After VP Kamala Harris failed to challenge the claim that Israel is an “Apartheid state” during a Q&A this week, Jewish groups are asking why.

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Protest against Israel & US aid to Israel and for a free Palestine on May 15th, San Francisco CA, 2021. (photo: Patrick Perkins)

There are leading questions; and there are leading questions. There are questions which expose bias, or at the very least lay bare a certain perspective, and aren’t really questions at all.

Like this one put to Vice President Kamala Harris by a college student this week during a Q&A:

“You brought up how the power of the people and demonstrations and organizing is very valuable in America, 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.”

Bias often outs itself, exposing a vested interest, an incomplete grasp of the facts, sometimes willful, sometimes not. Bias is often fairly straightforward and easy to understand.

For instance, someone working in the oil or natural gas industry could probably list all the ways in which the wrongly-vilified companies who selflessly fulfill our endless energy needs- for a small profit- are actually improving the environment.

The Big Oil shill wouldn’t be all wrong; oil fracking done in the U.S may indeed be more reliable, safer, more ethical and easier on the planet than oil from OPEC or Russia. In the U.S., unlike other places, we can be reasonably sure workers were fairly compensated and employed by companies governed by health, safety and environmental laws; it’s true.

But the oil industry execs wouldn’t be all right either. Fossil fuels, as we all learned in primary school, are a non-renewable resource; sooner or later we are going to need a cleaner, renewable alternative.

Fossil fuels have also arguably been damaging to the planet, though it should be admitted that cheap energy is one of the key reasons extreme poverty has been cut to a fraction of what it once was and the average human lifespan has nearly doubled in such a relatively short time.

But it wouldn’t be hard to understand why an oil and gas exec might neglect to mention these inconvenient truths. Their perspective, and their personal interest in the matter, is clear.

The same would be true for someone affiliated with the dairy industry. They could make a case all day about why milk is good for people- it contains protein, calcium is good for bones, etc.

They might have a point, too. But they would be leaving about other key points, like the fact that dairy is full of fat, that much healthier foods without billion-dollar marketing campaigns and celebrities sporting milk mustaches have more calcium (like broccoli).

They would be ignoring the fact that dairy is bad for the planet, and probably bad for human beings, too.

But it isn’t hard to understand why someone with a vested financial or family business interest in the dairy industry would fight tooth and nail any attempts to link the thirty pounds of cheese the average American eats per year, as opposed to three pounds a year 50 years ago, with the higher rates of obesity, heart disease and diabetes plaguing the population.

It isn’t hard to understand why they would want to sum up- so they could disdainfully dismiss- the idea that raising trillions of food animals in order to serve unhealthy amounts of meat and dairy is unsustainable, as “cow farts”.

Where we get into trouble, is when bias tries to hide.

Bias is everywhere, though in many ways it is getting easier and easier to recognize. Conflicts of interest are harder to hide. We are living in the Golden Age of Information, where following the money is one Freedom of Information Act request away.

Witness the public implosion of Time’s Up. Money, power, and influential people- not supporting the victims of sexual assault and harassment- were what determined the actions taken by the organization, and its principles. Russell Simmons was off-limits because Oprah Winfrey said so.

Bias looks like money changing hands, it looks like undisclosed connections; it looks like leading questions such as: “So, Congressman, tell us; When did you stop beating your wife?”

It looks like a press increasingly dedicated to pursuing a narrative to please a smaller and smaller slice of readership, using Stasi tactics to “paint a picture” versus reporting facts to allow people to come to their own conclusions.

Now, we are fed facts designed to “help” us reach the “right” conclusion as predetermined by our moral and intellectual betters in the media hierarchy.

Since that started happening in earnest, things have been a bit…odd.

Bias in the press didn’t start with President Barack Obama’s pet press corp asking about his jump-shot while the American public was being misled about U.S. military successes in Afghanistan and Obama was expanding his drone program to become “The War President.”

But the Obama years brought bias out in force and the Trump years removed all pretense that the mainstream media is fair or balanced.

The Trump presidency might have killed the U.S. media as we’ve always known it. There is no news network from which everyone- on both sides of the aisle- will now accept the facts as reported. Republicans feel about CNN and MSNBC the way Democrats feel about Fox News and Newsmax; that is, they don’t believe a word of it.

And vise versa.

It can no longer be denied, and indeed most media outlets don’t deny it, that the mainstream media has fully embraced its role as propagandists for the Democratic Party.

Democratic voters don’t blame them; this isn’t considered a bad thing at all. On the contrary, if someone really believes in the platform of the Democratic Party- and that Democrats are the good guys battling the existential evils of Republicanism- furthering Democratic Party goals is the only moral course of action and “both-sidesing” Republicans is an unforgivable act of treachery.

Nowhere has this trend been exposed more clearly than in the abrupt shift in attitudes about Israel on the left over the past four years.

What happens when the news tells you one country- and one alone- must go?

In California, teachers unions are now more concerned about passing a resolution condemning Israel than they are in reopening schools, the disparate outcomes for minority students in the California public school system, or even anti-racism training.

In world full of injustice, one country, most of the progressive-leaning media now insists, stands so far above the rest in terms of unique evil, it must be eradicated from the earth. From the river to the sea, the Jewish people must be swept from an area which we are being led to believe is not their ancestral homeland, not a place to which they have any claim, but a place they have brutally colonized using apartheid, ethnic cleansing and genocide.

That the country in question happens to be the only Jewish-majority nation in a world where Jews make up a tiny slice of the population in most countries, we are told makes no difference. In the U.S., Jews make up about 2.4% of the population; in “Palestine”, there aren’t any Jews at all.

Progressives want Palestine liberated from Israel; the only thing Palestine really needs liberated from is Hamas.

Hamas hasn’t been pushing for peace while Israel has been making war all these many years; the opposite is true. Hamas and the Palestinian Authority have rejected every single peace offer, land concession, and olive branch ever extended by Democrat or Republican, Jew or Gentile.

That a young college student would be so ignorant of these matters isn’t much of a surprise. The U.S. corporate media has determined that Israel is out and and Palestine is in this year. As such, that is the narrative being presented, packaged, and sold via major ad campaigns by well-paid celebrities sporting milk mustaches.

But it is somewhat surprising that such a statement went unchallenged by the sitting U.S. Vice President. What is not surprising is that VP Harris finds herself today on the outs with Jewish members of Congress, including many Democrats and doing damage control.

Jewish people, and perhaps Jewish Democrats in particular, have noticed a shocking uptick in anti-Semitism over the past year; and it certainly isn’t coming from the right. Only a few short months ago, pro-Palestinian demonstrators attacked visibly Jewish people in New York City to the point that Jews in some areas, including on many college campuses, felt- and still feel- uncomfortable being “visibly Jewish.”

Having to hide any outward sign of faith, having to keep quiet about any sympathies they might feel towards the world’s only Jewish state; the level of discrimination and open hostility being permitted against the U.S. Jewish population is as shocking as it is terrifying.

Missile attacks launched by terrorists against innocent civilians- also known as war crimes- are excused by progressives who consider missile attacks on innocent civilians the cost of illegal occupation.

Anti-Semitic hate is being directed at Jewish people in the U.S.- from physical assaults to online harassment and abuse.

Vice President Harris missed an opportunity to educate, to stand up for Jewish Americans; she missed an opportunity to introduce nuance, compassion and sense into the discussion.

Jewish people are one of the most marginalized groups in the U.S.- and the world; if Jewish-Americans can’t count on the U.S. Vice President- a Democrat- who can they count on?

(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)