March 4, 2024

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer delivered an emotional speech Wednesday condemning the rise in antisemitism amid the Israel-Hamas war, marking his strongest condemnation of what the New York Democrat called a “double standard” for Jews.

Mr. Schumer, the highest-ranking Jewish elected official in U.S. history, said he felt “compelled to speak” during remarks on the Senate floor that lasted 45 minutes.

“I have noticed a significant disparity between how Jewish people regard the rise of antisemitism and how many of my non-Jewish friends regard it,” he said. “To us, the Jewish people, the rise of antisemitism is a crisis — a five-alarm fire that must be extinguished.”



The war between Hamas and Israel, a major U.S. ally, has created deep divisions within the Democratic Party as some accuse the Jewish state of violating international law with high civilian casualties from its bombardment of the Gaza Strip.

Some Democrats now say conditions should be placed on any U.S. aid to Israel to minimize the death toll of innocent civilians. President Biden called it “a worthwhile thought” last week but added to reporters that his “deep, personal and private engagement … has led to a substantial and increasing amount of humanitarian assistance going into Gaza.”

Mr. Schumer accused U.S. allies of having “brushed aside” Jews’ fears and accused pro-Palestinian voices in America of trafficking antisemitism.

He said he believes “bigotry against one group of Americans is bigotry against all” and repeatedly invoked historical references, such as Hitler’s execution of millions of Jews during the Holocaust.

Mr. Schumer said the pro-Palestinian phrase “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” may be used by some without antisemitic sentiment but that it’s used by Hamas terrorists with the intention of eliminating Jews “from every corner of the Earth.”

“Given the history of oppression, expulsion and state violence that is practically embedded in Jewish DNA, can you blame Jewish people for hearing a violently antisemitic message, loud and clear, any time we hear that chant?” Mr. Schumer said.

“Antisemites are taking advantage of the pro-Palestinian movement to espouse hatred and bigotry toward Jewish people,” he continued. “But rather than call out this dangerous behavior for what it is, we see so many of our friends and fellow citizens, particularly young people who yearn for justice, unknowingly aiding and abetting their cause.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, praised his Democratic counterpart for his address.

“It was extraordinary,” Mr. McConnell said moments later in floor remarks of his own. “I share his disgust at the alarming rise of antisemitism in America and around the world in the wake of the Oct. 7 attacks.”

The war between Hamas and Israel, a major U.S. ally, has created deep divisions within the Democratic Party as some accuse the Jewish state of violating international law with high civilian casualties from its bombardment of the Gaza Strip.

Rep. Rashida Tlaib, Michigan Democrat, who is a member of the far-left Squad and the only Palestinian American in Congress, has been condemned by the House for antisemitic remarks and has used the phrase “from the river to the sea.”

Mr. Schumer said he sympathizes with the humanitarian crisis in Gaza as he advocates for Congress to appropriate assistance in part of a broader foreign aid package that includes $14.3 billion for Israel.

He said that although Hamas “has knowingly invited an immense civilian toll during this war” by using civilians and hospitals as human shields, “that does not relieve Israel of the responsibility to protect innocent Palestinian lives.”

“I have been among the first to tell Israeli leaders they must act according to international law,” Mr. Schumer said.

The Israeli Defense Forces in recent weeks have shown lawmakers, U.S. officials and American news outlets harrowing footage not made available to the public from Hamas‘ Oct. 7 attack. It’s been described as stomach-churning video.

Senators, including Mr. Schumer, were given access to the footage Tuesday when they met with IDF officials.

“Can you blame us for feeling vulnerable only 80 years after Hitler wiped out half of the Jewish population across the world while many countries turned their back? Can you appreciate the deep fear we have about what Hamas might do if left to their own devices?” Mr. Schumer said. “Because the long arc of Jewish history teaches us a lesson that is hard to forget: ultimately, that we are alone.”