Blinken calls US campus protests a hallmark of democracy, but decries ‘silence’ on Hamas

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a press conference at the US Embassy in Beijing, China, April 26, 2024. (AP Photo/Tatan Syuflana)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a press conference at the US Embassy in Beijing, China, April 26, 2024. (AP Photo/Tatan Syuflana)

BEIJING — US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Friday that pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel protests at US universities are a hallmark of American democracy, but criticized what he called the “silence” about Palestinian terror group Hamas.

Police have clashed with students in protests over the war in Gaza and the Biden administration’s support for Israel, with nearly 550 arrests made in the last week across major universities.

Asked at a press conference in China whether he was taking on board the protesters’ message, Blinken said he understood the conflict elicited “strong, passionate feelings.”

“In our own country, it’s a hallmark of our democracy that our citizens make known their views, their concerns, their anger, at any given time, and I think that reflects the strength of the country, the strength of democracy,” Blinken said.

But he suggested critics should focus their ire on Hamas, which sparked the war with its October 7 attack on southern Israel in which about 1,200 people were killed and some 250 taken hostage.

Israel’s military response has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians and injured more than 77,000, according to Hamas health ministry figures. The number is unverifiable and includes combatants and civilians. Israel says it has killed over 13,000 gunmen.

“It is also notable that there is silence about Hamas, as if it wasn’t even part of the story,” Blinken said.

“But as I’ve also said repeatedly, the way Israel goes about ensuring that October 7 never happens again matters profoundly,” said Blinken. “And we’re working every day to try to minimize the damage that’s done to innocent people and to make sure that they have the assistance and support that they need.”

Blinken, who met Chinese President Xi Jinping and other officials in Beijing on Friday, said he had discussed how China can play a constructive role in global crises, including in the Middle East, where he said Beijing can discourage Iran and its proxies not to escalate the conflict.

Blinken said he spoke to Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi multiple times this month when tensions spiked between Israel and Tehran. China is the main buyer of oil exported by sanctions-hit Iran.

“I think the relationships, again, that China has can be positive in trying to calm tensions, prevent escalation, avoid the spread of the conflict, and we agreed that we’d remain in regular touch on this, and that’s certainly my intention,” Blinken said.

Most Popular