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Where Do State Lawmakers Stand on War in Gaza, Campus Protests?
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By David Taub, Senior Reporter
Published 1 month ago on
May 17, 2024

GV Wire asked several state legislators about campus protests and the Israel-Palestine war. (GV Wire Composite/Paul Marshall)

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With campus protests supporting Gaza, and Israel’s war with Hamas continuing, a leading Jewish advocacy group met in Sacramento this week. The Jewish Political Affairs Committee of California held its annual Capitol Summit, lobbying for several bills mostly dealing with combatting antisemitism.

“If I knew how this situation got solved, I would be able to cure cancer and do lots of great things. This is a difficult situation. I believe in a two-state solution. And I don’t want that dream to be diminished by what’s happening.” — Assemblymember and U.S. House candidate Laura Friedman, D-Burbank

All of the lawmakers in attendance condemned antisemitism.

But, the war and the sometimes-violent protests were on the minds of JPAC, and the more than 50 legislators invited to a reception. GV Wire asked several state elected leaders for their views on when a campus protest crosses the line from free speech to illegal action — and about the war in Gaza.

Legislators Running for Congress

Although foreign affairs is not the direct mission of the state Legislature, several are running for Congress — where their voice will set America’s policy in Israel.

Sen. Dave Min, D-Irvine, is running for the open House seat now held by Katie Porter.

He said the Israeli conflict is new to him, but believes in peace, while at the same time supporting Israel’s right to defend herself. He said, “It’s becoming more and more tenuous for the United States to stand with Israel” because of the civilian Palestinian casualties.

“Of course, we stood strongly with Israel, but as their strongest ally, sometimes it’s your best friends that need to tell you the cold, hard truths,” Min said. “And, I’m not sure at this point what the end goal is here, because if it’s to root out every single member of Hamas, most of them are sitting in luxury condos and other places outside of Gaza. So, we have to think about protecting innocent civilian lives as part of this as well.”

As for the future, Min supports a two-state solution.

“At this point, (there has been) too much conflict and hard feelings between the two sides. I’m not sure that putting them in one country would make sense. I think a two-state solution with robust security guarantees — obviously Hamas cannot be part of the equation going forward,” Min said.

Min said protesters have the right to criticize Israel and protest.

“But the moment it slips over into harassment or targeting or things that make people feel unsafe because of their identity, that’s when we have to start worrying about hate speech. And that line is obviously a tricky one,” Min said.

He also said he is against divesting from Israel, a demand from campus protesters.

Democratic House Hopeful Laura Friedman

Assemblymember Laura Friedman, D-Burbank, is running for the open House seat held by Adam Schiff, who is running for the U.S. Senate against Republican Steve Garvey.

She also said that the protest line is crossed when “students … feel threatened, to where students are told they can’t access parts of their campuses. So where students and faculty feel ostracized by the virtue of being Jewish or being, supporting Israel’s right to exist.”

Solving the Middle East is a more difficult issue, she said.

“If I knew how this situation got solved, I would be able to cure cancer and do lots of great things. This is a difficult situation. I believe in a two-state solution. And I don’t want that dream to be diminished by what’s happening,” Friedman said.

She advocated for sovereignty and self-determination for both Israel and Palestine.

“The entire world should help to rebuild Gaza with a more stable government that respects its neighbor’s rights to exist. I would like to see Israel and the Arab nations come together to help foster that kind of a government and a rebuilding effort,” Friedman said.

Other legislators running for Congress in November (all in separate races) include Assemblymembers Vince Fong, R-Bakersfield; Evan Low, D-Cupertino; Luz Rivas, D-Arleta; and state Sen. Bob Archuleta, D-Montebello.

Caucus Leader Visited Israel

Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel, D-Encino, was part of a legislative group that traveled to Israel in February. He is also co-chair of the California Legislative Jewish Caucus.

The people of Gaza have suffered terribly. I don’t think there’s anyone that would deny that. I think, unfortunately, a lot of that responsibility lies with Hamas, who has used those people as human shields, who use them as pawns.” — Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel, D-Encino, co-chair of the California Legislative Jewish Caucus

He said even though the Legislature does not engage in foreign policy, members have “a really big responsibility to protect all of the impacted communities back home.”

Gabriel said he went to Israel “to bear witness” and combat any Oct. 7 denialism.

“It was a very painful and powerful experience. And just the amount of trauma that we witness from everybody that we spoke to, the pain, meeting with families of hostages, talking to folks whose communities were destroyed, whose relatives were killed or taken hostage, was a very difficult experience,” Gabriel said.

As to the future of the region?

“The people of Gaza have suffered terribly. I don’t think there’s anyone that would deny that. I think, unfortunately, a lot of that responsibility lies with Hamas, who has used those people as human shields, who use them as pawns. But there’s going to be an important moment to try to move beyond this conflict and move to a better place,” Gabriel said.

Gabriel said he supports a two-state solution. He hopes this leads to normalization between Israel and other nations such as Saudi Arabia.

Left to right: Assemblymembers Jesse Gabriel, Al Muratsuchi, Damon Connolly and Josh Lowenthal discuss their recent trip to Israel. (GV Wire/David Taub)

On campus, Gabriel said its mostly non-students who cause problems.

“To make some wild shift in university policy based on that, I think it’s a mistake, because you basically set up a playbook to anybody who wants anything. If you can get a handful of people who are just going to capitulate to the loudest voices, I don’t think that’s appropriate,” Gabriel said.

Gabriel disagrees with calls for divestment. He said calls to cut ties with Hillel, a Jewish organization found on hundreds of campuses nationwide, is antisemitic.

The Jewish caucus condemned UCLA’s leadership after protests turned violent earlier this month.

View from the Valley, LA

Assemblymember Juan Alanis, R-Modesto, said protesters do not have the right to infringe on other students’ education.

“These chancellors need to take that responsibility also, that they’re there and took an oath and took that position to to protect all of the students. And, that’s not happening. And I’m seeing and I’m hearing that it’s starting to happen, but it shouldn’t have happened earlier,” Alanis said.

He said that Palestinians should have the right to chose their future, whether as its own country or part of Israel.

Tina McKinnor, a Democratic Assemblymember from Inglewood, represents UCLA, where some of the more violent protests took place.

“The fight that happened, which I don’t think that fight was done by Jewish people. I think that part of that fight was done by the right. And so when people start having bodily harm, it’s crossed the line,” McKinnor said.

McKinnor prefers peace over war, but does not have a solution for Israel-Palestine.

“I can’t answer that because I don’t know enough, right? I just don’t know enough, she said.

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David Taub,
Senior Reporter
Curiosity drives David Taub. The award-winning journalist might be shy, but feels mighty with a recorder in his hand. He doesn't see it his job to "hold public officials accountable," but does see it to provide readers (and voters) the information needed to make intelligent choices. Taub has been honored with several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. He's just happy to have his stories read. Joining GV Wire in 2016, Taub covers politics, government and elections, mainly in the Fresno/Clovis area. He also writes columns about local eateries (Appetite for Fresno), pro wrestling (Off the Bottom Rope), and media (Media Man). Prior to joining the online news source, Taub worked as a radio producer for KMJ and PowerTalk 96.7 in Fresno. He also worked as an assignment editor for KCOY-TV in Santa Maria, California, and KSEE-TV in Fresno. He has also worked behind the scenes for several sports broadcasts, including the NCAA basketball tournament, and the Super Bowl. When not spending time with his family, Taub loves to officially score Fresno Grizzlies games. Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Taub is a die-hard Giants and 49ers fan. He graduated from the University of Michigan with dual degrees in communications and political science. Go Blue! You can contact David at 559-492-4037 or at Send an Email

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