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Sanders voices support for pro-Palestinian protests as he condemns ‘all forms of bigotry’


By Michelle Shen and Jalen Beckford, CNN

(CNN) — Sen. Bernie Sanders said on Sunday that he supports protests against Israel’s war in Gaza while stressing the need to “condemn, in every form, antisemitism, Islamophobia and other forms of bigotry.”

“What Netanyahu’s right-wing, extremist and racist government is doing is unprecedented in the modern history of warfare,” Sanders, told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union.”

“Right now, we are looking at the possibility of mass starvation and famine in Gaza. When you make those charges, that is not antisemitic. That is a reality.”

Sanders’ comments come as college campuses across the United States have erupted with pro-Palestinian protests. Tensions on campus have risen sharply in the months since Hamas’ October 7 attack on Israel left more than 1,200 dead and dozens taken hostage. Israel’s retaliatory assault in Gaza has killed more than 34,000 people, according to its health ministry.

As the war continues, reports of antisemitic acts have surged across campuses, and Islamophobia has run rampant, too. The recent rise in protests has inflamed those tensions, forcing university leaders to decide when free speech on campus crosses a line and becomes threatening.

“I’m Jewish, all right? My father’s family was wiped out by Hitler. Antisemitism is a disgusting and vile form of bigotry which has killed millions of people,” Sanders, Independent from Vermont, said Sunday. “I would hope that every American condemns antisemitism. We condemn Islamophobia and all forms of bigotry.”

Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy also on Sunday spoke in support of campus protests, saying: “We should all speak out, right, when protest crosses a line, when it becomes violent or when there’s hate speech, but 95 percent of the young people who are on these campuses are there because they believe there’s a fundamental injustice being perpetrated in Israel, and we should protect their right to peacefully protest.”

There is a point, Murphy told Fox News, “at which these protests are going to get in the way of the efficient operation of a campus, but I am not criminally offended by the fact that some of these protests go on for multiple days.”

But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell argued Sunday that “the First Amendment is important. But it doesn’t give you the ability to claim there’s a fire going on in a theater, because it threatens everyone else.”

“What needs to happen, at least at the beginning, is these university presidents need to get control of the situation, allow free speech and push back against antisemitism,” the Kentucky Republican told CBS News.

College officials’ responses to Israel-Hamas war protests have unfolded alongside a global debate over the US role in the conflict, as well as an intensifying race for the White House and for control of Congress. Elite college presidents have been hauled to Capitol Hill and even forced out of their jobs as the major parties jockey for moral and political ground.

To some, the surge in universities’ reliance on police to break up the protests illustrates an unwillingness by officials to truly engage with students and their demands, which usually include pulling institutional investments from companies whose work directly or indirectly supports Israel or its military apparatus, or profits from the war.

CNN’s Dakin Andone, Casey Gannon and Annie Grayer contributed to this story.

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Article Topic Follows: CNN - US Politics

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