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Pelosi urges Gaza campus protesters to target Hamas as well as Israel

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Nancy Pelosi, the former Speaker of the US House of Representatives

Nancy Pelosi, the former Speaker of the US House of Representatives, has urged protesters on college campuses to protest against Hamas’ behaviour as well as Israel’s conduct of the Gaza war.

Hundreds of people have been arrested on dozens of campuses across the US, where protests and encampments have sprung up in support of Palestinians in Gaza.

Ms Pelosi, who is a close ally of US President Joe Biden, told the BBC there was “complete justification” for speaking out about the growing humanitarian crisis there and the impact on civilians of Israel’s bombardment was almost “unforgiveable”.

She has also criticised the actions of the Israeli government while arguing it has a right to self-defence, and is no fan of the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

However, she said she wanted the demonstrators to reflect on their tactics and also condemn Hamas’s actions on 7 October.

“We would like to see some of that enthusiasm recognise Hamas as a terrorist organisation that did a barbaric thing in Israel,” she said.

Ms Pelosi had her speech at the Oxford Union in the UK interrupted by protesters on Thursday night. Demonstrators also dumped manure outside her own home in California.

“I’ve said to those [protesters]…do you care about what Hamas has done, do you care about what happened in Israel, would you not, if that happened here would we not have a response?”

The war in Gaza began when Hamas-led gunmen carried out an unprecedented attack on southern Israel on 7 October, killing about 1,200 people – mostly civilians – and taking 253 others back to Gaza as hostages.

Since then, at least 34,356 people – most of them children and women – have been killed in Gaza, the territory’s Hamas-run health ministry says.

The UN has warned of an impending humanitarian catastrophe and Israel has faced accusations of limiting the amount of aid reaching civilians by land.

Activists in the US have been calling for universities to “divest from genocide” and to stop investing large school endowments in companies involved in weapons manufacturing and other industries supporting Israel’s war in Gaza.

Israel is currently facing a case brought by South Africa at the International Court of Justice alleging that it is committing genocide against the Palestinians, an accusation Israel has rejected as “baseless”.

She said such protests on college campuses were a “way of life” in the US and that there was “complete justification” for objecting to what has been happening.

“What’s happening in Gaza challenges the consciousness of the world,” she said.

Some of the protesters on US campuses have been accused of antisemitism. A number of Jewish students have said they have felt unsafe at Columbia and at other universities, although other Jewish students have joined the demonstrations.

Ms Pelosi said protesters needed to think about their tactics, asking: “What is their message, what is their purpose?”

She rejected the suggestion from the current leader of the House of Representatives, Mike Johnson, that the National Guard should be sent in to deal with the protests.

Universities have brought in police to force students to leave but some are negotiating with the demonstrators and say these talks are showing progress.

BBC
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