WASHINGTON — Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he’s never regretted — not “a single day” — voting against the Iran nuclear deal and ripped Mideast peace efforts that didn’t recognize the Palestinians’ true aims.
The senator likely to replace retiring Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) as the leader of Democrats in the upper chamber even called for an education campaign that teaches Americans about the anti-Semitism and violent rhetoric contained in Palestinian children’s textbooks.
In his speech Sunday at the Israeli American Council National Conference in D.C., Schumer spoke forcefully against allowing the United Nations to “ever” impose terms for a Mideast peace agreement.
The senator mocked Iranian President Hassan Rouhani for claiming at the UN General Assembly that “Zionist pressure groups” were behind anti-Iran sentiment and legal action.
Schumer gave exaggerated air quotes to emphasize the “Zionist pressure groups,” adding, “I think he’s talking about us.”
To Rouhani, Schumer replied: “Look no further than your own borders. You’ve earned the condemnation of the United States and the world when you have the human rights record that Iran has… when you harass the U.S. Navy, when you export weapons to Hezbollah to rain down on civilians, when you conduct ballistic missile tests and write ‘Israel must be wiped out’ on side of the missile.”
“You earn the condemnation of every decent human being when there are homosexuals hanging from cranes in your cities. Oh, no: ‘Zionist pressure groups’ are not responsible for anti-Iran sentiments in the U.S., or rulings against Iran from independent judiciaries.”
Schumer received a standing ovation for reiterating his opposition to the Iran nuclear deal and stressing, “I have not regretted that vote a single day since.”
“Many of us who opposed the agreement did so because we did not believe that Iran would moderate, and from all early indications the Iranian regime is not moderating — not if it continues its nefarious behavior in the region,” the senator added.
He said Congress should renew Iran sanctions “immediately” to keep the regime’s feet held to the fire. “Keep the sanctions act in place. Strengthen it!” he declared.
Schumer called the global boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel a threat to the Jewish state’s existence on par with the threat posed by Iran.
The senator recalled his college days fighting a “radical, militant, left-wing” Students for a Democratic Society (SDS)/Progressive Labor Party (PLP) anti-Israel alliance. Inviting the Israeli UN ambassador to come to Harvard to confront the SDS/PLP as anti-Semites, Schumer said, was one of his first political actions.
“Those who call for boycotts of Israel… are practicing, whether they know it or not, a modern form of anti-Semitism,” Schumer told the IAC crowd, stressing the BDS proponents’ goal “has nothing to do with this settlement or that settlement,” but “the elimination of the state of Israel.”
“We need to make that argument loudly and strongly and go against the BDS movement and call it for what it is — an anti-Semitic, not just an anti-Israel, movement,” he said.
He called for anti-BDS legislation in all states, like bills passed in New York and California.
While bad enough in the United States, Schumer emphasized that the BDS movement abroad is more virulent. “Europe has shown how anti-Israel and anti-Semitic the BDS movement really is,” he said. “Far-right parties are experiencing rebirth, and far-left parties like the Labour Party under Corbyn are increasingly anti-Israel. Terrorism and violence against Jews is on the rise, from vandalizing synagogues to the horrible attack on a Jewish grocery in Paris.”
“It is no wonder that last year France, home to the largest Jewish population in Europe, set a record for migration of their Jewish population to Israel. Unfortunately, anti-Semitism seems to be in far too many European homes.”
Schumer underscored that “when we look at foreign policy, we must remember one thing, as I have: the Jewish people can never put the fate of Israel in the hands of Europe in any way.”
On Mideast negotiations, Schumer said Palestinians must recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.
He panned the suggestion that Israeli settlements stand in the way of a peace deal, reminding all what happened after Israeli forces evicted settlers from Gaza.
“What was the response of the Palestinian people? Rockets in Sderot three weeks later. Oh, no. It’s not the settlements that’s the reason there’s no peace.”
The Obama administration has consistently insisted that Israeli settlements in the West Bank are an impediment to the peace process.
Schumer said the reason the peace process is not advancing has nothing to do with the 1967 borders, either. “Too many Palestinians, too many Arabs, believe there should never, ever be a Jewish state. Plain and simple. And we have to educate the world to that fact,” he said.
Schumer said more Americans need to be educated on what the Palestinians’ aims are, particularly showing the textbooks that all Palestinian children use. “The magnitude of bias, the hate that’s taught in those books towards Israel and to Jews is incredible and vicious. We have to show them what they’re up to. I hope that we start publicizing what’s in these textbooks. I hope there are ads in all the leading newspapers that simply take a page from these books and show the American people, particularly the younger people, what the Palestinians are really up to — because they have to be educated as well.”
He acknowledged that negotiations will continue, but Israel must not be pressured to accept an “illusory peace.”
Schumer told Palestinians that they need to accept Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s offer to sit down and negotiate. “War didn’t give you a state. Terrorism didn’t give you a state. The United Nations won’t give you a state. Boycotting Israel will not give you a state.”