Casey talks Penn encampment and war in Gaza during visit to American Jewish history museum • Pennsylvania Capital-Star

PHILADELPHIA — During a visit to the Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History on Friday, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) said he agreed that it was “the right decision” to disband a pro-Palestinian encampment on the University of Pennsylvania’s campus. 

“Protest is a form of expression that we protect constitutionally and it’s a great American tradition to protest,” Casey told a group of reporters. “But at some point, when a protest begins to affect the ability of others to get to class or in this case with an impending graduation, it begins to infringe upon others’ rights.”

He added that those who erected the protest encampment had plenty of opportunity to express their point of view. “But at some point it has to end, you can’t just take over a campus indefinitely.”

Philadelphia police officers went to campus to disband the encampment and arrested more than 30 protesters on Friday morning according to NBC10 and other news reports. The encampment began over two weeks ago, one of several on college campuses across the country.

Gov. Josh Shapiro on Thursday called on Penn to disband the encampment, saying the situation had gotten “out of control.”

Shapiro’s office sent out a statement Friday thanking Philadelphia, the city’s police department, and Penn’s police department for resolving the situation “quickly and peacefully.” 

“As Governor Shapiro has made clear multiple times, all Pennsylvanians have a right to peacefully protest and make their voices heard,” Shapiro spokesperson Manuel Bonder said in the statement. “The Governor has also made clear that universities have a legal responsibility to keep their students safe and free from discrimination.”

Bonder added that the situation at Penn had “reached an untenable point,” disrupting campus activity.

Casey stood by his characterization of Hamas as a terrorist organization, and criticized a protest at one of his campaign events in Lancaster last month.

“I think it’s one thing to have a protest about how a military campaign is conducted, you can criticize that, but when you won’t even come to the basic conclusion that this is a terrorist organization that has to be stopped, I can’t have a conversation with you,” Casey said Friday. “The conversation is over.” 

Casey also told reporters that he disagreed with the recent decision by the Biden administration to pause sending some military aid to Israel.

U.S. Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) criticized the Biden administration over the decision to pause sending arms to Israel during an appearance on Fox News earlier this week.

Asked about Israel’s response and the war’s reported death toll of 30,000 Palestinians, Casey said that “Israel has to do everything in its power pursuant to international law to reduce civilian casualties substantially and the dropping 2000 pound bombs isn’t consistent with that.” He noted that 1,200 people were killed in the Oct. 7, 2023 Hamas attack on Israel. 

Casey also called on the United States, Israel, and Arab states to do a better job getting more food aid into Gaza.

“Israel has to demonstrate that they’re going to continue to provide much more food than they’re providing now,” Casey said. “At the same time, I don’t think they should be constrained in their efforts to take on and disable a terrorist organization.”

Republican David McCormick, who is challenging Casey in his bid for a fourth term in the U.S. Senate, has accused Casey of not speaking out in support of Israel during the campaign. Casey was asked about the encampments before Friday, but had not previously specifically called for their removal. McCormick has been calling for the college encampments to be disbanded for several weeks.

During Friday’s event, Casey highlighted the Antisemitism Awareness Act, which he and Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) introduced last month. The legislation would require the U.S. Department of Education to consider the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism when enforcing federal anti-discrimination laws, according to a press release from Casey’s office.

It’s a companion bill to  House legislation that passed earlier this month. Casey didn’t mention a specific timetable he expects it to receive a vote, but said he hopes the Senate passes it as soon as possible. 

Also on Friday, Casey called for doubling the funds for the Office of Civil Rights in the Department of Education, saying the office tasked with investigating educational institutions is badly underfunded.

Casey’s visit to the Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History was to announce $250,000 in community project funding that will go towards developing educational programing combating antisemitism. 

“We will delve into the ways Jewish and American values have influenced one another, values such as human dignity for all, civil discourse, and welcoming the stranger,” Rebecca Krasner, Director of Education, Weitzman Museum said. “We will utilize our expertise in teaching through storytelling, and primary source materials to breathe life into this much needed content.”



Originally published at penncapital-star.com,by John Cole

Comments are closed.