Biden decries Gaza humanitarian crisis at Morehouse, winning applause

Biden decries Gaza humanitarian crisis at Morehouse, winning applause

President Biden decried the “humanitarian crisis in Gaza” in his commencement address at Morehouse College on Sunday, which marked his first appearance on a college campus since student protests erupted nationwide over the Israel-Hamas war.

“What’s happening in Gaza and Israel is heartbreaking. Hamas’s vicious attack on Israel, killing innocent lives and holding people hostage … innocent Palestinians caught in the middle of all this,” Biden told the crowd of graduates at the historically Black, all-male college in Atlanta.

“It’s a humanitarian crisis in Gaza. That’s why I’ve called for an immediate cease-fire, an immediate cease-fire to stop the fighting. Bring the hostages home,” Biden said, prompting applause.

The president took the Sunday stage to applause and some cheers — after concerns had swirled ahead of time that the event could see protests similar to recent campus demonstrations over the administration’s handling of the Israel-Hamas war.

Biden’s announcement as the Morehouse commencement speaker had drawn backlash from some students over worries that the remarks would resemble a campaign speech.

The event was seen as a key opportunity for Biden to engage with young voters and Black voters — two critical blocs that some polling suggests may be souring on the Democratic party as Biden runs for reelection this November.

Some graduates and faculty sported keffiyeh scarves along with their graduation garments — and Biden applauded after the class valedictorian, DeAngelo Jeremiah Fletcher, called for the release of hostages and an “immediate and permanent” cease-fire in the conflict.

One graduate appeared to stand with his back turned to the president and his right first raised.

“I support peaceful, nonviolent protest. Your voices should be heard. And I promise you, I hear them,” Biden said during the speech.

The president said he’s been “working around the clock” to get more aid into Gaza and for a two-state solution, “more than just one cease-fire.”

“The question is … What after? What after Hamas? What happens then? What happens in Gaza? What rights do the Palestinian people have?” Biden said.

The president has previously pressed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu toward a cease-fire deal.

Jake Sullivan, White House national security adviser, traveled to Saudi Arabia on Saturday and is in Israel on Sunday, where he’ll meet with Netanyahu amid the rising tensions.

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