Trump pledges to crush campus protests, deport Pro-Palestinian demonstrators, shocking donors

At a private donor event, Trump promises to expel student protesters and curb pro-Palestinian movements on campuses, revealing his hard-line stance.

Image Credit: Salon/Getty Images

Former President Donald Trump has vowed to clamp down on pro-Palestinian protests on college campuses, promising to expel student demonstrators from the United States. This revelation came during a private round-table event with donors in New York on May 14, 2024, where Trump outlined his hard-line stance to a roomful of influential supporters.

During the event, Trump, addressing a group he humorously noted included “98 percent of my Jewish friends,” declared his intention to crush student protests. “One thing I do is, any student that protests, I throw them out of the country. You know, there are a lot of foreign students. As soon as they hear that, they’re going to behave,” Trump said, according to attendees. His remarks were met with mixed reactions, with some donors expressing concern over the implications for free speech and academic freedom.

Trump framed the demonstrators as part of a “radical revolution” that he vowed to defeat. He praised the New York Police Department for their actions at Columbia University and called on other cities to adopt similar measures, emphasizing that the protests “have to be stopped now.” His comments were aimed at galvanizing support from donors worried about the influence of student activists and professors who might one day hold significant power in the United States.

One donor’s complaint about the potential future influence of these protesters prompted Trump to assure the group that, if re-elected, he would set the pro-Palestinian movement back by decades. “Well, if you get me elected, and you should really be doing this, if you get me re-elected, we’re going to set that movement back 25 or 30 years,” he promised, according to attendees who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Trump’s statements reflect a broader context of the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict and his fluctuating public stance on Israel’s military actions in Gaza. While Trump has publicly waffled about whether Israel should continue its war in Gaza, telling a conservative audience to “get it over with … get back to peace and stop killing people,” major Republican donors have pressured him to take a firmer pro-Israel stance.

The private meeting in New York provided new insights into Trump’s current thinking. Speaking to wealthy donors, Trump reaffirmed his support for Israel’s right to continue “its war on terror” and boasted about his administration’s policies favoring Israel. He refrained from mentioning Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whom he resents for acknowledging Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory.

Throughout his presidency, Trump enacted several controversial policies that were highly favorable to Israel. He moved the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, breaking with decades of U.S. policy, and recognized the Golan Heights, which Israel seized from Syria in 1967, as an integral part of Israel. At the donor event, Trump highlighted these actions, claiming that the Golan Heights alone was worth “more than $2 trillion in real estate terms.”

Despite his strong pro-Israel policies, Trump expressed frustration that Jewish Americans did not vote for him in the numbers he expected. “But how can a Jewish person vote for a Democrat, and Biden in particular — but forget Biden. They always let you down,” he remarked, referring to Democrats. These comments have drawn criticism for evoking antisemitic tropes that suggest Jewish Americans are more loyal to Israel than to the United States.

Trump’s promise to expel student demonstrators raises significant legal and ethical questions. Such a policy could severely impact foreign students and academic freedom in the United States. It also echoes other historical crackdowns on dissent, drawing comparisons to authoritarian measures used to silence political opposition.

Public reaction to Trump’s hard-line approach has been polarized. While some supporters see it as a necessary step to maintain order and support Israel, others view it as a dangerous infringement on free speech and a potential violation of constitutional rights. Responses from political figures have also varied, with some Republicans supporting Trump’s stance and others, like Senator Lindsey Graham, offering more measured responses. “We can have our opinions about our allies but I think they’re in the middle of a fight for their life, there will be plenty of time for the accountability to be had,” Graham said, emphasizing the importance of supporting Israel while also acknowledging the need for future accountability.

Trump’s rhetoric has also limited his ability to capitalize on his opponent’s problems. Both Trump and Biden have struggled with the politics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the campaign trail. Biden’s base is deeply divided on the Israel-Gaza war, but Trump’s controversial statements have also created challenges for his campaign.

In an interview with Time magazine, Trump cast doubt on the viability of an independent Palestinian state, questioning the long-standing U.S. policy goal of a two-state solution. He suggested that an alternative solution might be necessary but did not provide specifics. This ambiguity adds to the complexity of his stance on the conflict and raises questions about his foreign policy intentions if re-elected.

At the donor event, Trump emphasized his willingness to take drastic measures to suppress what he sees as a “radical revolution.” “Well, if you get me elected, and you should really be doing this, if you get me re-elected, we’re going to set that movement back 25 or 30 years,” Trump declared.


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