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Schumer, speaking to Jewish Democrats, accuses Republicans of politicizing Israel

Even as Schumer painted GOP-led efforts as partisan, some leading Jewish organizations have embraced Republican-led bills

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Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) speaks after the Senate passed a foreign aid bill at the U.S. Capitol on April 23, 2024, in Washington, D.C.

Speaking to a gathering of the Jewish Democratic Coalition of America on Monday night, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Rep. Kathy Manning (D-NC) accused Republicans of politicizing Israel and antisemitism.

Schumer emphasized the need for bipartisanship on Israel, attacking Republicans who he said, “seem to care more about attacking Democrats on Israel than they actually care about keeping U.S.-Israeli relations strong.”

House Republicans have passed a slew of bills and resolutions related to Middle East policy and antisemitism since Oct. 7, many of which the Senate has not taken up. They’ve received varying levels of Democratic support in the House, often splitting the caucus.

Schumer claimed that the GOP legislation “doesn’t make meaningful progress, doesn’t ensure that Israel has the tools it needs to defend itself, but [is] just to make a political point.”

He said he had told Jewish communal groups in a private meeting that “they and we have an obligation to fight partisanship when it comes to Israel. We can’t have half of America desert Israel, whether it’s the younger half or the more progressive half, or whatever. That hurts Israel.”

Even as Schumer painted the legislation as partisan, some leading Jewish organizations have embraced the GOP-led bills.

Manning, who sits on the House Education and Workforce Committee that has grilled university presidents on campus antisemitism, said she’s “glad that our committee is highlighting those problems. However, my Republican colleagues care only about grabbing the news headlines, and they have no real interest in actually solving this frightening and growing problem.”

She compared the committee’s proceedings to a reality show, with “contestants from a variety of universities trying to hold onto their jobs, while defending themselves against the most unlikely gladiators against antisemitism, ‘Mean Girls’ [Reps.] Virginia Foxx and Elise Stefanik.”

And Manning likewise accused Republicans of “trying to use Israel as a wedge issue to divide Democrats and to campaign on,” blasting Republicans for describing some frontline Democrats as “pro-Hamas.”

Schumer also made the case for why Jews should stick with the Democratic Party, amid intensified GOP efforts to attract Jewish voters concerned about the administration’s shifting posture on Israel.

“What the other side doesn’t understand is that Jewish voters are not a monolith,” he said, highlighting issues like abortion rights and democracy. “The values we hold as Jewish Americans are intimately tied to the values we all hold. Jewish Americans care deeply about supporting Israel and giving her resources to defend herself. I do, you do. But Jewish Americans believe in other things as well.”

He touted that under his and President Joe Biden’s leadership, the Senate had passed $14 billion in additional aid to Israel without any conditions.

Manning sought to assuage concerns of any Democrats who “doubt the President’s dedication to Israel,” and warned that Democratic election losses would fuel further partisanship on Israel and weaken U.S. alliances globally.

Schumer added that he was “deeply troubled and angered” by the International Criminal Court’s “reprehensible” decision to pursue arrest warrants against Israeli officials, which he said comes after “a long history of harboring deep bias against Israel.”

Manning said that “most of our university presidents, sadly, have failed miserably in their obligation to keep Jewish students safe,” having failed to enforce their rules and in some cases “totally capitulated to outrageous demands by the protesters.” She said they have shown they “have no real understanding of what antisemitism is, or why it should matter to them.”

She warned that universities that divest from Israel will be forced to explain “a precipitous drop” in their investment returns.

Manning also called on Congress to pass her bipartisan Countering Antisemitism Act, which Democrats have framed as a more substantive counter-proposal to GOP legislation; she said she’s “determined to make this my legacy before they drag me out of my office in December.”

American hostage Hersh Goldberg-Polin’s parents also made an unplanned address to the JDCA group.

Jon Polin, Goldberg-Polin’s father, said he was worried that most Americans aren’t aware of or talking about the horrors of Oct. 7, including the murders of U.S. citizens and the fact that Americans are still being held in Gaza.

“It’s very important that you guys in this room make sure that they start to talk about it, and to personalize it,” Polin said. “People need to know those names, eight Americans among the 128 hostages, and we all need to be fighting every day, all day, to bring them home.”

Rachel Goldberg-Polin, Hersh’s mother, said that the hostages “are going to get home because of you. And I don’t know who in this room is going to be that stone that gets unturned, but I know that you’re in here and so I already want to tell you, thank you.”

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