting that a lie unrefuted often becomes a “truth” believed, Harris “I’m-okay-you’re-okayed,” saying: “your voice, your perspective, your experience, your truth, should not be suppressed and it must be heard....”

Thank you, Vice President Harris, for this declaration of independence – from morality and reality. Jesus may have preached “the truth shall set you free,” but “your truth should not be suppressed” really sets us free.

I wanted to demand zero-tolerance for violence on both sides and condemn the Israeli hooligans who bullied Palestinians in the South Hebron Hills. But I now understand those rock-throwers may have their own truth, which “should not be suppressed.”

I wanted to criticize the Republicans spinning the January 6 Capitol riot as “peaceful.” But those partisans undoubtedly have their own truth, which “should not be suppressed.”

Harris’s spokeswoman Symone Sanders did later declare: “The vice president strongly disagrees with the student’s characterization of Israel.” That weak backpedaling sidesteps the alarming fact that the student’s “genocide” libel did not alarm the vice president. Harris’s silence suggests that such rhetoric passes smoothly in her circles as normative.

Jew-hatred is the most plastic of hatreds – durable, flexible, artificial and toxic. Form-fitted to serve Left and Right, it targets individual Jews and the collective Jew, Israel.

Harris’s affirmation of such slurs against the Jewish state reflects the decades-long process of demonizing Israel and Zionism from the supposedly human-rights-loving Left which achieved international standing when the UN called Zionism racism in 1975. The Durban anti-racism conference’s anti-Israel pile-on in 2001 further normalized this bigoted anti-racism, this Jew-hating progressivism.

DEMOCRATS, LIKE Republicans – and 75% of Americans – remain overwhelmingly pro-Israel. But while the Republican Party once housed a small minority of anti-Israel antisemites, today America’s most prominent and virulent Jew-haters are Democrats.

The boos at their 2012 convention, when Democrats reaffirmed Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, were warning flares. The turning point may have come with the party’s failure in March 2019 to censure Ilhan Omar for suggesting that supporting Israel was “all about the Benjamins” – $100 bills.

“Why are we unable to singularly condemn antisemitism?” Omar’s heroic Democratic colleague Ted Deutch asked, when Speaker Nancy Pelosi diluted a resolution singling out Omar’s Jew-hatred to condemn all racism.

Now, a leading Democrat has shown how easy it is to tolerate someone falsely accusing the Jews – victims of the world’s worst genocide – of committing genocide.

It’s unlikely the vice president would have said “your truth should not be suppressed” if the student’s “truth” was racist, sexist, homophobic – or anti-Palestinian.

Harris wasn’t seeking objective truths, merely applauding what the journalist Jonathan Rauch in The Constitution of Knowledge calls “Tribal Truths.” And a defining tribal truth of the Left – and too many Democrats – has become that little, polychromatic Israel is a bastion of colonial white privilege; guilty, like America, of the most heinous crimes.

EVEN MORE dismaying than this mainstreaming of Israel-bashing is how blasé Harris was about the student’s attack on America. America’s vice president seemed more concerned with embracing the student’s lies than defending her country.

Harris didn’t have to mimic Ronald Reagan, who in the 1960s mocked “hippies” as having haircuts “like Tarzan,” walking “like Jane” and smelling “like Cheetah.” She could have echoed Barack Obama, who in 2008 rejected radicals’ “profoundly distorted view” that “sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America.”

Linking this anti-Americanism with anti-Zionism, Obama also condemned this “view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam.”

Threading his red, white and blue needle subtly, thoughtfully, Obama proclaimed: “This union may never be perfect, but generation after generation has shown that it can always be perfected.”

Obama understood that unpatriotic people and parties usually lose elections. Harris – and an increasing number of her fellow Democrats – must decide: do they represent most Americans or woke America?

Finally, Harris failed to join what Rauch calls the needed “full-throated defense” of “the reality-based community.”

After watching Trump assail the truth, after watching him find “very fine people on both sides” of the racist, antisemitic riot in Charlottesville in 2017, America’s vice president cannot be so passive. Diverse opinions should, of course, be aired; but fundamental truths, common decency and, yes, some basic patriotism cannot be so up for grabs.

The writer is a distinguished scholar of North American history at McGill University and the author of nine books on American history and three on Zionism. His book Never Alone: Prison, Politics and My People, coauthored with Natan Sharansky, was published by PublicAffairs of Hachette.