Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., speaks during a press conference after weekly caucus luncheons at the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday. He spoke on the Senate Floor Wednesday about antisemitism. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo
Nov. 29 (UPI) -- Calling anti-Semitism a "five-alarm fire that must be extinguished," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said on Wednesday that many Jews around the world have felt under attack since the Oct. 7 fighting between Israel and Hamas started.
Schumer, the country's highest-ranking elected Jewish official, said his speech on the Senate floor was not to say all criticism of Israel was anti-Semitic or to justify the staggering deaths among Palestinians in Gaza, but to highlight anti-Semitism and suggest ways to fight it.
Putting Israel and the Middle East in a historical context, Schumer targeted those who long have used misinformation to take advantage of a historical ignorance to sow seeds of division and hatred for Jews.
Quoting statistics from the FBI that indicate that Jews long have been targeted by hate, Schumer said that, while Jews make up 2% of the population, they experience 55% of all religious-based crimes.
"Many of the people who express these sentiments in America are not neo-Nazis or card-carrying Klan members or Islamic extremists," Schumer said. "They are in many cases people that liberal Jewish Americans felt previously were their ideological fellow travelers. Not too long ago, many of us marched together for Black and brown lives. We stood together against anti-Asian hatred.
"We protested bigotry against the LGBTQ community. We fought for reproductive justice. Apparently, Mr. President, in the eyes of some, this principle does not extend to the Jewish people."
Schumer addressed the centuries of oppression faced by the Jewish people, as well as their displacement in the Middle East that dates back to biblical times. He said the omission of that displacement in our general historical understanding has allowed foes of the nation to mischaracterize it as one of colonizers and oppressors.
"Too many Americans, especially in our younger generation, don't have a full understanding of this history," Schumer said. "Because some Jewish Americans have done well in America and Israel has increased in power and territory, they feel the Jewish Americans are not vulnerable, that we have the strength and security to overcome prejudice and bigotry."
He said that, for generations, some have "weaponized" untrue anti-Semitic tropes to use the success of some Jewish people against the entire Jewish population.
Schumer said what makes the United States unique is that Jews have been able to practice their faith alongside others in relative peace and its "something we should never stop fighting for."
"All Americans share a responsibility and an obligation to fight back whenever we see a rise in prejudice of any type in our midst," Schumer said.
Schumer called on Americans to learn the history of the Jewish people, reject anti-Semitic "double standards" against Jews and the Israel government, and understand why many Jews defend Israel as a country and its right to exist.