Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) said Wednesday that liberals are unwittingly pushing anti-Semitism in the wake of Hamas's Oct. 7 attacks.
"Anti-Semites are taking advantage of the pro-Palestinian movement to espouse hatred and bigotry towards Jewish people," Schumer said in a speech on the Senate floor. "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."
Schumer, the highest-ranking Jewish elected official in American history, referenced in the speech Americans who excused or celebrated Hamas's Oct. 7 terror attacks on Israel.
"Many of the people who expressed these sentiments in America aren't neo-Nazis or card-carrying Klan members or Islamist extremists," Schumer said. "They are, in many cases, people that most liberal Jewish Americans felt previously were their ideological fellow travelers. 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."
It was apparent that, "in the eyes of some, this principle does not extend to the Jewish people," he said.
In an interview with the New York Times after the speech, Schumer, calling himself a progressive, said that he "had lots of good relationships with all the people who are protesting" but recognized that "the Jewish people are anguished."
"I had to say it, because I don’t think they know it. I don’t think they’re of bad will," he said of the liberals he was admonishing, according to the Times.
Schumer in his speech derided the use of the phrase "From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free," which many pro-Palestinian marchers have chanted.
"Obviously, many of those marching here in the U.S. do not have any evil intent," Schumer said, "but when Jewish people hear chants like, 'From the river to the sea,' a founding slogan of Hamas, a terrorist group that is not shy about their goal to eradicate the Jewish people in Israel and around the globe, we are alarmed."
He added later that he believed there are many who use the slogan "not because they hate Jewish people but because they support a better future for Palestinians. But there is no question that Hamas and other terrorist organizations have used this slogan to represent their intention to eliminate Jewish people not only from Israel but 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 the Jewish people for hearing a violently anti-Semitic message loud and clear any time we hear that chant?"
Democrats have been divided over the war between Israel and Hamas. In the days following the Oct. 7 attacks, members of the progressive "Squad" criticized American aid to the Jewish state, with Rep. Cori Bush (D., Mo.) calling for a ceasefire. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre called those statements "repugnant." Earlier this month, 22 Democrats joined with nearly all House Republicans to censure Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D., Mich.) over her use of the phrase "From the river to the sea."