US VP's Office Rushes to Soothe Criticism After Her Praise of Israeli 'Ethnic Genocide' Comment
The vice president's failure to object to a student's accusations against Tel Aviv was perceived by some officials and Israeli media as an "anti-Israeli" message.
The office of Vice President Kamala Harris has been in damage control mode ever since she faced criticism over her response to an "ethnic genocide" remark by a student at George Mason University, where the VP was marking National Voter Registration Day. Following the event, where Harris praised the comment by the student, who condemned the recent passing of $1 billion in defence funding for Israel in the US House of Representatives, the vice president faced criticism from US pro-Israeli groups and lawmakers, as well as Israeli media.
Former US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman called Harris' failure to reject the claims of the student regarding Tel Aviv purportedly committing "ethnic genocide" against Palestinians "shameful". Friedman added that in his opinion, the vice president should have called out the "lie" and "attack on Israel".
18 September 2021, 01:22 GMT
As a part of its efforts to contain a potential PR disaster, Harris' office reached out to the Democratic Majority for Israel group. Its president, Mark Mellman, confirmed that Harris staffers had assured the group of the vice president's support for Israel.
"We were pleased Vice President Harris’s senior staff reached out to us today to confirm what we already knew: Her 'commitment to Israel’s security is unwavering'", Mellman said.
The vice president's office reached out to other groups as well, Politico reports, citing anonymous sources. Namely, they called the Anti-Defamation League's chair, Jonathan Greenblatt, as well as Florida Democrat Ted Deutch, who heads the Bipartisan Anti‐Semitism Taskforce in Congress. According to Politico's source, "the group of House Democrats that super care about" the issue has noticed Harris' efforts to smooth over the incident.
What Happened at George Mason University?
The incident in question happened as Kamala Harris was discussing the importance of elections and public demonstrations for democracy on 28 September at George Mason University. After she offered attendees to ask some questions, a self-described "part-Yemeni, part-Iranian" female student raised the issue of people in the US protesting en masse in support of the Palestinians this summer and Congress ignoring them. The student namely recalled the US House passing a bill to channel $1 billion in US taxpayer money to the Israeli Iron Dome missile defence system on 23 September, despite some taxpayers opposing it.
"[It] 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 said.
Kamala Harris did not confront the student over her statements, praising her instead for raising the issue and stressing that her "perspective and truth" can't be suppressed and must be heard.