Kamala Harris and the Truth about Israel | Opinion

There are some things even the most skilled spin-master can't spin. Last week Vice President Kamala Harris' new crisis communications manager had something of a baptism of fire trying to clean up after her boss, after the vice president failed to repudiate a gross demonstration of anti-Semitism during a speaking event at George Mason University. Even among the myriad examples of offensive Harris statements (such as "and I haven't been to Europe" when queried why she had not visited the border crisis she is ostensibly overseeing), this episode stands out as particularly damning—and revealing—of the Biden-Harris worldview. Harris either needs to own it, or explicitly and publicly renounce it.

The vice president was at George Mason to talk about voting rights when a student informed her that "just a few days ago there were funds allocated to continue backing Israel, which 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 statement levels the libelous charge of genocide—a war crime—against Israel, and perpetuates the lie that the Jews are a foreign irritant and not indigenous to the Holy Land, and as such should be expelled.

One would like to assume the vice president of the United States would respond forcefully to such accusations, but Harris did no such thing. She instead responded that she was "glad" the student had raised the point and added, "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?"

Facing swift and intense backlash to this remarkable display of moral equivalency, Harris' supporters have argued that she didn't contradict the student because, while she is strongly pro-Israel, she also supports free speech. This is frankly absurd. All American citizens have their First Amendment right to voice their thoughts, but it does not then follow that the rest of us have to agree with them. If the student in question had peddled racist stereotypes about African Americans or any other minority, it is unimaginable that Harris would have been so magnanimous. Supporting freedom of speech while rebutting the student's bigoted rhetoric would have been perfectly simple. Harris could have said, for example, "In our democracy you are of course entitled to your opinion but I strongly disagree with your characterization of Israel."

VP Kamala Harris
US Vice President Kamala Harris meets with small business leaders to discuss how the Infrastructure Deal and the Build Back Better Agenda will help their companies, in the Vice Presidents Ceremonial Office at the Eisenhower Executive Office building next to the White House in Washington, DC, on September 29, 2021. MANDEL NGAN / AFP/Getty Images

The fact of the matter is that truth is not subjective. The second-highest elected official in the United States is not doing our undergraduates any favors by encouraging them to believe they can imagine the truth to be anything they want. And in this case, the truth is that the state of Israel is America's great and good ally which has flourished for more than seven decades as the only democracy in the Middle East, and is a critical security partner. Our alliance has enjoyed robust, bipartisan support in the United States Congress for decades, which both Joe Biden and Kamala Harris claim is their administration's policy.

It is also a truth, however inconvenient, that Jews are the disproportionate targets of violent crimes both in the United States and around the globe. Failure to respond to false assertions that demonize Jews implicitly condones this violence. Harris' shameful episode happened to have occurred on the eve of the 80th anniversary of the Babi Yar massacre, which took place at the end of September, 1941.

Nazi forces had entered Kiev a month before, and booby traps left by retreating Soviet forces destroyed some of the buildings they occupied, causing significant casualties. Whether they knew who the real perpetrators were or not, the Nazis took advantage of the situation to scapegoat the remaining Ukrainian Jewish population. They swiftly massacred 33,771 Jews at the Babi Yar ravine, creating one of the largest mass graves in history. As the events of World War II become more distant in time, they run the risk of becoming abstract. Our contemporaries forget all too easily how the long, ugly history of anti-Semitism, and its tacit acceptance, erupted into the Holocaust.

Rather than gloss over pernicious bigotry, Harris would have done better to treat the George Mason student to a history lesson on what such attacks have led to in the past. "Never forget" doesn't mean we assume the Holocaust can never happen again. It means we all do everything we can, in ways great and small, to vigilantly oppose this evil. After the flare up of violence in Gaza this spring, there was a disturbing trend in both Europe and America of attacks on any and all Jews as surrogates for Israel, regardless of their citizenship. The way to reverse this trend is not to legitimize it as some sort of subjective personal truth, then have your communications team issue a "clarifying" statement. It is to personally and unequivocally reject false allegations, and forcefully defend the U.S. alliance with the Jewish state.

Victoria Coates is a senior fellow at the Center for Security Policy and a former deputy national security advisor for the Middle East and North Africa on the National Security Council staff. Rep. Chip Roy, a Republican, represents Texas' 21st congressional district.

The views expressed in this article are the writers' own.