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College Democrats Applaud Student Protests, Slam Biden for Gaza Policy

The statement is a show of the vast generational divide on Palestine within the party.

Pro-Palestinian students at UCLA campus set up encampment in support of Gaza and protest the Israeli attacks in Los Angeles, California, on May 1, 2024.

In a bold statement released this week, college Democrats broke from President Joe Biden and the party establishment by condemning the administration for its support of Israel’s “destructive, genocidal, and unjust” assault on Gaza and throwing their support behind the wave of pro-Palestine protests sweeping the U.S.

The College Democrats of America, the Democratic National Committee’s official collegiate arm, said that they support student protesters’ “moral clarity” on the assault on Gaza, as well as their calls for a permanent ceasefire. The group drew parallels between the current protests and previous movements for civil rights, LGBTQ equality, and an end to the Vietnam War.

“The end of the conflict and release of hostages is a goal we should all share as Americans in pursuit of a more just international community. The response to these protests by the college administrations, on the contrary, deserves the strongest condemnation,” the group said. “Arresting, suspending, and evicting students without any due process is not only legally dubious but morally reprehensible.”

The statement was approved by College Democrats’ executive board in an 8 to 2 vote, with dissatisfaction around Biden’s support of Israel having been present among the group’s ranks for some time. It was written by the group’s Muslim Caucus, which began drafting the statement two weeks ago, around the time that Columbia University administrators first began sending police to arrest, suspend and evict student protesters.

The group explicitly denounces claims by Biden and House lawmakers that protesters and those criticizing Israel are antisemitic; notably, in response to the Columbia University protests, Biden released a statement condemning a supposed “alarming surge of Antisemitism” — despite there being no evidence of widespread antisemitism among the encampment demonstrations.

The statement goes on to issue a powerful rebuke of Biden’s Gaza policy, emphasizing that his unconditional support of Israel is a losing strategy when it comes to the election.

“[A]s representatives of youth across the country, we reserve the right to criticize our own party when it fails to represent youth voices,” the group wrote. “The White House has taken the mistaken route of a bear hug strategy for 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 ceasefire, two-state solution, and recognition of a Palestinian state, more and more youth find themselves disillusioned with the party.”

College Democrats rarely break from the party on major issues, as political commentators have noted.

The statement is a show of the growing gulf between Biden and his base, especially younger voters. Polls have found that Biden’s approval rating has dropped to a record low among young voters amid the genocide, with surveys consistently finding that young Americans are the most disillusioned with U.S. support of Israel.

Representatives Ro Khanna (D-California) and Mark Pocan (D-Wisconsin) and progressive advocates like Nina Turner praised the College Democrats for their statement, applauding their courage in standing up to the Democratic Party establishment in a crucial time for Palestinian rights.

“[B]eing critical of your elected officials, ESPECIALLY those who you’ve delivered the power to, is the most democratic thing anyone can do,” wrote Turner. “Kudos to @CollegeDems for taking a stand and being on the right side of history.”