Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed in an interview on Sunday that college students who participate in pro-Palestinian protests were demonstrating for Hamas and “sheer evil,” comparing them to Nazi supporters.
Meet the Press moderator Kristen Welker asked the leader about the growing calls for a ceasefire, noting comments from French President Emmanuel Macron, who said there was “no justification” for the continued bombing of civilians.
“All over the world you’ve seen protesters who are calling for an end to civilian deaths in Gaza,” Welker said. “Can you win this war without global support?”
Netanyahu pushed back, claiming Israel needed to destroy Hamas because “we have no other choice.” He praised American support for Israel, but he noted there was “confusion in many parts of the world” over support for Palestine, conflating it with support for the militant group.
“Those who protest for Hamas, you’re protesting sheer evil,” Netanyahu said on Meet the Press. “There are a lot of misguided people out there who don’t know the facts. You’re talking to people who deliberately targeted civilians, who raped and murdered women.”
Public polling paints an unclear picture of Palestinian support for Hamas, which won an election in 2006 and has controlled the Gaza Strip since 2007, though research published in Foreign Affairs late last month indicates mounting frustration over Hamas’ governance.
No elections have been held since the 2006 elections. Nearly half of Gaza’s population is under 18, meaning they are unable to vote during that cycle.
Netanyahu has been a staunch defender of Israel’s retaliation campaign against Hamas following the group’s ambush in Israel that killed 1,200 people last month, even as world leaders and humanitarian groups call for a ceasefire to aid Gaza citizens. He compared the situation on Sunday to World War II, saying “the allies are fighting the Nazis,” a comparison he has previously used.
“Obviously, the Nazis are fighting within civilian quarters, and civilians get killed. In fact, many of them were killed,” Netanyahu said. “Millions were killed. Now, who do you protest against? Do you protest against the Nazis or do you protest against the allies? And what these people are doing is protesting for sheer evil. That’s wrong. And by the way, it’s a condemnation. It’s an indictment of higher education in some of our universities.”
Universities across the U.S. and abroad have seen massive pro-Palestinian protests since the Oct. 7 attack, prompting calls by conservative politicians to shut down student groups aligned with Palestine. Columbia University announced last week it would suspend both Students for Justice for Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace for the remainder of the fall semester for violating university policies with an “unauthorized” event.
The protests have not been limited to college campuses. More than 300,000 people marched in London on Saturday in support of Palestine, prompting a face-off with far-right counter-protestors who opposed the decision to march on Armistice Day. More than 2,000 officers were on-duty throughout the weekend and for the event, which was the largest march since the conflict broke out, police told the Associated Press.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said in a statement that the British holiday should be a time for national unity, noting how “sacred” the day was to the country.
“It is because of those who fought for this country and for the freedom we cherish that those who wish to protest can do so, but they must do so respectfully and peacefully,” he said.