White nationalist rally ‘nothing’ compared with Gaza protests, Trump claims

Former US president says Charlottesville rally was a ‘little peanut’ compared with pro-Palestinian student protests.

Former President Donald Trump has downplayed the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia [Jefferson Siegel/The New York Times via AP Photo]

Former United States President Donald Trump has claimed that pro-Palestinian protests on university campuses are more hateful than the infamous 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Speaking to reporters outside his hush-money trial in New York on Thursday, Trump said the Unite the Right rally was “nothing” compared with the hate being expressed at student demonstrations against the war in Gaza.

“We’re having protests all over,” Trump said as he left the Manhattan courtroom where he is standing trial over alleged payments made to adult film star Stormy Daniels in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

“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 said.

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 our Country.”

The White House rebuked Trump over his comments.

“Minimising the anti-Semitic and white supremacist poison displayed in Charlottesville is repugnant and divisive,” deputy press secretary Andrew Bates said in a statement.

US 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 in 2020.

During the event on August 11, 2017, white supremacists rallied against the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E Lee, chanting slogans including “You will not replace us!” and “Jews will not replace us!”

A day later, James Alex Fields Jr, a self-identified white supremacist, deliberately drove his car into a crowd of counterprotesters near the rally site, killing Heather Heyer.

Trump’s response to the rally, including saying that “both sides” were to blame, marked one of the most controversial moments of his presidency.

There have been no comparable incidents of violence at the pro-Palestinian protests roiling multiple US universities, including George Washington University, Yale, New York University (NYU), Columbia University and the University of Texas.

But 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.

Footage shared on social media last weekend appeared to show activists telling students to “go back to Poland” and that October 7 is “going to be every day for you” – referring to Hamas’s attacks on Israel in which 1,139 people were killed.

Chabad at Columbia University, a chapter of an international Orthodox Jewish movement, also reported that protesters had told Jewish students, “You have no culture”, “All you do is colonise” and “Go back to Europe”.

On Sunday, a group of student activists representing the protesters released a statement distancing themselves from “inflammatory individuals” and condemning “any form of hate or bigotry”.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies