It’s often helpful to have some knowledge about a particular subject in which you want to offer an informed opinion. Apparently, U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris didn’t feel the need to bone up on Middle-East issues because, had she done so, she may have avoided the landmine into which she carelessly entered.
Her ill-advised comments took place on Wednesday at a Washington, D.C. reception that hosted by the Israeli Embassy in honor of Israel’s 75th anniversary, where she said, “Israel’s democracy must have an independent judiciary.”
For an absentee vice president who, although having been assigned a great many tasks to oversee in her own country, she hasn’t done much of anything. Hence, one can only assume that her speech at this reception was written for her by someone else. Therefore, it’s probably fair to say that neither the speech writer nor Harris know squat about Israel – especially as it relates to what has been taking place in our society over the last 22 weeks.
Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen himself doubts that Harris has even read the bill, as evidenced by his recent comment stating, “If you ask her what troubles her about the reform, she may not be able to cite even one clause that bothers her.”
There is an irony in all of this, which goes to the title of this article – that Kamala Harris knows nothing about Israel. After she made her comments, many Jewish Democrats who were in attendance during her speech cheered her words. Not only that, but U.S. Ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides assured Israeli N12 News, that she is a “strong supporter of Israel.”
Of course, she seized the opportunity to mention her Jewish husband, Douglas Emhoff, as having been appointed by the Biden administration to combat anti-Semitism, along with the fact that she, as a child, helped to raise money for tree-planting in Israel. In short, all of these references were meant to show her firm resolve towards Israel, as well as her close familial ties, by virtue of her marriage.
But if that is true, why is it that back in September 2021, she nodded in agreement while a student accused Israel of committing ethnic genocide? Anyone who would claims to know the least bit about Israel would not have stated to that student, as she did: “Your voice, your perspective, your experience, your truth, cannot be suppressed.”
Why didn’t she correct the student and let her know that Israel – a democratic country which has a large Arab population amongst its citizens – has done no such thing? Why didn’t she challenge the student's erroneous facts or take issue with comment about the country of which she supposedly affirms and stands behind?
The obvious reason is because her support of Israel is merely verbal. Not to back Israel, even as a Democrat, would be a huge departure from their long-held policy, costing many votes. So she tows the party line, without ever really knowing anything about Israel, what happens here or our continual offers to make peace with the Palestinians, over decades, all of which have repeatedly been rebuffed.
Harris lacks the gravitas of a well-versed politician, who is able to hold her own, when asked serious and important questions on geo-politics, the U.S. border, over which she is supposed to be presiding, and a host of other inquiries, to which she has embarrassed herself, by either speaking in “word-salads” or by being woefully unequipped to tackle the complex subjects which have been posed to her.
It is, sadly, reminiscent of another Democrat politician, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who was also once requested to opine on Israel. In July 2018, upon appearing on the PBS program “Firing Line,” she was asked, “What is your position on Israel?” Amid her comments, she referred to Israel as “the occupation of Palestine” which, to her, was the cause of “an increasing crisis of humanitarian condition.”
It was then that the interviewer Margaret Hoover, to her credit, asked her to clarify what she meant, apparently understanding the term, “the occupation of Palestine,” as being a keg of dynamite. Unable to extract herself from the mire she created, Ocasio-Cortez quickly realized her inability to expound upon her false claim and lost no time in relenting that she was “not the expert in geopolitics on this issue.”
Kamala Harris, likewise, is clearly not an expert on geopolitics, specifically dealing on the subject of Israel and our fight to remain a democracy, with three separate branches of government which are able to guard a robust checks and balances system.
What’s missing from her shallow pool of information is the fact that an extreme, right-wing, religious government has threatened to appoint their own judges, which would give them an executive, legislative and judicial monopoly, thereby marginalizing all other minority voices.
For someone who believes she has earned the right to weigh in on the affairs of another nation, she might do herself a great service by first understanding the internal conflict about which she expresses an opinion.
To not do so undermines her own credibility and reinforces the fact that words are cheap. Anyone can say that they support Israel, but the question is, to what depth is one able to defend the country? Because a real and cogent defense is very dependent upon the knowledge required to frame the argument in a way that reveals the truth – not “a truth,” but “the truth!”
Kamala Harris, a mere heartbeat away from the presidency of the United States, must do her homework if she is ever to be taken seriously. And in that regard, my advice to her is to visit the country, sit with the opposition to hear and understand their contentions and, while she’s at it, she may want to have a quick chat with some ordinary Israelis who make their way each weekend to the nation's streets and highways, hoping that their children and grandchildren will continue to live in a Jewish homeland which is free and democratic!
A former Jerusalem elementary and middle-school principal and the granddaughter of European Jews who arrived in the US before the Holocaust. Making Aliyah in 1993, she is retired and now lives in the center of the country with her husband.