Kamala Harris has been out of the news for quite some time, surely the result of a decision (perhaps by Joe Biden’s handlers) to lower her profile. However, Harris appeared at George Mason University in Northern Virginia on Tuesday in a surprise visit to a political science class. She said she was there to promote voter registration and discuss voting rights.
During her visit, Harris took questions from students. As a result, she’s back in the news.
One of the students used her time to attack Israel. According to this report in the Guardian, the student said:
I see that over the summer there have been, like, 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.
Harris reportedly nodded as the student said this.
The student went on to express her belief that the funding would have been better spent helping Americans struggling with housing and health care costs instead of “inflaming Israel and backing Saudi Arabia and what-not.” She added that she needed to raise the issue because “it affects my life and people I care about lives.”
I’m glad you did. And 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?
Unity should never be at the expense of telling anyone personally that, for the sake of unity, ‘Oh, you be quiet about that thing. You suppress that thing. Let’s not deal with that thing.’ That’s not unity. True unity is everyone in that room has a voice.
The point that you are making about policy that relates to Middle East policy, foreign policy, we still have healthy debates in our country about what is the right path, and nobody’s voice should be suppressed on that.
This is classic evasion. Instead of responding to the anti-Israel student’s substantive point, Harris launched into a defense of the student’s right to express her opinion, which very few would question.
Note, too, that Harris calls the student’s opinion “your truth.” This is another evasion.
Harris doesn’t want to disagree with the student’s anti-Israel rant, not even the absurd claim that Israel is engaged in “ethnic genocide.” Harris probably agrees with much of it and, in any case, doesn’t want to alienate the sizeable anti-Israel faction of her party. At the same time, Harris doesn’t want to express agreement with it because doing so would alienate Jews and other supporters of Israel.
We hear the phrase “your truth” — an unfortunate one as a a matter of epistemology — more and more often, but only when people are spouting leftist dogma. Has anyone called claims that the last presidential election was stolen “Trump’s truth” or that of his most ardent supporters? Of course not. That’s called “the Big Lie.”
By calling anti-Israel opinions the speaker’s “truth,” Harris is giving some credit to the claim that Israel is practicing ethnic genocide. She would not have called it “your truth” if the speaker had denounced coronavirus vaccines or abortions.
The same double standard applies when it comes to defending free speech. If Harris has suddenly become an advocate of open discussion on every controversial topic, with no voice suppressed, that’s great.
But I don’t believe she has. Does she oppose campus speech codes? Does she support the drive to promote free discussion and the expression of diverse opinions on college campuses? Has she backed model legislation to make the free-speech aspiration she expressed to the anti-Israel student a reality?
The answer to each question is no.
Harris is not a free speech advocate. She seized on free speech advocacy to avoid talking substantively about Israel.
That’s not how a public figure who supports Israel behaves. If the questioner had denounced a cause Harris favors — for example, Black Lives Matter — or a nation Harris considers a true ally, the vice president would have made her disagreement clear. She might (or might not) have added that the student is entitled to her opinion (she wouldn’t have said “her truth”), but that would have been a secondary point.
That Harris nodded her head when the student told her she was aware of the various things she was talking about, including the so-called ethic genocide, doesn’t conclusively show she agreed that genocide was occurring. Harris may have indicated only that she agreed she was aware of funds being allocated to Israel notwithstanding claims of genocide.
But Harris’ unwillingness to disagree with claims that Israel is engaging in “ethnic genocide,” coupled with the head nodding, strongly suggests that deep down, the vice president of the United States shares the student’s anti-Israel “truth” at least to some degree.