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Jerry Seinfeld Faces Student Walkout at Duke University Amidst Israel-Palestine Tensions

At a recent commencement ceremony at Duke University in North Carolina, a group of pro-Palestinian students staged a walkout in protest against keynote speaker Jerry Seinfeld, a veteran comedian known for his support of Israel. This incident took place as Seinfeld, who recently endorsed Israel’s right to defend itself following the 7 October Hamas attacks, was about to deliver his speech.

Social media videos captured the moment some graduates, adorned in their robes, exited the venue while chanting and waving Palestinian flags. The protest erupted in the football stadium just as Seinfeld was introduced by Duke’s President, Vincent Price. Amidst the ceremony, loud chants of “Free Palestine” resonated, and some attendees were seen leaving their seats.

Despite the walkout, a significant portion of the audience remained, with chants of support for Seinfeld echoing in the stadium. The comedian, who received an honorary degree during the event, addressed the crowd with a mix of humor and solemnity. “A lot of you are thinking, ‘I can’t believe they invited this guy.’ Too late,” Seinfeld remarked, making light of the controversy surrounding his invitation.

In his speech, Seinfeld advocated for using one’s privileges to forge paths in life, drawing from his own experiences as a Jewish boy from New York who became a prominent comedian. He also referenced his recent visit to a kibbutz in Israel, where he met families of hostages taken into Gaza.

Duke University’s administration, via Vice President for Communications Frank Tramble, expressed understanding of the community’s deep feelings and reaffirmed the institution’s commitment to peaceful expression and celebration of graduates’ achievements.

This episode at Duke is part of a broader wave of pro-Palestinian protests that have swept across U.S. campuses, with students advocating for universities to sever ties with companies and individuals linked to Israel amid the ongoing conflict. The tension has even led some institutions, like Columbia University and the University of Southern California, to cancel or alter their graduation ceremonies due to safety concerns and disruptions linked to these protests.

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