Social media exploded with a viral video of US Vice President Kamala Harris being asked a question by a Yemeni-Iranian student at George Mason University in which she accused Israel of “ethnic genocide” and other blatant exaggerations which are often used to unfairly smear Israel.
While Harris herself knows better, and in fact has been an outspoken supporter of Israel, her response – or lack thereof, shocked many. Instead of politely correcting the student, Harris launched into a cringe-worthy response about how “no one can suppress your truth.” This turned out to be a costly mistake for the vice president, as it sparked a massive uproar.
Her office has since gone into damage control mode, attempting to distance the vice president from the comments of the student.
The problem, however, is far deeper than just the false information the student parroted, but, rather, that we are living in an era where the same lies used to justify acts of murder against Jews are acknowledged, even praised, by the vice president of the United States as being that particular student’s version of “truth.”
There are opinions and then there are outright lies. Accusing Israel of an “ethnic genocide” is blatantly false, and to label it as “your truth” which “must be heard” is obscene. There is no truth in the student’s comments – there are ugly, antisemitic slurs concocted by those who refuse to acknowledge the Jewish right to self-determination and wish to see the State of Israel destroyed.
Simply looking at the context of the conversation in the first place proves this. Harris addressed the students for National Voter Registration Day and spoke of the importance of demonstrations and the power of organizing for change. The Yemeni-Iranian student used that opportunity to shift the conversation to be about Israel, even insinuating that the recent funding for the exclusively defensive Iron Dome was somehow related to the “genocide of Palestinians.”
For the vice president to not only be silent when faced with lies, but to praise the student is extremely damaging to all those who are actively fighting for truth on any issue. Pretending that actual facts do not exist does a disservice to everyone and prevents us from being able to deal with the real issues in any debate.
This increasingly popular mentality that facts are subjective is a major contributor to the deep political division occurring in many Western democracies around the world, in particular the United States.
On the one hand, you have all manner of movements speaking out about their experiences, which are valid and should be heard, and on the other hand, you have dishonest actors who are latching on to these movements to promote an agenda and are intentionally misleading. As a result, the other side distrusts the movement speaking out about their experiences. In the end, both sides are increasingly polarized.
Several years ago, we saw this occur with the Women’s March, which is absolutely a necessary and just cause. Yet instead of being able to grow the movement and gain allies across the aisle in fighting against sexual assault and sexual harassment, the co-founders of the Women’s March damaged the credibility of the movement by making multiple inflammatory and antisemitic comments, which frankly have nothing to do with the fight for women’s equality.
We saw a similar phenomenon with Black Lives Matter inserting anti-Israel positions based on outright lies into its agenda.
Unfortunately, these are just a few of many examples of how anti-Israel interests have made a concerted effort to dump Palestine onto any and every cause they possibly can, inserting the issue in debates that have absolutely no association whatsoever with Israel and the Palestinians or even the Middle East. These efforts polarize important discussions that should be taking place in society, be they racial inequalities, feminism, or voting rights.
For the vice president of the United States to fall into the trap of labeling outright lies as “your truth” sets a terrible example for the rest of society from a leader who absolutely knows better.
While her office has clarified her position, noting that, “the vice president strongly disagrees with the student’s characterization of Israel,” it’s too little, too late. Her response already gave legitimacy to anti-Israel lies when she had the perfect opportunity to set an example and take a stand for the truth the way any leader should.
The writer is the CEO of Social Lite Creative LLC.