(CNN) — The office of US Vice President Kamala Harris is trying to contain the fallout from an exchange earlier this week between Harris and a female student that described Israel’s actions toward the Palestinians as “ethnic genocide and displacement of people.”
While visiting a political science class at George Mason University on Tuesday to celebrate National Voter Registration Day, Harris answered questions from three students, including one who spoke about US funding for Israel in a lengthy question.
“I brought up how the power of the people and the demonstrations and the organization are so valuable in America. I see that during the summer there were, like, protests and demonstrations and astronomical numbers were done with Palestine, but only a few days ago there was money earmarked to continue supporting Israel, which It hurts me because it is genocide and displacement of people – the same thing that happened in America and I’m sure you are aware of that,” the student said in part to her question, adding that funding comes with the suffering of Americans back home.
The student added, “I feel like there’s a lack of listening, and I feel like I need to bring up that because it affects my life and the people I really care about…”.
“I’m glad you did,” replied Harris, whose Jewish husband Doug Emhoff.
And again, it’s about the fact that your voice, your perspective, your experience, and your truth can’t be suppressed, and must be heard…Our goal should be unity, not unification. And the point you make about politics has to do with Middle East policy and foreign policy. No We still have healthy debates in our country about what is the right way. No one’s voice should be suppressed on this.”
This latter stance comes on a particularly perilous topic as progressives and other activists have put pressure on Democrats to take a more critical stance on Israel, which has long enjoyed bipartisan support in Washington.
After that discussion, senior Harris staff members reached out to the heads of several leading pro-Israeli organizations, according to a source familiar with Harris’s office.
Her team began reaching out to the heads of several leading Jewish organizations after those leaders reached out to the White House to express their concerns, two people with direct knowledge of the talks said. The sources said Harris’s deputy national security adviser, Phil Gordon, and Vice President’s deputy director of communications, Herbie Ziskind, led the communication, according to sources.
“There is a realization that the impression her failure to correct on the student is problematic and does not reflect her commitment to a strong relationship between the United States and Israel, nor the president and administration,” William Daroff, CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, told CNN.
Harris’ team reached out to the heads of at least three organizations: the Democratic Majority of Israel, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, and the Anti-Defamation League.
A source familiar with Harris added: “This touches on the influential al-Qaeda with its friends, allies and supporters who know it is very strong in its commitment to defending Israel and defending Israel’s security.”
“The vice president strongly disagrees with the student’s characterization of Israel,” Harris’ spokeswoman Simone Sanders said in a statement.
“Throughout her career, the vice president has been steadfast in her commitment to Israel and Israel’s security,” Sanders added. “While visiting George Mason University to discuss voting rights, a student expressed her personal opinion during a political science class.”
Harris’s office, handled in part by her communications team, took a deliberate stance in trying to mitigate the latter problem.
Another source familiar with Harris’s office communication told CNN that the vice president’s team distributed the facts about its record in Israel in its defense to allies, stressing its unwavering commitment to Israel.
“We know Vice President Harris and we know her record in Israel has been consistent. At no time did we suspect her support for Israel. We wanted additional context to understand what happened,” Haley Swiffer, executive director of the Jewish Democratic Council of America and former national security adviser to Harris, told CNN in her office. in the Senate.
Harris’ office has been in contact with the Soifer Group as well as others. On Thursday, the chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League said he spoke with Harris’s office after the vice president’s interaction.
Jonathan Greenblatt wrote on Twitter, Thursday: “Just spoke with Vice President Saeed’s office to hear her confirm she is proud of her record of support for Israel, and knows that the claim that she is committing ‘ethnic genocide’ is clearly false.” Looking forward to settling accounts, so there is no ambiguity that What that student said was hateful/wrong.”
In a statement to CNN, Greenblatt added: “The accusation of genocide against Israel – a inflammatory claim that is clearly incorrect – should be invoked because it is this demonization that led to the violence as we saw in the United States earlier in the year, referring to to the attacks on Jews on the streets of the United States in May.
Mark Millman, president of the influential Democratic Majority in Israel, said Thursday that he also spoke with senior Harris staff.
“We were pleased that Vice President Harris’s senior staff reached out to us today to confirm what we already knew: her unwavering commitment to Israel’s security, and strongly opposed to George Mason’s student characterization of Israel,” Millman wrote in a statement. Exemplary pro-Israel records, for which we are very grateful.”
Last week, the House of Representatives easily approved $1 billion in funding for Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system, and the bill was submitted to the Senate for consideration as eight Democrats and only one Republican voted against the measure.
The air defense system, which has been sponsored by the United States for years, is designed to intercept missiles in the air — by targeting them and launching interceptor missiles to destroy them — before they can kill civilians living in Israel. This week’s law will specifically provide funding to replace the interceptor missiles that were used during the heavy fighting with Hamas in May.
Last spring, a number of congressional Democrats ramped up pressure on the Biden administration to engage more forcefully in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as violence escalated in the region. “It’s time for serious talks about requiring military assistance,” Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said at the time.