Durbin Questions Secretary Of State On Crisis In Gaza

In today’s State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Subcommittee hearing with Secretary Blinken, Durbin also raised Israeli hostage Hersh Goldberg-Polin and political prisoners in Cambodia and China, Theary Seng and Dr. Gulshan Abbas

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), a member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs, today participated in a Subcommittee hearing entitled “A Review of the President’s Fiscal Year 2025 Budget Request for the U.S. Department of State.”  During the hearing, Durbin questioned the witness, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, about President Biden’s decision to suspend specific offensive weapons to Israel that could be used for a full on assault of Rafah and about humanitarian aid for Gaza.

Before beginning his questioning of Secretary Blinken, Durbin called the Committee’s attention to the imprisonment of two political prisoners.  Cambodian-American democracy activist Theary Seng is serving a six-year sentence on sham charges for advocating for political freedoms in Cambodia.  She fled the country as a young girl after the Khmer Rouge killed her parents, later to return as an adult to advocate for democracy.  And Gulshan Abbas, a Chinese Uyghur doctor, is languishing in a Chinese prison on a 20-year charge cruelly related to her sister’s advocacy on Uyghur issues.  Durbin urged Secretary Blinken to intervene on behalf of the political prisoners. 

Durbin then turned his attention to questions on the Israel-Hamas war. 

“I want to reiterate something I said on the Senate floor last week, specifically supporting President Biden in suspending key weapons delivery to Israel that could be used for a full assault on Gaza and Rafah.  Our President has stood in solidarity with the Israeli people after the October 7 attack, which I might add, included taking hostage of someone with ties to my state, Hersh Goldberg-Polin,” Durbin said.

“But like [President] Biden and many of us, I have had enough with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s strategy in Gaza that has caused the deaths of thousands of innocent Palestinians, many of whom are women and children.  How can we, in good conscience, continue to supply Netanyahu with weapons for a war where he restricts access to humanitarian aid like food, medicine, and fuel at the expense of women and children?” Durbin asked.

Secretary Blinken responded that since the attack, the U.S. Department of State (State Department) has sought to ensure Israel has the resources to defend itself while minimizing harm to civilians and addressing humanitarian needs. 

“We have heard, over and over, that there is an Israeli strategy to restrict access to humanitarian aid in Gaza.  As a consequence, children are starving to death and people are in desperate situations.  I have personal friends of mine who have been there, medical doctors, and the reports are horrific of what deprivation has been caused.  Is that at the hands of Israel’s strategy?” Durbin asked.

Secretary Blinken replied that Israel is not prioritizing humanitarian aid as the country should and emphasized that the U.S. believes that the needs of the civilian population in Gaza must be considered heavily as military strategy is developed.

Durbin concluded his time by emphasizing his hope that the U.S. will stand strong in providing basic humanitarian aid to innocent civilians caught in the crossfire.

“I hope that the United States through the President will take the same resolute, determined stand when it comes to the interdiction of humanitarian aid. We have been briefed by credible sources that there is little or no smuggling taken place by Hamas, and that the basic foodstuffs, medicines, and fuel needed for these families struggling to survive is being stopped and trickles in instead of coming in in full force,” Durbin said.

Video of Durbin’s questions in Committee is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s questions in Committee is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s question in Committee is available here for TV stations.