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Kamala Harris' office is reportedly doing damage control following Israel-Palestine exchange with college student

Business Insider logo Business Insider 10/2/2021 (Erin Snodgrass)
Vice President Kamala Harris speaks during a news conference on Tuesday in Mexico City, Mexico. Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images © Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images Vice President Kamala Harris speaks during a news conference on Tuesday in Mexico City, Mexico. Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
  • Kamala Harris' office reached out to pro-Israel groups following an exchange about Israel with a college student.
  • According to CNN, several organizations reached out to the White House following the incident.
  • The vice president did not push back against the student's accusation that Israel commits "ethnic genocide."
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Vice President Kamala Harris' office is reportedly making amends after the lawmaker failed to push back against a college student who accused Israel of "ethnic genocide" during a question and answer session earlier this week.

Harris' senior staff reached out to Democratic Majority for Israel, a prominent advocacy group, on Thursday in order to shore up relations with the pro-Israel organization, according to Politico.

"We were pleased Vice President Harris's senior staff reached out to us today to confirm what we already knew: Her 'commitment to Israel's security is unwavering,'" Mark Mellman, president of the group, told the outlet.

According to CNN, the vice president's team, led by her deputy national security adviser Phil Gordon and her deputy communications director, Herbie Ziskend, reached out to several leading Jewish organizations, after their leaders contacted the White House following the incident.

During a visit to a political science class at George Mason University on Wednesday, Harris discussed the importance of political demonstrations, the outlet reported. After her talk, the vice president took questions from three students.

Video from the classroom shows a student questioning the vice president about US funding for Israel, telling Harris the continued financial backing "hurts my heart because it's an ethnic genocide and displacement of people."

"And I feel like there's a lack of listening, and I just feel like I need to bring that up because it affects my life and people I really care about's life ...," the student added.

Harris responded to the student by saying she's glad the student brought the topic up.

"And again, this is about the fact that your voice, your perspective, your experience, your truth cannot be suppressed, and it must be heard," Harris said. "Our goal should be unity, but not uniformity."

"We still have healthy debates in our country about what is the right path. And nobody's voice should be suppressed on that," she added.

Israeli news outlets and right-wing channels were quick to cover the exchange, suggesting the vice president's response was in agreement with the student's characterization of Israel.

According to CNN, Harris' team reached out to at least three organizations, including the Democratic Majority for Israel, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, and the Anti-Defamation League.

The incident comes as the Democratic party faces a reckoning over US relations with Israel. Progressive activists have been pressuring Democrats to walk back their long-time support of the country in favor of a more critical approach.

But Mellman of Democratic Majority for Israel was eager to move past the gaffe, telling Politico that the vice president "strongly disagrees with the George Mason student's characterization of Israel."

"The Biden-Harris Administration, as well as President Biden and Vice President Harris personally, have exemplary pro-Israel records, for which we are immensely grateful," he told the outlet.

The White House did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

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