Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer warned against rising antisemitism on the political left in the wake of Hamas’ Oct. 7 attacks, in a 40-minute speech on the Senate floor last Wednesday.
“Not long ago, many of us marched together for black and brown lives. We stood against anti-Asian hatred. We protested bigotry against the LGBTQ community. We fought for reproductive justice out of the recognition that injustice against one oppressed group is injustice against all,” Schumer said. “Apparently, in the eyes of some, that principle does not extend to the Jewish people.”
Schumer said that the American Jewish community has felt increasingly alone. He implicitly criticized Black Lives Matter and other left-wing advocacy groups that have taken extreme anti-Israel positions, often justifying or even celebrating Hamas terrorism.
“Many of the people who have expressed these sentiments in America aren’t neo-Nazis or card-carrying Klan members or Islamist extremists,” the senator from Brooklyn said. “They are in many cases people that most liberal Jewish Americans felt previously were their ideological fellow travelers.”
Young Americans, in particular, are being exploited for antisemitic purposes, and “our friends and allies” on the left have “brushed aside” concerns about antisemitism, he added.
Schumer cited the use of the slogan “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” as a “racist dog whistle” that is unacceptable even if the speaker doesn’t have antisemitic intent.
Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) is one of several progressives who have defended the slogan despite its use by Hamas as a call to eradicate Israel. Tlaib has described it as “an aspirational call for freedom, human rights and peaceful coexistence.”
In a bipartisan vote, the House of Representatives censured Tlaib earlier in November, in part for her use of the slogan in a video she posted on social media.
Schumer also listed specific incidents that he described as antisemitic. Those included a student rampage through a Queens high school in pursuit of a Jewish, pro-Israel teacher, who was forced to hide in an office, as well as a California rally in which protesters shouted “Hitler should’ve smashed you” at a Jewish counter-demonstrator. The latter, Paul Kessler, was attacked and killed by one of the pro-Palestinian marchers.
Since Oct. 7, the Anti-Defamation League has registered a 388% surge in antisemitic incidents nationwide.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell thanked Schumer for speaking out.
“I share his disgust with the alarming rise of antisemitism in America and around the world,” McConnell said. “I stand with him in condemning this hatred, and I stand with our ally Israel.”