A protester from the group Code Pink holds up a child

A protester from the group Code Pink holds up a child and disrupts U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin (L) as he speaks at a House Appropriations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill on April 17, 2024 in Washington, D.C.

(Photo: Andrew Harnik/Getty Images)

'My Child Is Human': Palestinian American Mother Disrupts Austin Testimony

"Secretary Austin, why are you denying Israel's genocide in Gaza?" advocates asked the defense secretary at a hearing.

A week after Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told lawmakers that the U.S. has no "evidence of genocide being created" in Gaza, peace activists disrupted the Pentagon chief's testimony on the Biden administration's 2025 budget request and demanded he acknowledge the humanity of Palestinian children.

"My child is human!" said Nasbeebah Hajjaj, a Palestinian-American woman who held up her 16-month-old son, Hamza. "Stop killing Palestinian children!"

The anti-war group CodePink said Hajjaj immigrated to the U.S. with her family when she was two months old, and has lost approximately 20 family members to Israel's bombardment of Gaza since October.

The group targeted Austin's testimony a month after the Biden administration released its 2025 budget request—a proposal that includes $1.1 trillion in military-related spending. Despite growing calls from U.S. lawmakers and rights advocates, the White House has not announced conditions for military aid to Israel, which has been widely accused of human rights violations as it has assaulted Gaza and blocked humanitarian aid from reaching Palestinians.

Israel's bombardment has killed at least 33,899 Palestinians so far, and more than two dozen people have died of starvation in recent months as international experts have warned parts of northern Gaza are facing famine.

At least 13,000 children have been killed, and the United Nations reported in February that 70% of those killed overall have been women and children—even as Israel and the U.S. have insisted Israeli forces are targeting Hamas.

The International Court of Justice issued a preliminary ruling in January saying Israel is "plausibly" committing genocide in Gaza, and lawmakers including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) have expressed support for the ruling—but the U.S. has dismissed the court's findings, including at Austin's hearing last week.

While Hajjaj held up her son at Wednesday's hearing, another protester, identified by CodePink as Helen, addressed the defense secretary.

"Secretary Austin, why are you denying Israel's genocide in Gaza? Why are you denying genocide in Gaza?" said Helen, who was arrested after being led out of the hearing. "The whole world sees it! You know the laws of war! You know you have blood on your hands! You have blood on your hands! We have blood on our hands."

The advocates chanted, "Shame on you!" as they were led out of the hearing room.

Outside the hearing room, Hajjaj emphasized that the Biden administration has "the power to stop" Israel's attacks on Gaza by cutting off its military aid—of which the U.S. is the largest international supplier. The Foreign Assistance Act stipulates that the U.S. cannot provide military funding to countries that block American humanitarian aid.

"They just want to continue to arm death and destruction," said Hajjaj.

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