Former US president says Charlottesville rally was 'little peanut' compared with pro-Palestinian student protests

Former United States President Donald Trump has claimed that the controversial Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017 was "nothing" compared to pro-Palestinian demonstrations on university campuses. Speaking to reporters outside his hush-money trial in New York on Thursday, Trump made the comments when asked about protests against the war in Gaza, claiming that "Charlottesville was a little peanut, and it was nothing compared — and the hate wasn't the kind of hate that you have here, this is tremendous hate."

Trump's comments follow a Truth Social post on Wednesday in which the Republican presidential contender described the Charlottesville rally as a "peanut" compared to the riots and anti-Israel protests that are "happening all over" the country. The White House rebuked Trump's comments, with Deputy Press Secretary Andrew Bates stating, "Minimizing the anti-Semitic and white supremacist poison displayed in Charlottesville is repugnant and divisive."

President Joe Biden, who is expected to face off against Trump in November's presidential election, has repeatedly invoked the Charlottesville rally as a decisive moment in his decision to run against Trump. On August 11, 2017, white supremacists rallied against the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E Lee. During the event, James Alex Fields Jr, a self-identified white supremacist, drove his car into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing Heather Heyer. Trump's response to the rally, including blaming both sides, marked one of the most controversial moments of his presidency.

So far, there have been no comparable incidents of violence at the pro-Palestinian protests roiling multiple US universities. However, reports of harassment and threats against Jewish students have prompted condemnation from officials, including Biden, House Speaker Mike Johnson, New York City Mayor Eric Adams, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Trump's comments have led to criticism and have underscored rising tensions over the Israel-Palestine conflict in the United States. They also highlight the increasingly divisive nature of the country's political discourse ahead of November's elections.

Protests against Israel's 11-day bombardment of the Gaza Strip, which killed more than 200 people, including dozens of children, have taken place across the United States in recent weeks. Al Jazeera and other international media outlets have not identified any violent incidents at the rallies and protests, many of which took place on college campuses. However, concerns have been raised about anti-Semitic rhetoric at some protests.

Last weekend, for example, activists told Jewish students at Columbia University that they had "no culture" and told them to "go back to Poland" and "go back to Europe." A statement released by a group of student activists on Sunday sought to distance themselves from "inflammatory individuals" and condemned "any form of hate or bigotry."

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