The silence of Kamala Harris against the noise of Sarah Silverman – commentary

An unchallenged lie only takes root and grows.

And therein lies the problem with Vice President Kamala Harris’s appearance on Wednesday before a political science class at George Mason University in Virginia, when she did not object to a student who slandered Israel by accusing it of ethnic genocide and displacement of people.

“You mentioned the great value of people’s power, protests and organization in America, but I see that over the summer there have been astronomical protests and demonstrations alongside the Palestine, ”said the student, who identified as Yemini. and Iranian.

“But just a few days ago, funds were allocated to continue supporting Israel, which pains my heart because it is ethnic genocide and displacement of people, the same that happened in America, and I’m sure you are aware of it.

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

Harris’ response to the student was not to tell her that she was wrong in her facts, that she maliciously defamed Israel, or that she had become confused, but rather to explain to her how her truth should be. to be heard.

Harris said she was glad the student spoke out saying, “your voice, your point of view, your experience, your truth should not be suppressed.”

“The point you raise about politics related to Middle East policy, foreign policy, we still have healthy debates in our country on the right track, and no one should be hushed up about it,” she continued.


Not all “truths” should be heard or legitimized by the Vice President of the United States. Not everyone has the right to turn lies into truth. It is not all narrative. Some views should be removed, such as that of Israel committing ethnic genocide. Why? Because it’s a lie. There are facts. And the fact is, Israel does not commit ethnic genocide. Period.

How to prove this fact to those who will think only of the worst for Israel? Simple: by looking at the numbers.

Before the Six Day War in 1967, when Israel took control of Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, there were some 955,000 Palestinians in those areas; today that number is around five million. Say what you want about Israel’s policy in the territories over the past 54 years, but these numbers do not amount to genocide.

The fallout from Harris’ appearance followed a predictable pattern. The Israeli press jumped at the story when, with the exception of Fox News, it did not make much noise in the non-Jewish media in the United States.

AT LEAST at the beginning.

Israel’s supporters then pushed back, the vice president’s office realized he had a problem on his hands, then limited the damage by reaching out to a few large Jewish organizations. The story then began to gain traction in the mainstream media.

The message from the VP’s office was simple: she didn’t want to say what her silence implied.

And she sure didn’t. Harris is a moderate Democrat with a good track record on Israel. Neither anything she has ever said nor her voting record on Israel suggests that she actually thinks the Jewish state is committing ethnic genocide.

So what’s the problem ?

The problem is that she did not dispute the statement in real time, with the other students in the room. The problem is, her silence could be interpreted by them, and others who might have seen a video clip of the exchange, as implied consent.

“Hey” they might think, “someone said Israel was committing genocide, and the vice president just nodded. Maybe he’s committing genocide.

And this is how an unchallenged lie spreads.

It’s good that Harris’s office issued a clarification to Jewish groups, which obviously received a lot of coverage in the Jewish press and read by thousands and thousands of Jews.

But not everyone in the world follows the Anti-Defamation League Twitter thread or read the Jewish Telegraph Agency where its explanations were laid out. Harris’ explanations must be aimed not only at the Jewish public but at the general public. Most of the Jewish public – with the exception of outliers like activists from IfNotNow and Jewish Voice for Peace – know full well that Israel does not commit ethnic genocide.

It is the non-Jewish public, which now hears these lies more and more frequently, including from some Jews, that must be addressed and for whom these slanders must be exposed for what they are.

Why was Harris silent in the face of this outrageous statement?

Maybe because she wasn’t really paying attention to what the student was saying? Maybe because she didn’t want to get out of the script and her script for this meeting was voter rights? Maybe because in an academic environment where being anti-Israel is often a way of signaling virtue, she didn’t want to look uncool. Because, as author Norman Lebrecht wrote in his 2019 book Genius & Anxiety: How Jews change the world, 1847-1947, “It’s cool to be cruel to Jews (but not to other minorities). ).

BUT all is not lost, apparently.

Last week, wacky Jewish comedian Sarah Silverman, who would most certainly place herself in America’s “cool” class, had a few critical words on her podcast for the “Squad,” that group of progressive American representatives that Silverman wrote about. says she loves it. His criticism came because of the squad’s decision to fund the Iron Dome defense system and because of their deafening silence on Hamas.

Where Harris was silent, Silverman – according to his style – was loud.

Granted, his comments didn’t come in a real-time exchange, but rather on a podcast, but they were significant in that they challenged what appears to be the ascending orthodoxy in the progressive camp.

After earning progressive credit by stating that “the occupation is not fair” and that “there can be no justice in a place where people do not have freedom of movement”, Silverman – who has strongly supported Bernie Sanders in the last two US presidential elections – asked about Hamas: “Why none of them [the Squad]even mention Hamas, a group that until a few years ago was tasked with killing all Jews. A group that has just congratulated the Taliban for taking control of Afghanistan. No, Israel is not good for Palestine, but you are kidding yourself if you think Hamas is good for Palestine.

“Please don’t fund the Iron Dome,” she said, adding that she “was talking to the squad here. You know my family lives there. It just seems to prove the point. point that I didn’t think I existed, that some people really love Jews only if they suffer, dead Jews get a lot of honor.

“I want to love them [the Squad], “she continued.” I really like the AOC [Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez], I love Rashida Tlaib, I love Ilhan Omar. Their national policies are completely aligned with mine. And I think they’re so cool and kick-ass. But it’s really scary. You complicate the task. Not having the iron dome is going to kill people. Many people.

“You will finally get that higher body count from Israel. I am for a Palestinian state … but I also believe that there should be an Israel too. There are Muslim states everywhere; can’t we have one Jewish state?

It was there: a clearly uncool comment, coming from someone who is – or at least aspires to be – culturally cool, hip, and very social. And her reluctance actually matters more than Harris’ clarification to Jewish groups, because what Silverman said she said out loud in her own voice – not through aides or spokespersons. – to a general public, not just Jews.