Pro-Palestinian students walk out, boo Jerry Seinfeld at Duke University graduation speech

Pro-Palestinian students walk out, boo Jerry Seinfeld at Duke University graduation speech
The comedian was met with a frosty reception ahead of his speech at Duke University, in protest at his pro-Israel stance despite the deadly war in Gaza.
3 min read
13 May, 2024
The former Seinfeld star has met and supported Israeli soldiers before and during the war in Gaza, drawing condemnation [Getty/file photo]

Dozens of students graduating from Duke University in the US staged a walk-out ahead of a speech due to be given by comedian Jerry Seinfeld, who has taken a staunch pro-Israeli stance since the start of the deadly war in Gaza.

Video clips shared on social media showed students leaving a stadium in North Carolina, where the outdoor commencement ceremony was held as Seinfeld's appearance was announced by university president Vincent Price.

The students could be heard booing the announcement as they walked out carrying Palestinian flags and chanting: "Free Palestine".

Outside Duke’s stadium on the Durham campus, pro-Palestine students could be heard chanting: "Disclose, divest, we will not stop, we will not rest."

The veteran comedian, famed for his role as a semi-fictionalised version of himself in the US series Seinfeld, has expressed public support for Israel following the outbreak of the deadly war, which has killed at least 35,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children, since October 7.

At the onset of Israel’s brutal offensive, Seinfeld posted on social media that he "will always stand with Israel and the Jewish people".

In December, Seinfeld and his family travelled to the Kibbutz Be’eri in southern Israel, where they met with families of those taken hostage by Hamas on October 7. In the same month, the comedian signed a letter alongside a host of celebrities thanking US President Joe Biden for allegiance to Israel as it pounded the besieged enclave.

In 2018, the Jewish-American funnyman came under fire visiting an Israeli military camp in the occupied West Bank, where he posed with soldiers, and machine guns and took part in simulations which portrayed Palestinians as "terrorists".

The visit to the Caliber 3 training facility, located near the illegal settlement of Efrat south of Bethlehem, drew intense backlash from activists online who decried Seinfeld for "playing war games" with the Israeli army.

Additionally, US media reported earlier this month that the comedian’s wife, Jessica Seinfeld, was funding a pro-Israel counter-protest at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in a reaction to pro-Palestinian demonstrations at the education facility.

Seinfeld, who was receiving an honourary degree from Duke University, did not mention Israel's war in Gaza in his speech.

The walk-out comes amid the student protests that swept college campuses across the country since April.

The demonstrations aimed at urging universities to divest from Israeli companies and cut ties with the country, in solidarity with the Palestinian people in Gaza, who have been suffering for over seven months under an indiscriminate Israeli assault.

Hundreds of students have been arrested, notably at Columbia University, one of the first educational institutions to see protests.

A Columbia University student was seen ripping her degree over the weekend in protest at the university’s links with Israel, as well as its response to pro-Palestinian protesters

Similar acts of pro-Palestinian solidarity were witnessed at the University of Texas, Austin, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of California, Berkeley, among others over the weekend.