Anti-Israel protesters disrupt Blinken’s US Senate testimony
A US Senate hearing on emergency aid requests to back Israel and Ukraine in their conflicts with Hamas and Russia, respectively, has been repeatedly disrupted by protestors demanding that President Joe Biden’s administration press for a ceasefire in Gaza.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had to pause his testimony during Tuesday’s hearing several times as protestors screamed, chanted, held up signs, and were eventually removed by security officers. In one case, a man yelled at Blinken to “stop supporting the genocide and ethnic cleansing of the people of Palestine.”
Each time he was interrupted, Blinken stopped speaking and blankly stared straight forward, without reacting to the demonstrators. He testified in support of Biden’s request for Congress to approve $106 billion in emergency security funding, including $14.3 billion for Israel and $61.4 billion for Ukraine.
At one point, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray reacted to the disruptions by saying, “I do recognize that people feel very passionately, but I ask that we have order in this hearing room and respect our speakers. We will move forward with the hearing and allow people here and the American people to hear from their witnesses.”
One woman was pulled from the room as she held up a sign demanding “no more money for Israel” and saying the senators should be ashamed for failing to call for a ceasefire in Gaza. “The world is calling for a ceasefire,” she yelled. “The American people don’t want to support this brutal war.”
As she stood and screamed, other demonstrators held up their hands, showing red paint on their palms and the words “Free Gaza” written on their arms. Multiple protestors later stood up, holding signs and chanting, “From Palestine to Mexico, all the walls have got to go.”
The disruptions came as protestors around the world and observers, ranging from Pope Francis to Amnesty International, have called for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ruled out the possibility of pausing his country’s incursion in Gaza, telling reporters on Monday that “calls for a ceasefire are calls for Israel to surrender to Hamas, to surrender to terrorism, to surrender to barbarism. That will not happen.”
Netanyahu said Hamas started the war with its terrorist attacks on October 7, and Israel intends to win it. “Today, we draw a line between the forces of civilization and the forces of barbarism,” he added. “It is a time for everyone to decide where they stand. Israel will stand against the forces of barbarism until victory. I hope and pray that civilized nations everywhere will back this fight.”
More than 8,000 Palestinians and 1,400 Israelis have been killed since the latest escalation in Gaza began. Proponents of a ceasefire have cited high civilian casualties. At the same time, family members of some of the hostages kidnapped by Hamas have argued that pausing the fighting would allow more time to negotiate their release. Netanyahu responded that only Israel’s ground offensive in Gaza creates the possibility of saving the hostages because Hamas won’t give them up unless it faces fierce pressure.
The Biden administration, for its part, reiterated its opposition to a ceasefire on Monday. “We do not believe that a ceasefire is the right answer right now,” White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters.