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Students at Duke University walked out on the commencement speech by Jerry Seinfeld over his pro-Israel stance on the war in Gaza.

On Sunday (May 12), comedian Jerry Seinfeld was introduced at the commencement at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. Before rising to speak, about 30 graduates got up and walked out during the introductory remarks by Duke University President Vincent Price, with chants of “Free, Free Palestine” being heard as they left the stadium mixed in with booing from some of the 7,000 in attendance. They were protesting Seinfeld’s presence as well as the school’s investment in Israel, calling for Duke to divest.

Seinfeld has been more vocal about his support of Israel and their military’s response to the attacks by the Hamas militant group on Oct. 7, 2023, which resulted in hundreds of Israeli people killed with over 300 hostages taken. The Israeli Defense Forces’ attacks have been blamed for the reported deaths of almost 35,000 Palestinians and other civilians including aid workers. The comedian’s stance (including social media posts and a trip to Tel Aviv last December) has brought him heavy backlash as he was on campus to receive an honorary doctorate. “I don’t preach about it,” he said in an interview with GQ. “I have my personal feelings about it that I discuss privately. It’s not part of what I can do comedically, but my feelings are very strong.”

The students who walked out, with some carrying the Palestinian flag, made their way to a green space on campus where they were greeted by parents and faculty members who gave them a makeshift ceremony. Back at Wallace Wade Stadium, Seinfeld regaled the crowd while only hinting at the protesters by saying he admired their commitment to inclusivity but felt “it is worth the sacrifice of occasional discomfort to have some laughs.”

The protests by college students over the war in Gaza have led to increased tensions with over 2,900 arrested at 57 collegiate institutions nationwide. Some of the incidents were sparked by agitators involved in pro-Israel counterprotests such as one that took place at UCLA last month – that one was promoted by Seinfeld’s wife, Jessica, who publicized her donations to the organizing group. She would go on to denounce the violence that took place afterward.