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Schumer: 'Demon of anti-Semitism' Has Returned with 'New Virulence'

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) speaks at the AIPAC Policy Conference on March 28, 2017, at the Washington Convention Center. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

WASHINGTON — Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) warned that the “age-old demon of anti-Semitism has come back with a new virulence,” particularly in Europe “where it seems to live in the soil as their original sin.”

Schumer told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual conference this morning that Israel and Jews across the world continue to “face the kinds of challenges” no other people have to face, and noted that anti-Israel sentiment and anti-Semitism have become more entwined.

“European Jews are now thinking twice before they wear a yarmulke in public,” he said, noting the rise of anti-Semitic rhetoric and incidents. “…What is happening in Europe is an outrage and it ought to be condemned.”

Though anti-Semitism “has always simmered” in Europe, he said, it’s “shocking” to see anti-Semitism in the United States “reemerging with a strength we haven’t seen in decades.”

Schumer cited graffiti left on synagogues, vandalism with swastikas and slurs, and “sacred ground desecrated” with the destruction of headstones at Jewish cemeteries, as well as a sharp increase in white supremacists openly recruiting on college campuses.

Fringes on both the far left and far right are “newly emboldened,” the senator stressed, and “we cannot stand for this.”

Schumer noted there are things the government can do, such as the FCC recently granting special emergency waivers to make it easier for law enforcement to access caller ID information when Jewish community centers receive threatening calls. Hours after an arrest in a recent spate of threats was made in Israel last week, a Dallas Jewish center was evacuated due to a phoned-in bomb threat.

Congress, he added, must also remain committed to funding security grant programs that assist vulnerable institutions.

He emphasized that anti-Semitism takes “many forms,” including in the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement targeting Israel. “Its supporters, whether they know it or not, are practicing a modern form of anti-Semitism,” he said. “…Ask these so-called social-justice crusaders, where are your boycotts against Iran?”

Schumer also slammed the United Nations as “an incubator for Israel-bashing,” emphasizing “friends of the Jewish state should not trust it” and that the Obama administration should have used its veto power against a December resolution condemning Israeli settlements instead of abstaining.

He also criticized “America First” isolationist movements that “borrow” from Charles Lindbergh, noting the United States “should not shirk from our responsibilities.”

“A strong America in the world is good for Israel,” he added.

AIPAC officially opposes proposed deep cuts in the State Department budget, and is flooding Capitol Hill with lobbyists today to advocate this and other policy priorities including reining in Iran’s intercontinental ballistic missile program and other activities.

“Americans across the political spectrum must stand united in our support for Israel,” Schumer said. “Our politics may be more polarized than ever these days, but we cannot allow that to weaken our bipartisan support.”

Speaking after Schumer, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told activists that the U.S. and Israel are bound by their tradition of welcoming immigrants and the fact that “both nations are more than soil and people” but built on ideals.

Pelosi said both countries “must be relentless in our fight against terrorists” while we “remember the goal of terrorists is to terrorize” and not let terrorists “destroy our nation’s character.”

“But our democracy is strong and God is always with us,” she added.

Pelosi jabbed at a “presidential campaign where hate speech went unchallenged” and noted that hate crimes continue to increase. “White supremacists and the alt-right feel emboldened and connected to the White House,” she said. “That is unacceptable.”