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Chuck Schumer calls antisemitism a ‘crisis’ that has Jewish people living in ‘deep fear’

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(NEW YORK) — Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Wednesday warned about growing antisemitism in the U.S. and the “deep fear” he said Jewish people are experiencing.

Schumer, the highest-ranking Jewish official in America, called the rise in antisemitism following the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel a “crisis” in a more than 40-minute speech on the Senate floor. The United States has designated Hamas as a terrorist organization.

“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,” Schumer said. “To us, the Jewish people, the rise of antisemitism is a crisis — a five-alarm fire that must be extinguished. For so many other people of goodwill, it is merely a problem, a matter of concern.”

In the Gaza Strip, more than 15,000 people have been killed by Israeli forces since Oct. 7, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry/Government Media Office. In Israel, at least 1,200 people have been killed by Hamas and other Palestinian militants since Oct. 7, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

Schumer’s speech came on the same day an op-ed he wrote ran in The New York Times. In it, as the speech, Schumer pointedly criticized those he said who have used the conflict between Israel and Hamas as an opportunity to target Jewish people.

“The vitriol against Israel in the wake of Oct. 7 is all too often crossing a line into brazen and widespread antisemitism, the likes of which we haven’t seen for generations in this country — if ever,” he said.

He said many Jewish people are feeling alone with antisemitic rhetoric abounding.

“Can you understand why Jewish people feel isolated when we hear some praise Hamas and chant its vicious slogan? 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?”

He added that criticism of Israel “can sometimes cross‌‌ into something darker, into attacking Jewish people simply for being Jewish.”

Schumer said many Americans — especially those who are younger — “don’t have a full understanding” of the history of oppression against Jews.

Schumer said he, like most Jewish Americans, supports a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine — but said certain calls have gone too far.

“The reason why I invoke this history about the founding of the Israeli State is because forgetting or even deliberately ignoring this vital context is dangerous,” Schumer said. “Some of the most extreme rhetoric against Israel has emboldened antisemites who are attacking Jewish people simply because they are Jewish, independent of anything having to do with Israel.”

Schumer said he is troubled by pro-Palestinian protesters’ signs and chants that include “from the river to the sea” and “by any means necessary.”

“Obviously, many of those marching here in the U.S. do not have any evil intent, 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 said.

The House earlier this month voted to censure Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib, accusing her of calling for Israel’s destruction, her critics said it was, in part, because she repeated that Palestinian nationalist slogan, “from the river to the sea.”

The level of antisemitism experienced now leaves many Jewish people concerned about the future, Schumer said. Many Jewish people are “worried” about where these actions could lead, he said.

“All Jewish Americans carry in them the scar tissue of this generational trauma, and that directly informs how we are experiencing and processing the rhetoric of today,” Schumer said. “We see and hear things differently from others because we are deeply sensitive to the deprivation and horrors that can follow the targeting of Jewish people — if it is not repudiated.”

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