Two students at New York University confronted former US President Bill Clinton’s daughter Chelsea at a vigil organised in honour of the victims of New Zealand’s gruesome terror attacks which claimed the lives of 50 people.
Students Leen Dweik and Rose Asaf took offence to Clinton’s reactionary tweet to Democrat Ilhan Omar’s comments regarding Israel, which many have perceived to be anti-semitic in nature.
In her tweet, Clinton “co-signed as an American”. “We should expect all elected officials, regardless of party, and all public figures do not traffic in anti-Semitism,” she tweeted.
Taking particular offence to the “as an American” part of Clinton’s statement, Asaf told the Washington Post, “She was the one who made this a story…To me, when speaking of someone who is a refugee, it’s a dog whistle, it’s signalling this is a patriotic issue and that nationalism excludes people like Ilhan Omar,” adding that by using “as an American,” Clinton put forth an “anti-immigrant trope.”
Omar is the first Somali-American elected to a legislative office in the United States and one of the first two Muslim women elected to the Congress, along with being the first minority woman to serve as a US Representative from Minnesota.
The students can be seen confronting Clinton in the video, where Dweik says, “This, right here, is a result of a massacre stoked by people like you and the words that you put out into the world. And I want you to know that, and I want you to feel that deep down inside. Forty-nine people died because of the rhetoric you put out there.”
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“I’m so sorry that you feel that way,” Clinton responds. “Certainly, it was never my intention. I do believe words matter. I believe we have to show solidarity,” she said.
The two students have faced backlash ever since the clip of the encounter went viral with many, including US President Donald Trump, coming to Clinton’s defence. On the other hand, many have backed the two students who say that they decided to confront the former first daughter to convey their grief and nothing more.
Speaking to The Washington Post later about the incident, Dweik said: “I wanted to convey my grief. It wasn’t this planned attack. I very specifically waited until after the vigil. I wanted this person to know they’ve caused harm. You’ve done things that have hurt this community, and the grief people feel today you’re not separate from.”
“It’s sickening to see people blame @ChelseaClinton for the NZ attacks because she spoke out against anti-Semitism. We should all be condemning anti-Semitism & all forms of hate. Chelsea should be praised for speaking up. Anyone who doesn’t understand this is part of the problem,” Trump tweeted.
Trump also went on record to say that he did not see white nationalism as a rising threat, even though New Zealand Police suspect that 28-year-old Brenton Harrison Tarrant – a white man from Australia – single-handedly carried out the shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, killing 50 people and wounding as many last week.
The primary suspect allegedly released a manifesto before the attack, where he hailed Trump as a “symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose,” according to Al Jazeera.