Skip to main content

Palestinian-American student snubs Blinken at Georgetown graduation ceremony

Several graduate students held up posters of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, demanding a probe into her killing
Nooran Alhamdan and her classmates holding posters with the photo of Shireen Abu Akleh (Kannithi Traitonwong)

A Palestinian -American student protested at US support for Israel during her graduation ceremony by refusing to shake hands with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Nooran Alhamdan, a graduate of the Edmund A Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, walked into the ceremony on Saturday with some of her classmates holding posters that read: "Resistance until liberation and return. We honour martyr and journalist Shireen Abu Akleh."

Abu Akleh, a highly respected Al Jazeera Arabic journalist, was shot in the head by Israeli forces when she arrived at the occupied West Bank city of Jenin to cover an Israeli raid. Israel has said it was unclear who shot her and has stopped an investigation into her killing. 

Eyewitnesses, including MEE correspondent Shatha Hanaysha, said Abu Akleh was targeted by an Israeli sniper.

In a series of videos that have since gone viral, Alhamdan can be seen raising the Palestinian flag as she collects her certificate. She can then be seen conversing with Blinken and walking away without shaking his hand. 

"Myself & my classmates in Arab Studies honoured the legacy of Shireen Abu Aqleh during Antony Blinken's commencement address," Alhamdan wrote on Twitter.

"We demand an independent investigation & an end to American aid to Israel now. I relayed these demands to Blinken personally & refused to shake his hand."

According to other videos and photos from the ceremony, several other students also raised Palestine flags, while others had keffiyehs draped around their shoulders.

The keffiyeh is a chequered black and white scarf that is widely considered a symbol of Palestinian resistance and is often worn today as a sign of solidarity.

At the end of the graduation ceremony, Blinken reportedly approached Alhamdan and told her: "I hear you," she wrote on her Twitter. 

"Neither myself or my peers have claimed that our action has done anything more than protest Blinken and the policies he upholds, and raise awareness for Shireen/Palestine. Comments claiming that we’re acting like we’ve done more than that are in bad faith," she wrote. 

"Our collective silent protest and my own personal decision to not shake Blinken’s hand were both the bare minimum in terms of activism and basic principled morality."

Several US lawmakers have condemned Abu Akleh's killing, with dozens of lawmakers demanding the FBI and State Department investigate the killing after Israel's military said it would not investigate the case.

As of Friday, the letter had obtained a total of 57 signatories, according to a tally shared with MEE by Congressmen Andre Carson's office, ranging from progressive Democrats to more moderate, and even pro-Israel, lawmakers in the party.