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‘Part of My Core’: How Schumer Decided to Speak Out Against Netanyahu

In the library of James Madison High School in Brooklyn on Sunday afternoon, Senator Chuck Schumer took stock of the splash he made a few days before. In a speech on the Senate floor, he had branded Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel a major impediment to peace in the Middle East and called for elections to replace him when the war winds down.

It was here, he recalled, inside this hulking red brick school deep in south Brooklyn, where at 16 he was glued to his transistor radio to hear breaking news of the Arab-Israeli War of 1967. It was where he idolized Sandy Koufax, the Jewish pitcher for the Brooklyn Dodgers who refused to play on Yom Kippur, and learned that it was cool to be proud of his heritage.

And on Sunday, Mr. Schumer, the New York Democrat, majority leader and highest-ranking Jewish official in the United States, returned to explain how his upbringing in Jewish Brooklyn in the shadow of the Holocaust prompted him to deliver a politically risky speech that brought about a watershed moment in the politics of U.S.-Israeli relations.

“This is so part of my core, my soul, my neshama,” Mr. Schumer said in an interview, using the Hebrew word for soul. “I said to myself, ‘This may hurt me politically; this may help me politically.’ I couldn’t look myself in the mirror if I didn’t do it.”

His main purpose, he said, “was to say you can still love Israel and feel strongly about Israel and totally disagree with Bibi Netanyahu and the policies of Israel.”

The blowback from Republicans has been swift and vicious. Mr. Schumer’s speech was still reverberating Monday night, when former President Donald J. Trump cited it in an interview, saying that “any Jewish person that votes for Democrats hates their religion. They hate everything about Israel, and they should be ashamed of themselves, because Israel will be destroyed.”

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