‘Butcher of Gaza!’: Protesters thrown out of Blinken meeting that descends into chaos

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken faced a grilling from both pro-Gaza protesters and Senators during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Tuesday.

Ostensibly, the hearing was supposed to be about the Biden administration’s budget request for the 2025 fiscal year. But even before the hearing began, the committee room on the fourth floor of the Dirksen building had numerous opponents of Israel’s war in Gaza wearing keffiyehs with their hands up chastizing him.

“Blinken, you will be remembered as the butcher of Gaza!” one protester said as Capitol police officers threw him out of the hearing. “You will be remembered for murdering innocent Palestinians.”

Other protesters would later be thrown out and another woman in a hijab wore s shirt saying “Bloody Blinken.”

Meanwhile, Mr Blinken faced aggressive grilling by Democrats and Republicans alike for the administration’s actions policy toward Israel, specifically its support for Israel after the October 7 attack that killed 1,200 people and led to the taking of hundreds of hostages.

At the same time, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Ben Cardin, who is retiring this year, echoed Mr Blinken and the Biden administration’s condemnation of the top prosecutor for the International Criminal Court’s decision to ask for arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Hamas leaders including Yahya Sinwar.

“I see it as a step in the wrong direction,” Mr Cardin said. “There’s always been an understanding the ICC is there to deal with countries that don’t have an independent judiciary. Israel has an independent judiciary.”

Almost all major US leaders from both parties condemned the prosecutor’s decision, which Mr Blinken also decried at the hearing, saying that the decision would make it more difficult to reach an end to hostilities between Israel and Hamas.

But the agreement seemed to end there as Democrats proceeded to criticise the Biden administration for its unwillingess to hold Israel accountable while Republicans said that the Biden administration had failed to sufficiently support Israel.

Senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut, asked Mr Blinken about reports that the United States and Saudi Arabia, but asked why the plans did not include Israel, which would also encompass creating a Palestinian state.

“There’s an entrepreneurial opportunity for Israel to become integrated into the region to get the security, fundamental security,” Mr Blinken said. “But in order for that, to actually go forward, there has to be an end to Gaza. There has to be a credible pathway to Palestinian state.”

But Mr Murphy followed up and said that was an empty promise.

“I really just express worry at the phrase ‘credible pathway to a Palestinian state,’” Mr Murphy said. “This is maybe, perhaps the final opportunity to actually cement the Palestinian state, which many of us believe is necessary predicate to peace in the region.”

The hearing about money for the State Department comes shortly after Congress approved a $95bn security supplemental package that also included $26.38bn in military aid for Israel.

Senator Jeff Merkeley of Oregon, a Democrat who supports a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, asked Mr Blinken about the State Department’s recent National Security Memorandum, known as an NSM-20, which said that Israel likely violated international law with weapons that the United States supplied, but did not link the violations to US weaponry.

Mr Blinken said that investigations were ongoing and Israel itself was also conducting investigations.

“It’s very difficult to make final determinations in the midst of a war when we do not have access on the ground,” he told Mr Merkeley.

Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) (C) is one of only a handful of senators who supports a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

Similarly, Senator Chris Van Hollen said he was concerned about the restrictions placed on the delivery of aid to civilian Palestinians.

“This issue does not require additional investigation, we’ve seen this play out in real time,” he said. He also mentioned how the Netanyahu government had proven to be an obstacle to a two-state solution and settlers in the West Bank “are just part of a movement largely empowered by this current government.”

Mr Blinken responded by saying a Palestinian state was also in Israel’s interest.

“You’ve got 5 million Palestinians between the West Bank and Gaza 7 million Israeli Jews,” he said. “Neither is going anywhere.”

In the same respect, some Republicans criticised the Biden administration for its pausing a weapons shipment earlier this month to Israel in response to its plans to attack Rafah. Senator Pete Ricketts of Nebraska asked Mr Blinken about the fact that British Foreign Secretary David Cameron opposed conditioning aid to Israel.

But Mr Blinken said that the United States “we deployed significant assets to the region to make sure that we can deter any further aggression” and noted how the United States helped deter Iran’s strike on Israel.

But he added that Israel using a 2,000-pound bombs that the US paused shipments of could have “terrible consequences” for civilians in Rafah.

Similarly, Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina criticised what he perceived as the Biden administration’s weakness, which he warned invited further threats.

Minutes after he finished his questioning, Mr Scott, who is seen as a potential running mate for former president Donald Trump, was on the Senate train, having not listened to further questioning. Meanwhile, ahead of his questioning, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, who is up for re-election this year, was seen checking his phone.

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