Thursday, September 30, 2021

Alternate Facts

"You're entitled to your own opinions  You're not entitled to your own facts."


                                                                - Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, circa 1994

The Jerusalem Post reports

During a discussion with students about National Voter Registration Day on Tuesday, US Vice President Kamala Harris did not challenge a comment by a student at George Mason University in Virginia who accused Israel of “ethnic genocide” and defended her right to say it.

The student, who identified herself as part-Yemeni, part-Iranian and “not an American,” also expressed outrage at US funding of the Iron Dome.

She said America affects her life “every day” due to military funding it gives to Saudi Arabia and Israel.

“You brought up how the power of the people and demonstrations and organizing is very valuable in America,” she said. “But I see that over the summer there have been 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.”

The student questioned why money was going to Israel and Saudi Arabia instead of to social issues in America.

“The people have spoken very often of what they do need, and I feel like there’s a lack of listening, and I just feel like I need to bring this up because it affects my life and people I really care about’s [sic] life,” she said.

In response, Harris said she was “glad” the student spoke up.

“Your voice, your perspective, your experience, your truth cannot be suppressed, and it must be heard,” she said.

Harris said democracy is strongest when everyone participates and is weakest when anyone is left out.

“That’s not only about being physically present but that your voice is present,” she said. “Our goal should be unity, but not uniformity. Unity should never be at the expense of telling any one person, ‘For the sake of unity, oh you be quiet about that thing.’ That’s not unity. Then we see where that ends up in a healthy debate about the issue.”

Regarding the student’s reference to Middle East policy, Harris said: “We still have healthy debates in our country about what is the right path, and nobody’s voice should be suppressed on that.”

No student has reason to believe her voice, perspective, or experience about Palestinians and Israel is "suppressed" and that she must "be quiet about that thing." Unless she has been living under a rock, she knows college students from coast-to-coast have been free to criticize, even condemn, Israel.  Truth is optional, even discouraged.

Obviously, though, the major problem with Harris' remark is ".... your truth cannot be suppressed and it must be heard." Amidst other questionable remarks, this British conservative (1:20 at the link), notes "the great Oprahism of our time- 'I've got my truth, you've got yours, let's call the whole thing off."

Thankfully, Harris referred to your truth rather than the truth. Still, "your truth " here is (dangerously) false and as Vice-President of the United States of America, serving under the leader of the Free World, Harris was responsible to correct the student.

Madame Vice President, the idea that Israel has committed genocide against the Palestinians is not someone's truth, it is someone's lie, whether they know it or not.  And it is pernicious, destructive and should not be elided or ignored by the highest officials in the land.

Kamala Harris should concede error promptly. It is insufficient to claim that she was not agreeing with the student but merely acknowledging her right to be heard.  "Continue to speak up," she could have been told, but "Israel is either not committing genocide- or is the most incompetent government in all of human history."


And, no, the fact that the Vice President is married to a Jewish man is not relevant.  Whatever bearing it might have on Harris' perspective on the Middle East, at that moment she appeared to agree with the perspective expressed, one both inaccurate and completely discordant with the policy of the nation she serves.

Quoting Daniel Patrick Moynihan's aphorism has become tiresome as it is applied to trivial matters. However, this as no trivial matter and Kamala Harris would have done well to understand that opinions are important, but facts more so.

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