Pro-Palestinian demonstrators hold a student-faculty rally

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators hold a student-faculty rally at Dickson Plaza at an encampment on the University of California Los Angeles campus on April 29, 2024 in Los Angeles.

(Photo: Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Party Leaders 'Utterly Isolated' as College Democrats Back Campus Protests

"Each day that Democrats fail to stand united for a permanent cease-fire, two-state solution, and recognition of a Palestinian state, more and more youth find themselves disillusioned with the party," said the College Democrats of America.

Progressive lawmakers and rights advocates on Wednesday implored U.S. President Joe Biden and the Democratic Party to listen to young voters who oppose the government's funding of Israel's bombardment of Gaza, as the party's student organization announced its support for campus anti-war protests that have spread across the country over the past two weeks.

The College Democrats of America refuted Biden's suggestion last week that the protests are inherently antisemitic and urged the president to listen to the widespread calls for him to demand a permanent cease-fire in Gaza and end funding for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), which is set to receive an additional $17 billion following Biden's signing of a foreign aid bill last week.

By failing to listen to those demands—backed by 77% and 56% of Democratic voters, respectively, according to recent polling—Biden risks losing crucial support from the voting bloc that the College Democrats has been tasked with engaging for decades.

"As College Democrats, we are committed to the re-election of President Biden and Democrats across down-ballot races in every corner of our nation," the organization said. "However, as representatives of youth across the country, we reserve the right to criticize our own party when it fails to represent youth voices... As young voters, we are well aware that come November, our votes will determine who wins the White House. The White House has taken the mistaken route of a bear-hug strategy for [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu and a cold-shoulder strategy for its own base and all Americans who want to see an end to this war."

"Each day that Democrats fail to stand united for a permanent cease-fire, two-state solution, and recognition of a Palestinian state, more and more youth find themselves disillusioned with the party," warned the College Democrats.

The group added that "calling for the freedom of Palestinians is not antisemitic, and neither is opposing the genocidal acts of the far-right radical extremist Israeli government."

The statement was spearheaded by the organization's Muslim Caucus, led by Wake Forest University student Hasan Pyarali.

"To the students out there protesting we stand with you!" said Pyarali. "To those seeking to silence us, know this: we will never back down in our fight against hatred and genocide!"

Sunjay Muralitharan, vice president of the College Democrats and a student at the University of California, San Diego, toldThe New York Times that the rapid spread of mass protests at schools across the country—and the aggressive response by police, who have arrested more than 1,200 people with the tacit approval of Biden—has caused the organization to reevaluate its role in a critical election year.

"We're realizing that our duty as College Democrats is to be representatives of college students to the party, rather than vice versa," Muralitharan told the Times. "As it stands right now, young people starkly differ on the issue of Palestine/Israel from the Democratic Party apparatus. And throughout the nation, we're witnessing Joe Biden, Democrats across the ballot, losing scores of young voters over this issue."

The organization released its statement hours before the New York Police Department stormed the campus of Columbia University and forcibly removed students who had occupied a building and displayed a sign proclaiming it Hind's Hall, after six-year-old Hind Rajab, who was killed by the IDF in January along with paramedics whom Israel had promised safe passage in order to save the child.

Images of violent arrests have spread on social media in recent days, including a video of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville professor Steve Tamari, who was beaten and slammed to the ground by police at a protest at Washington University in St. Louis last weekend.

Intercept journalist Ryan Grim said the statement from the College Democrats, as well as the Fairfax County Democratic Committee's support for the campus protests, announced on Monday, showed that the party leadership has rendered itself "utterly isolated" by continuing to defend and fund Israel's military, even as it's killed at least 34,568 Palestinians—the majority of whom have been women and children.

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) urged the party to "listen to the moral sentiments of young people... about ending this brutal war and paving a way for peace."

"Reminder: It's not anti-war protesters that will hurt Democrats politically, it's the war itself that will hurt Democrats politically," said former Ohio state Sen. Nina Turner. "Protest is a pillar of democracy and Democrats can either listen to the protests and the polls, or not and face the electoral consequences."

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