Protesters Disrupt Senate Hearing on Gaza Ceasefire during Funding Testimony

UNITED STATES: During a Senate hearing on Tuesday, protesters advocating for a ceasefire in Gaza repeatedly interrupted US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Many individuals in the crowd stood up and chanted, “Ceasefire now!”

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Secretary Blinken and US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin were testifying about the White House’s $106 billion national security funding request.

It encloses $14.3 billion to back Israel’s military operations against Hamas.

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The protesters stood up one by one and waited for Blinken to begin his testimony before shouting over him. Lawmakers were compelled to repeatedly halt the hearing, and the Secretary of State paused.

Demonstrators were swiftly escorted out of the room by Capitol Police, with 12 individuals being arrested for engaging in unlawful protests within the Dirksen Senate Office Building.

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Among those who disrupted the proceedings, some had affiliations with the anti-war organisation CODEPINK, which has advocated for the cessation of US weapon shipments to Ukraine.

A significant number of protesters donned pink attire and displayed signs with messages like “No to the siege of Gaza,” as they demanded that the US halt financial support for Israel.

CODEPINK confirmed that a number of its members were indeed arrested during the incident. Some of these individuals had chosen to paint their hands red “to symbolise blood”, said the group.

Blinken acknowledged the demonstrators and “the passions expressed in this room” at the conclusion of his statement.

“All of us are committed to the protection of civilian life. All of us know the suffering that is taking place as we speak; all of us are determined to see it end,” he stated.

Blinken also stressed the importance of the United States standing alongside its allies.

Blinken and Austin are advocating for congressional support of President Joe Biden’s national security package, which encompasses:

$61.4 billion for Ukraine’s defence.

$9.2 billion for humanitarian aid.

$2 billion for security in the Indo-Pacific region.

$10.9 billion to address security and migrant concerns along the southern border.

As support for Ukraine wanes among conservative voters, Congressional Republicans are increasingly suggesting a separate funding request for Israel.

Mike Johnson, the recently elected Speaker of the House of Representatives, has introduced legislation that proposes sending $14.3 billion in emergency funding to Israel.

The funding is distinct from the White House’s other national security priorities and would involve a corresponding reduction of the same amount from the Internal Revenue Service’s budget, the agency responsible for federal tax collection.

Republicans, according to the White House, are taking advantage of the crisis to “help the wealthy and big corporations cheat on their taxes”.

In a statement, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre stated, “Politicising our national security interests is a non-starter.”

Representative Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, a Democrat with close links to Israel, declared that Johnson’s “political games are offensive to all pro-Israel Americans” and that she was “deeply disturbed” by the bill.

America’s support of Israel dates back many years. According to the Congressional Research Service, it has given the nation $158 billion since World War II, mostly in the form of military aid.

The White House and senior American officials have repeatedly expressed their support for Israel since the October 7th attack by Hamas.

“We stand with Israel. And we will make sure Israel has what it needs to take care of its citizens, defend itself, and respond to this attack,” Biden stated in its immediate aftermath.

In more recent weeks, while continuing to support Israel, the president has adopted a slightly different tone. He has urged Israeli leaders to adhere to international law and handle the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Gaza affecting Palestinian civilians with responsibility.

Israel says that 1,400 Palestinians have died as a result of Hamas’s assault and continuous rocket fire since October 7. Additionally, Hamas kidnapped at least 239 individuals.

Since the attack, Israel has been bombing Gaza. According to the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza, over 8,500 people have lost their lives since the commencement of Israel’s bombardment.

Also Read: Israel Warns to Evacuate Al-Quds Hospital, Gaza Doctors Say Its ‘Impossible’


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