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Graduation: a celebration for everyone

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During the graduation ceremony at Duke University on Sunday, something unexpected happened. As comedian Jerry Seinfeld was introduced as the speaker, a large group of students decided to walk out. This surprising event was because Seinfeld has openly supported Israel, which is a topic of much debate and controversy.

As the students left, they chanted “Free, free Palestine.” Meanwhile, some other graduates who stayed behind seemed to mock them. This walkout quickly became a hot topic online, with many people sharing their thoughts about it. Some suggested that the students were protesting because Seinfeld is Jewish and accused them of antisemitism.

David Swanson / Reuters

One person who shared his opinion was former U.S. Representative Adam Kinzinger from Illinois. He posted on social media, “So students at Drake [sic] walk out because the speaker, Jerry Seinfeld, is Jewish? This is antisemitism, cloaked in concern for Gaza.” Another voice in the discussion was Democratic U.S. Representative Daniel Goldman from New York. He wrote on social media, “Jerry Seinfeld is a Jewish American who has nothing at all to do with Israel’s foreign policy or military defense. Holding an American Jew responsible for the actions of the Israeli government is quintessential antisemitism.”

YouTube/ The Guardian

However, the organizers of the walkout had a different perspective. They claimed their protest was not about Seinfeld’s religion but about his support for Israel. They also demanded that Duke University reveal its investments in Israel and consider pulling out from companies linked to Israel. The protesters called for a ceasefire in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine.

Despite the walkout, Seinfeld continued with his speech and even received an honorary degree without any major interruptions. A spokesperson for Duke University, Frank Tramble, expressed understanding of the strong feelings in the community. He emphasized the university’s respect for peaceful expression of views, while also celebrating the achievements of the graduating class of 2024.

This event at Duke University is just one of many similar incidents happening at colleges across the country, highlighting the strong emotions and differing opinions people have about the situation in Israel and Palestine.