Biden Denounces Antisemitism Sparks at University Protests Resulting in Several Campus Arrests

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President Joe Biden has denounced antisemitic protests on college campuses like Columbia University, while also urging people to understand the plight of Palestinians. His comments come as Columbia University shifted to virtual classes after a series of protests concerning the ongoing conflict in Gaza. The student-led demonstrations have gained national attention, with some Jewish students expressing concerns about their safety.

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“I condemn the antisemitic protests,” Biden said in response to questions from reporters on Monday. “That’s why I’ve set up a program to deal with that. I also condemn those who don’t understand what’s happening with the Palestinians.”

Following the October 7 attack in Israel and subsequent protests on campus, Biden announced measures to combat antisemitism at universities. Columbia University president Minouche Shafik publicly addressed the escalating tension and sought assistance from the New York Police Department, resulting in the arrest of about 100 students last week.

“There is a terrible conflict raging in the Middle East with devastating human consequences. I understand that many are experiencing deep moral distress and want Columbia to help alleviate this by taking action. We should be having serious conversations about how Columbia can contribute,” Shafik said.

“But we cannot have one group dictate terms and attempt to disrupt important milestones like graduation to advance their point of view. Let’s sit down and talk and argue and find ways to compromise on solutions.”

Protesters at Columbia are demanding the university divest from “all economic and academic stakes in Israel” amid the war in Gaza, which has caused significant casualties. Following the Columbia protests, similar demonstrations took place at other universities like Tulane University, Yale, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Biden made these remarks during an event for Earth Day at Prince William Forest Park in Triangle, Virginia, outside Washington, D.C. The event also featured prominent environmental advocates, including Senator Bernie Sanders, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts, all of whom have been vocal critics of Israel’s actions in Gaza.

Ocasio-Cortez, who has often been critical of Biden, praised student-led protests advocating for environmental justice, comparing them to those demonstrating in support of Gaza. “It is especially important that we remember the power of young people shaping this country today, of all days, as we once again witness the leadership of those peaceful, student-led protests on campuses like Columbia, Yale, Berkeley,” she said.

Biden, in turn, complimented Ocasio-Cortez, saying, “I learned a long time ago, listen to that lady.” Although Biden did not comment on whether Shafik should resign after seeking police intervention, he stated he needed to gather more information on the matter.

Tensions on campuses remain high, and Biden’s remarks are part of an ongoing national dialogue regarding the Israel-Gaza conflict and its impact on college campuses across the United States.

-Ariana Baio contributed reporting.

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