Seven Jewish activists were arrested on Monday after dozens of protesters barricaded the entrance to Democratic Senate Leader Chuck Schumer’s Manhattan office, demanding that Schumer condemn Israel’s ongoing killing of Palestinians in Gaza.
“Senator Schumer claims to be a progressive champion and leader in the American Jewish community, so his silence in the face of Israel’s use of deadly force against Palestinian protesters is deafening,” Becca Kahn-Bloch, one of the protesters arrested, explained in a statement put out by IfNotNow, the progressive Jewish activist group behind Monday’s action.
As American Jews and as constituents, we demand that Senator Schumer live up to both progressive and Jewish values and do the bare minimum that we could expect from any moral leader: condemn the use of live fire against protesters.
According to IfNotNow, the barricade began after activists asked the senator’s office to release a statement condemning Israel’s use of live fire during the protests, which have left more than 30 dead and thousands wounded over the past week. When Schumer’s staff refused, the protesters blockaded the entrance to his building and recited the Jewish Mourner’s Kaddish prayer for the dead to commemorate those killed by Israeli soldiers. Schumer himself, the group noted, is currently in Washington D.C.
Schumer’s lack of action is not surprising given his views. Last month, he spoke at the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference, where he offered his support for Israel using blatantly ethno-religious framing:
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.
To date, Schumer has not replied to a request for comment from Splinter over the Gaza violence. Neither has any other U.S. senator spoken out against the violence, except for Vermont’s senators, Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders.
I contacted Schumer’s office to see if he was now willing to make some statement on the issue or respond to the protests, and will update if I hear back.