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O My America: Schumer’s Soul

August 10, 2015

by Lawrence Bush

MY WIFE was on the phone with Senator Chuck Schumer’s office on Friday when I came in through the door. She was urging the Senator to support the agreement with Iran, so I got on the phone to add my two cents — backed by my editorship of a Jewish magazine with 4,000 subscribers and 40,000 visitors to our website each month.

Why were they receiving so many more calls from Jews opposed to the agreement (10,000 calls, according to Politico), the woman in Schumer’s office wanted to know.

SenCharlesSchumer8115 copyBecause they’re backed by AIPAC’s millions and are better organized than the many, many Jews who support the agreement, I said, with my heart sinking. It’s a pretty classic situation, I told her: The conservative Jews are louder and better financed, but the liberal Jews outnumber them by 2-1. Supporting the deal, however, will have no bearing on Schumer’s future, I said; this is not a make-or-break vote for his career or his leadership ambitions. But tell me, I continued, what alternative is AIPAC offering to the agreement? What alternative is Israel under Netanyahu offering? All we hear are military threats (including Sheldon Adelman’s now-infamous suggestion that a nuclear bomb test be conducted by the United States in Iran’s desert).

After I hung up, I heard another voice saying: FUGGEDABOUDIT. Senator Schumer is 10th on the list of senators receiving “pro-Israel” campaign contributions, and Eliot Engel, the New York Democrat in the House who has also come out against the agreement, seems to be first on the House list. Schumer supported the 2003 Iraq war under George W. Bush: “I have searched my mind and my soul and cannot escape this conclusion,” he said. “Saddam Hussein left unfettered will at some point create such a danger to our lives that we cannot afford to leave him be.” In opposing the Iranian deal, he has also, he said, undergone “careful thought and considerable soul-searching.”

His soul, unfortunately, is lodged in Benjamin Netanyahu’s breast pocket. Schumer has not learned that “bipartisanship,” in this day and age of insane Republicanism (and a far rightwing Israeli government) basically means agreeing to go to war. And it won’t be Iran that starts it.

My other senator, Kirsten Gillibrand, has received even more AIPAC aid than Schumer, yet she is (so far) supporting the deal. I’ll be calling her office tomorrow to urge her to remain in support. I urge other Jews with Democratic senators to do the same.

Lawrence Bush edits Jewish Currents.