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Biden aims to strike careful balance as college protests spread

The
continued
fervor
of
college
protests
against
the
Israel-Gaza
war
as
it
drags
into
its
seventh
month
highlights
the
political
challenges
President
Biden
still
faces
from
his
unconditional
support
of
Israel
as
he
aims
to
strike
a
careful
balance
between
condemning
antisemitism
on
college
campuses
and
supporting
students’
right
to
protest.

Students
at
several
campuses
across
the
country
have
formed
encampments
and
barricades
to
pressure
their
universities
to
divest
from
any
ties
to
Israel
and
to
pressure
Biden
to
call
for
a
permanent
cease-fire.
But
some
Biden
allies
and
Democratic
strategists
noted
that
the
highly
charged
protests,
which
have
resulted
in
hundreds
of
arrests,
have
largely
taken
place
at
elite
colleges,
and
said
it
remains
unclear
whether
opposition
to
U.S.
support
of
Israel,
especially
among
younger
Democrats,
will
significantly
impact
Biden’s
electoral
prospects.

White
House
and
campaign
aides
said
they
were
focused
on
condemning
antisemitism
and
ensuring
Jewish
students
feel
safe
on
campus,
while
also
highlighting
anti-Arab
discrimination
and
reaffirming
people’s
right
to
protest
and
address
Palestinian
suffering.
Even
as
the
campus
protests
have
drawn
nationwide
attention,
Biden
aides
said
they
did
not
see
them
as
any
more
problematic
than
the
protests
that
have
taken
place
since
the
war
began
in
October.

As
protests
sweep
college
campuses,
Biden’s
middle-ground
approach
reflects,
in
part,
an
effort
to
hold
together
his
disparate
coalition
of
voters,
which
include
young
people,
communities
of
color,
and
independents
and
moderate
Republicans.
The
president
won
young
voters
by
huge
margins
in
2020
and
is
looking
to
replicate
that
in
November
with
voters
under
35,
especially
in
swing
states.
But
Biden’s
campaign
faces
a
challenge
as
it
seeks
to
avoid
alienating
young
and
progressive
voters
demanding
an
end
to
the
war,
as
well
as
independent
voters
and
moderate
Republicans,
many
of
whom
support
continued
military
aid
to
Israel.

Former
president
Donald
Trump,
the
presumptive
Republican
nominee,
blasted
Biden’s
handling
of
the
protests
in
comments
outside
the
Manhattan
courtroom
where
his
trial
on
allegations
of
business
fraud
related
to
hush
money
payments
is
underway.
Trump
also
used
the
college
campus
protests
to
complain
about
the
police
presence
at
his
trial,
which
he
falsely
said
was
preventing
protesters
from
being
able
to
convene
outside
the
courthouse.

“He
doesn’t
know
what
to
do.
He
wants
to
take
like
a
middle
ground
and
often
times
that
doesn’t
work
but
it’s
certainly
not
working
here,”
Trump
said
in
comments
outside
the
courtroom.

In
a
separate
Truth
Social
post,
Trump
complained
that
protesters
were
not
allowed
to
convene
outside
his
trial.
Protesters
are
allowed
to
assemble
across
the
street
from
the
courthouse.

“The
Palestinian
Protests
at
Columbia
University
have
CLOSED
THE
COLLEGE
DOWN.
But
the
area
surrounding
the
Courthouse,
in
Downtown
Manhattan,
is
closed
up
like
a
drum,
with
New
York
City’s
Finest
(Police)
all
over
the
place.
Why
not
send
some
to
Columbia
to
protect
Jewish
Students,
and
others,”
Trump
wrote.
“Republicans
want
the
right
to
protest
in
front
of
the
Courthouse,
like
everyone
else!”

University
campuses
across
the
country
have
seen
a
surge
in
antiwar
demonstrations
in
recent
days,
including
students
moving
into
tents
in
protest
encampments.
Some
of
these,
including
at
Columbia
University
on
Thursday
and
New
York
University
on
Monday
night,
were
cleared
by
police
called
in
at
the
request
of
the
institutions.
Dozens
were
arrested
at
Yale
University
on
Monday
morning,
and
students
barricaded
themselves
late
Monday
inside
a
building
at
California
State
Polytechnic
University
Humboldt.
More
than
130
protesters
were
arrested
at
New
York
University
on
Monday
night,
the
New
York
Police
Department
told
The
Washington
Post.

So
far,
Biden
has
weighed
in
twice
on
the
protests.
On
Sunday,
in
a
statement
marking
the
start
of
Passover,
Biden
condemned
the
rise
of
antisemitism
since
the
Oct.
7
Hamas
attack,
which
killed
1,200
people,
many
of
them
civilians,
and
resulted
in
about
250
being
taken
hostage.
On
Monday,
Biden
condemned
both
the
antisemitic
chants
that
have
taken
place
on
some
campuses
as
well
as
those
who
he
said
do
not
understand
the
plight
of
Palestinians
in
Gaza.

“I
condemn
the
antisemitic
protests.
That’s
why
I
have
set
up
a
program
to
deal
with
that.
I
also
condemn
those
who
don’t
understand
what’s
going
on
with
the
Palestinians,”
Biden
said.

Israel
launched
a
punishing
retaliatory
military
campaign
in
Gaza
that
has
killed
more
than
34,000
Palestinians,
according
to
the
Gaza
Health
Ministry,
which
does
not
distinguish
between
civilians
and
combatants
but
says
the
majority
of
the
dead
are
women
and
children.
Israel’s
siege
of
the
enclave
has
created
a
humanitarian
catastrophe
as
Gaza’s
health
system
has
collapsed
and
the
enclave
faces
famine.

Biden
has
made
modest
gains
in
polling
in
recent
weeks.
His
approval
rating
in
a
Washington
Post
average
of
public
polls
stands
at
40
percent
this
month,
ticking
up
from
38
percent
in
January
though
still
below
the
43
percent
average
during
his
first
term.
Biden
has
also
pulled
even
with
Trump
in
a
Post
average
of
April
national
polls
measuring
head-to-head
support
for
the
president;
Biden
trailed
by
one
to
two
percentage
points
since
November.

But
polls
have
also
shown
more
Democrats
opposing
continued
military
aid
to
Israel.
A
CBS
News-YouGov
poll
conducted
this
month
found
the
share
of
Democrats
saying
the
United
States
should
send
weapons
and
supplies
to
Israel
dropped
from
47
percent
in
October
to
32
percent
in
April.
Separately,
a
Pew
survey
in
February
found
52
percent
of
Democrats
and
Democratic-leaning
independents
said
the
way
Israel
is
carrying
out
its
response
to
Hamas’s
Oct.
7
attack
is
unacceptable.

While
Biden
has
grown
more
critical
of
Israel
in
recent
months,
he
has
maintained
unconditional
military
support
of
the
country
even
as
he
has
decried
the
high
civilian
casualty
and
severe
lack
of
humanitarian
aid
going
into
Gaza.
That
support
has
prompted
sustained
protests
over
the
last
six
months
that
have
hampered
Biden’s
ability
to
campaign
across
the
country.

Simon
Rosenberg,
a
Democratic
strategist,
said
the
protests
were
a
challenge
to
be
managed
but
not
a
threat
to
Biden’s
candidacy.

“I
think
so
far
the
White
House’s
response
has
been
measured
and
appropriate
because
this
isn’t
something
that’s
burning
across
the
country
right
now,”
Rosenberg
said.
“It’s
happening
in
a
small
number
of
places
and
I
do
think
it’s
going
to
be
critical
to
recognize
that
many
of
the
protesters
are
acting
in
a
peaceful
and
passionate
manner
but
some
aren’t
and
that’s
part
of
what
schools
are
dealing
with.”

As
president,
Biden
has
been
repeatedly
confronted
by
pro-Palestinian
protesters

and
he
has
often
sought
to
avoid
them
as
much
as
possible.
Protesters
have
interrupted
his
speeches,
placed
bloody
handprints
near
the
front
of
the
White
House
and
yelled
at
Biden
during
a
Christmas
tree-lighting
ceremony
during
his
family
vacation
in
Nantucket,
Mass.

They
have
also
gathered
at
the
entrance
to
his
neighborhood
in
Wilmington,
Del.,
at
times
causing
him
to
take
more
circuitous
routes
to
get
to
his
nearby
church
and
other
times
passing
them
as
they
pour
fake
blood
onto
the
street
as
his
motorcade
passes
them.

Biden
has
a
long
and
complicated
relationship
with
protest
movements,
and
has
often
kept
an
arm’s
length
from
ones
that
defined
his
generation.
He
did
not
fight
in
the
Vietnam
War,
and
didn’t
participate
in
the
protests
that
were
roiling
college
campuses
at
the
time,
later
saying,
“I’m
not
big
on
flak
jackets
and
tie-dyed
shirts
and

you
know,
that’s
not
me.”

He
once
recalled
walking
with
law
school
classmates
and
seeing
antiwar
student
protesters
hanging
out
of
windows
after
taking
over
an
administrative
building,
a
scene
not
all
that
different
from
the
ones
of
current
campuses.

“We
looked
up
and
said,
‘Look
at
those
a–holes,’”
Biden
later
wrote.
“That’s
how
far
apart
from
the
antiwar
movement
I
was.”

But
as
he
ran
for
Senate
in
1972,
he
recruited
young
students,
many
of
them
animated
by
the
antiwar
movement,
and
he
gave
speeches
about
how
the
United
States
should
have
left
Vietnam
years
earlier.

During
the
civil
rights
movement,
Biden
has
recounted
participating
in
some
actions
in
his
hometown,
but
he
wasn’t
among
those
in
his
generation
who
traveled
to
the
South
and
jointed
the
Freedom
Riders
in
some
of
the
seminal
events
of
his
generation.

“I
regret

and
although
it’s
not
a
part
of
what
I’m
supposed
to
say

I
apologize
it
took
me
48
years
to
get
here,”
Biden
said
when,
as
vice
president,
he
eventually
went
to
Selma,
Ala.,
in
2013.
“I
should
have
been
here.
It’s
one
of
the
regrets
that
I
have
and
many
in
my
generation
have.”

But
during
his
2020
presidential
campaign,
Biden
made
major
efforts
to
court
Black
voters,
and
sought
to
tap
into
the
anger
and
protests
in
the
aftermath
of
the
killing
of
George
Floyd.


Scott
Clement
and
Isaac
Arnsdorf
contributed
to
this
report.

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