Vermont senator calls for ‘indefinite’ cease-fire days after students shot

Sen. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) called for an “indefinite” cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war, just days after three Palestinian students were shot in the state’s most populous city and as the end to the temporary pause in fighting draws near.

“The impact of the conflict in the Middle East has reverberated across the world, and we’ve seen the effects here at home in the form of Islamophobia and antisemitism,” Welch said in a statement Tuesday.

“In Chicago, a six-year-old Muslim boy was murdered by his landlord. Antisemitism has spiked across college campuses. And this weekend in my home state of Vermont, three Palestinian-American students were senselessly shot by a stranger as they walked to a family gathering,” his statement said. “This cycle of fear, intimidation, and violence must end.”

Three Palestinian men were shot in Burlington, Vt., on Saturday night in an unprovoked attack, the city’s mayor Miro Weinberger announced. The shooter pleaded not guilty to attempted murder. The students did not know the shooter, and the investigation is ongoing.

Welch previously warned that a ground invasion by Israeli forces into Gaza would be catastrophic for Palestinians in Gaza and would “jeopardize urgent efforts to save hostages.”

Israel and Hamas reached a temporary cease-fire to exchange hostages and prisoners that have been facilitated over the past several days. It is expected to continue until Thursday , but Welch argues it should be indefinite.

“So far, the ceasefire has been largely successful. Thanks to the active engagement of Qatar and Egypt, and the personal involvement of President Biden and the Netanyahu government, hostages have been released and the killing has stopped,” his statement said. “But the ceasefire is scheduled to expire this week. That would be a grave mistake.”

The Vermont senator said he supports Israel’s right to defend itself against the Oct. 7 surprise attacks, but the country should “not do so in a way that leads to massive civilian casualties.” The continued bombardment on Gaza would cause Israel and the United States to gain more enemies, he argued.

The cease-fire must continue so more hostages are released, Welch said in his statement.

“The ceasefire must be extended first and foremost to stop the bombing and prevent further loss of civilian life,” Welch’s statement said. “The United States cannot condone a resumption of the bombing when it causes death and injury to so many civilians.”

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Harvard, MIT and Penn presidents to testify before Congress on campus antisemitism

The presidents of Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the University of Pennsylvania will testify before Congress next week at a hearing about antisemitism on college campuses.

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce announced the Dec. 5 hearing on Tuesday .

“Over the past several weeks, we’ve seen countless examples of antisemitic demonstrators on college campuses,” said chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) in a statement. “Meanwhile, college administrators have largely stood by, allowing horrific rhetoric to fester and grow.”

The war between Israel and Hamas has shown a spotlight on accusations of antisemitism, Islamophobic rhetoric and violence on college campuses.

Over the last several weeks, university presidents and administrators have been criticized by many students, alumni, faculty members and donors who have not agreed with their responses to the ongoing conflict.

The federal government opened civil rights investigations into several universities over allegations of antisemitism or Islamophobia since the war began, as part of the Biden administration’s action against discrimination in schools.

The schools separately have pledged to fight antisemitism on their campuses, but acts of discrimination and violence continue as the war nears two months.

“College and university presidents have a responsibility to foster and uphold a safe learning environment for their students and staff. Now is not a time for indecision or milquetoast statements,” Foxx’s statement said. “By holding this hearing, we are shining the spotlight on these campus leaders and demanding they take the appropriate action to stand strong against antisemitism.”

Foxx’s announcement makes no mention of plans to investigate Islamophobia or other forms of discrimination on college campuses.

Witnesses for the hearing, titled “Holding Campus Leaders Accountable and Confronting Antisemitism,” will include Dr. Claudine Gay, the president of Harvard, Liz Magill, the president of UPenn and Dr. Sally Kornbluth, the president of MIT.

MIT said in an emailed statement that Kornbluth has been called to testify and “welcomes the opportunity to engage with the Committee Members.”

The Hill has reached out to Dr. Gay and Magill’s offices for comment about their upcoming testimony.

In a previous House hearing, Republicans argued diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) offices on college campuses have failed to support Jewish students following the conflict in the Middle East.

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