WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., warned in a major address on Wednesday about repercussions if Americans don’t condemn antisemitism, which has increased since Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack on Israel.
Schumer, the highest-ranking Jewish elected official ever in U.S. history, laid out in a 45-minute speech how Jews have felt isolated in the last month, called out recent examples of antisemitism in the U.S. and spoke about how trauma Jews have experienced for millennia is affecting how they feel today.
“No matter what our beliefs are, no matter where we stand on the war in Gaza, all of us must condemn antisemitism with full-throated clarity whenever we see it before it metastasizes into something even worse. Because right now, that’s what Jewish Americans fear most,” Schumer said in remarks on the Senate floor.
Since Oct. 7, Jewish Americans are “feeling singled out, targeted, and isolated. In many ways, we feel… alone,” Schumer said. The solidarity that they initially received from fellow Americans for the brutal attack was “quickly drowned out by other voices,” he said.
“While the dead bodies of Jewish Israelis were still warm, while hundreds of Jewish Israelis were being carried as hostages back to Hamas tunnels under Gaza, Jewish Americans were alarmed to see some of our fellow citizens characterize a brutal terrorist attack as justified because of the actions of the Israeli government,” Schumer said.
Schumer argued that many Jews in recent years have rallied in support of Black and brown lives, for LGBTQ rights and against anti-Asian hatred “out of the recognition that injustice against one oppressed group is injustice against all.” He added, “But apparently, in the eyes of some, this principle does not extend to the Jewish people.”
The majority leader noted that while many protesting Israeli policy have noted 700,000 Palestinians were displaced from their homes in 1948, he said they never mention 600,000 Mizrahi Jews across the Arab world who were also displaced and expelled from their communities.
Schumer listed numerous instances of Jews experiencing oppression over thousands of years, saying that “they have been humiliated, ostracized, expelled, enslaved, and massacred for millennia.”
“For Jewish people all across the world, the history of our trauma going back many generations is central to any discussion about our future,” he said.
The New York Democrat spoke about his family’s personal history and about the antisemitism in Europe that preceded the Holocaust. He said that when Nazis first marched in the streets, scapegoating Jews for Germany’s problems, “many Germans of goodwill either stayed silent, or marched alongside them, not necessarily realizing what they were aiding and abetting.”
“And so, many of those Germans of goodwill, who marched in the early years of Hitler’s ascension, stayed on the sidelines after [Hitler’s] horrifying intent was made clear,” Schumer said. “The end result, as we all know, was the most targeted and systematic genocide in human history. Six million Jewish people were exterminated in a few years while others turned a blind eye.”
Schumer said that extreme rhetoric that has spread since Oct. 7 “gives license to darker ideas that have always lurked below the surface of every question involving the Jewish people.”
Schumer said that a double standard regarding Jews persists today, which has left them feeling alone. He said, for example, that on Oct. 7, Hamas “knowingly invited an immense civilian toll during this war” and as a result, he questioned why criticism for civilian deaths falls “exclusively on Israel” when Hamas terrorists actively hide behind innocent Palestinians in Gaza.
Health officials in Gaza have said the death toll has surpassed 14,500 after weeks of Israeli attacks. The Israel Defense Forces estimated that around 1,200 people were killed in the Oct. 7 attack, with hundreds more taken hostage.
Within the antisemitic instances that have occurred since Oct. 7 that Schumer listed, he told the story of how students “ran rampant in the hallways and demanded the firing of a teacher” at Hillcrest High School in Queens because she attended a rally supporting Israel. It forced her to hide in a locked office for hours as staff tried to regain control.
“That is antisemitism!” said Schumer, who noted that the teacher, who wants to remain anonymous, was seated in the Senate gallery on Wednesday watching his floor speech.
Schumer concluded his speech with a plea to the American people of all creeds and backgrounds: Learn the history of the Jewish people, reject the antisemitic double standard being applied to Jewish victims and hostages and understand why Jews defend Israel.
It’s “not because we wish harm on Palestinians, but because we fear a world where Israel is forced to tolerate the existence of groups like Hamas that want to wipe out all Jewish people from the planet,” he said.
“I implore every person and every community and every institution to stand with Jewish Americans and denounce antisemitism in all of its forms, especially the double standard that has been wielded against the Jewish people for generations to isolate us,” Schumer said.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., praised Schumer’s remarks on the Senate floor. “It was extraordinary. I want to compliment him for providing a history lesson for Americans about the history of the Jewish people and to put it in context,” he said.
“I share his disgust with the alarming rise of antisemitism in America and around the world,” he said. “I stand with him in condemning this hatred and I stand with our ally Israel.”