'I will be banned from entering Palestine': student who snubbed Blinken talks to Geo TV

Last month, a Palestinian-American student refused to shake hands with Blinken, to protest the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh

Hira Farooqui
Nooran Alhamdan and her peers walking into the ceremony while holding posters of slain journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. — Twitter/@nooranhamdan
Nooran Alhamdan and her peers walking into the ceremony while holding posters of slain journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. — Twitter/@nooranhamdan

On May 21, a Palestinian-American student refused to shake hands with the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, to protest the killing of 51-year-old Palestinian-American journalist, Shireen Abu Akleh.

During a graduation ceremony at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, around 15 graduates, of the Arab Studies program, donned the Palestinian keffiyeh and held up posters with images of the slain journalist during Blinken's commencement address.

"Our goal was to honour her legacy,” Nooran Alhamdan told Geo.tv, “We want to demand justice for her and all Palestinians.”

Shireen Abu Akleh, an Al Jazeera correspondent, was shot dead on May 11 while covering an Israeli raid on a Palestinian refugee camp in the city of Jenin, in the occupied West Bank.

According to the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate, a union of journalists in Jerusalem, Abu Akleh was the 86th reporter to be killed while covering the Israeli oppression since Israel first occupied the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem in 1967.

In the video, which has since gone viral, 24-year-old Alhamdan can be seen walking up to the podium on the day of her graduation, raising a Palestinian flag and then refusing to fist-bump Blinken as she received her certification.

“This was entirely unplanned,” the student said, “None of us knew he would be present for the entire ceremony. It was a split-second decision on my part to raise the Palestinian flag and refuse to shake his hand.”

Blinken reportedly approached Alhamdan at the end of the ceremony and said: “I see you. I hear you.” She reiterated her demand for an independent investigation into the murder of Abu Akleh. "We are committed to finding the truth,” he replied.

Earlier this week, a report by an independent commission of inquiry, set up by the United Nations Human Rights Council, warned that Israel is pursuing “complete control” over the Palestinian territory.

The report is expected to be taken up next week at the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council. Israel had boycotted the inquiry and has now called the report “a waste of money”.

Separately, rights groups, the Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, have also concluded that Israel is committing the crimes of apartheid and persecution against Arabs in the occupied territories.

Yet, in 2020 alone, the US provided $3.8 billion in military aid to Israel.

Alhamdan laments the double standards in the US administration towards Palestinian efforts to resist occupation and the war in Ukraine.

“We should be calling for sanctions on Israel as clearly the United States is capable of enforcing them on other states for their violations and behaviours,” she told Geo.tv.

Although the United States has called for an independent probe of Akleh’s killing, it insists that Israel should lead the investigation. The Palestinian authorities have rejected Israel's request to conduct a joint investigation.

For now, the Palestinian Authority and Al Jazeera have referred the case to the International Criminal Court.

As for Nooran Alhamdan, she has since May 21 been overwhelmed with messages. Some support her defiant act. And some are critical of the stand she took.

“Anyone who wants to help me should support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement and help all Palestinians demand their right to return to their homeland,” she explained, “I am unable to live in Palestine due to an Israeli law, and will likely be banned from entering Palestine after my clip has gone viral.”