Schumer rails against 'ancient poison' of anti-Semitism in AIPAC remarks

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer lamented what he called the "ancient poison" of anti-Semitism Monday evening during a speech at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's (AIPAC) annual conference in Washington, in which he criticized both President Trump and a fellow Democrat, freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar, without mentioning either one by name.

"When someone says that being Jewish and supporting Israel means you’re not loyal to America, we must call it out. When someone looks at a neo-Nazi rally and sees some 'very fine people' among its company, we must call it out," Schumer, D-N.Y., said, referencing Trump's statements after the deadly violence at an August 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va.

"When someone suggests that money drives support for Israel, we must call it out," the 68-year-old New Yorker said, later adding: "You can be a Jew and care about Israel and it doesn’t make you any less of an American. You can be a Jew and lobby for Israel and it doesn’t make you any less of an American. It makes you a better American ... You can be, all at once, completely Jewish, completely pro-Israel, and completely American, and we are."

Those remarks referenced statements made by Omar earlier this year, when the congresswoman from Minnesota accused pro-Israel politicians of leading a "push for allegiance to a foreign country." That inflammatory statement came just a few weeks after she implied on Twitter that supporters of the Jewish state were "all about the Benjamins, baby."

Schumer also fired back at Trump's recent criticism in which the president claimed that the Democrats had become an "anti-Jewish" party, saying the claim was "demonstrably false" and "hurts the Israel-U.S. relationship."

"Plain and simple, the Democratic party supports Israel and we will continue to do so and we will maintain that bipartisan relationship through thick and thin. Israel depends on it," said Schumer, who also added that "it will always be wrong to use anti-Semitism as a political weapon, always."

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"If you only care about anti-Semitism coming from your political opponents, you are not fully committed to fighting anti-Semitism," he said.

Schumer was the final speaker of the convention's second day, taking the stage hours after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo -- who was on hand as Trump signed a proclamation earlier in the day recognizing Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights 52 years after Israel seized the strategic highlands along the Syrian border during the Six-Day War.

In his remarks, Pompeo described anti-Semitism as "the world's oldest bigotry ... taking on an insidious new form in the guise of 'anti-Zionism.'"

"Don’t get me wrong, criticizing Israel’s policies is an acceptable thing to do in a democracy," the secretary of state said, "but criticizing the very existence of Israel is not acceptable. Anti-Zionism denies the very legitimacy of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people ... Let me go on record: Anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism."

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Earlier Monday, Vice President Mike Pence addressed the most recent outbreak of violence in the Middle East, in which the Israeli military struck Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip in response to rocket attacks by the militant group, which Pence said "proves that Hamas is not a partner for peace."

"Hamas is a terrorist organization that seeks the destruction of Israel, and the United States will never negotiate with terrorist Hamas," said the vice president, who also criticized four Democrats running to unseat Trump in 2020 for skipping the event.

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"Anyone who aspires to the highest office in the land should not be afraid to stand with the strongest supporters of Israel in America," Pence said. "It is wrong to boycott Israel and it is wrong to boycott AIPAC."

The vice president also criticized Omar without naming her, saying: "Anti-Semitism has no place in the Congress of the United States, and any member who slanders those who support the historic alliance between the United States and Israel with such rhetoric should not have a seat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.