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“Bigoted,” “outrageous,” and “disgusting” were just a handful of the many adjectives critics used to denounce Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s (D-N.Y.) speech this week before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which attributed ongoing Middle East conflict not to Israel’s decades of brutal U.S.-backed occupation of Palestinian territories, but to Palestinians’ failure to “believe in the Torah.”
“The fact of the matter is that too many Palestinians and too many Arabs do not want any Jewish state in the Middle East,” Schumer told the audience gathered for AIPAC’s annual conference in Washington, D.C. “Of course, we say it’s our land, the Torah says it, but they don’t believe in the Torah. So that’s the reason there is not peace. They invent other reasons, but they do not believe in a Jewish state and that is why we, in America, must stand strong with Israel through thick and thin.”
That a prominent Democrat would give a speech heaping praise on Israel while either erasing or attempting to justify the suffering of the Palestinian people is hardly surprising—then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton gave such a speech just two years ago—but the explicit religious bent of Schumer’s remarks were characterized by critics as particularly worthy of condemnation.
Schumer was not the only Democrat who joined Vice President Mike Pence, Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in speaking before AIPAC this week.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) also spoke before the conference this week.
But as Philip Weiss of Mondoweiss noted in an article on Tuesday, “Not one of the big Democrats addressing the conference could bring themselves to speak about the occupation or discrimination against Palestinians, issues that are souring young progressives on Israel.”