Protesters demand US stop funding Israel’s military amid Gaza crisis
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was interrupted several times by pro-Palestinian protesters on Tuesday, as he testified before the Senate Appropriations Committee about the White House’s $106 billion national security funding request, which includes $14.3 billion for Israel’s military amid its war with Hamas in Gaza.
The protesters, who were part of a coalition of progressive groups, raised their hands covered with red paint to symbolize the bloodshed in Gaza and shouted slogans such as “Ceasefire now!”, “Blinken you are funding genocide!” and “Blinken you have blood on your hands!”.
They also chanted “From Palestine to Mexico, all the walls have got to go!” and “Defund genocide, let Gaza live!”, referring to the budget request’s allocation of funds for the US southern border and Israel’s blockade of Gaza.
The Capitol Police removed the protesters one by one from the hearing room and arrested seven of them for unlawful conduct. Some of the protesters resisted and scuffled with the officers.
Blinken paused his speech several times to wait for the protesters to be escorted out, and then resumed his testimony. He briefly addressed the protesters at the end of his remarks, saying that he heard their passion and that he was committed to the protection of civilian life.
“I also hear very much the passion expressed in this room and outside this room. All of us are committed to the protection of civilian life,” Blinken said.
Lloyd Austin Faced Heckling
Blinken was joined by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who also faced some heckling from the protesters. The two officials defended the Biden administration’s request for more than $100 billion in aid for Israel, Ukraine, Afghanistan and other countries, saying that it was vital for advancing US interests and values around the world.
They also justified the US support for Israel’s right to self-defense against Hamas’ rocket attacks, while expressing concern for the humanitarian situation in Gaza and calling for a diplomatic solution to end the conflict.
The US has been providing Israel with billions of dollars in military and economic aid every year, as well as diplomatic backing at the UN Security Council. The US has also approved a $735 million arms sale to Israel amid the war.
However, the US has also faced criticism from some lawmakers, human rights groups and activists for its muted response to the crisis and its failure to push for an immediate ceasefire. The war has killed more than 5,000 Palestinians and 69 Israelis so far, according to health officials. The UN has said that more than half of Gaza’s population lacks access to basic services and humanitarian aid.
The protests at the Senate hearing were part of a series of demonstrations organized by pro-Palestinian activists across the country and around the world, demanding an end to the Israeli aggression and blockade of Gaza and supporting the Palestinian right to self-determination.