Protesters interrupt Blinken’s testimony over Israel policy

Published May 22, 2024
Pro-Palestinian protesters hold up “bloody hands” as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken testifies before a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, May 21, 2024. — Reuters
Pro-Palestinian protesters hold up “bloody hands” as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken testifies before a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, May 21, 2024. — Reuters

WASHINGTON: US Secre­tary of State Antony Blinken faced criticism from the right and left over Israel policy in Congress on Tuesday, with Republicans accusing the Biden administration of failing Israel and Democrats saying it’s doing too little to help civilians in Gaza.

Furious protesters interrupted Blinken as he began his testimony before the Demo­cratic-controlled Senate Foreign Relations Committee. There were shouts that he has “blood on his hands,” and Blinken flinched from a protester who approached him from behind waving a sign that said “criminal” before security officers carried her out of the room.

Blinken reiterated the support of President Joe Biden’s administration for Israel, but insisted it was focused on easing the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. “In the Middle East, were standing with Israel in its efforts to ensure what happened on October 7 never happens again, as we do everything we can to bring an end to the terrible human suffering in Gaza and prevent the conflict from spreading,” he said.

Blinken was scheduled to appear later on Tuesday before the Senate appropriations subcommittee that oversees diplomatic and foreign aid spending.

He returns to Capitol Hill on Wednesday for two more rounds of testimony at hearings of the Republican-led House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee and a House appropriations subcommittee.

Republicans criticised Biden for saying this month that he would delay a shipment of bombs to Israel and consider withholding others if Israeli forces launched a major invasion of Rafah, a refugee-packed city in southern Gaza.

Billions of dollars in US military assistance remain in the pipeline for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government. Republicans also called for action in response to the International Criminal Court prosecutor’s announcement on Monday that he had requested arrest warrants for Netanyahu and his defence minister over alleged war crimes in the Gaza conflict. The prosecutor, Karim Khan, also sought arrest warrants for three Hamas leaders.

Blinken said the Biden administration would be happy to work with Congress to formulate a response to what he called “a profoundly wrong-headed decision” regarding the warrants for the Israeli leaders.

Biden also faced criticism from some of his fellow Democrats, who want him to do more — including putting conditions on arms exports — to push Netanyahu’s government to protect Palestinian civilians.

Israel-related demonstrations have been a feature of congressional appearances by Biden administration officials. When Blinken and Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin testified on Oct 31 about Biden’s request for security assistance for Uk­raine and Israel, they were repeatedly interrupted by protesters.

Protests over Gaza have intensified across the United States since then, including on college campuses where there have been dozens of arrests, raising concerns about how they might affect Biden’s campaign for reelection against former Republican President Donald Trump.

Published in Dawn, May 22nd, 2024

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