Did I Make Cory Booker ‘Too Jewish’?
by Shmuley Boteach
Recently, Jeffrey Goldberg, a journalist I know and respect, repeated, in the New York Post, Peter Beinart’s attack against me from a few weeks ago, that in bringing Mayor Cory Booker to the Jewish community, beginning twenty years ago in Oxford I made him too pro-Israel. This most recent attack was in both Bloomberg and Newsday and actually complained that Cory, a non-Jewish lover of the Jewish people, was too Jewish to be in the United States Senate.
Journalists have a responsibility to report fairly and communicate truth to their audience. Neither Peter Beinart nor Jeffery Goldberg even picked up a phone to ask me about my position on the Arab-Israeli conflict nor on Palestinian statehood. Beinart claims to have tried to contact me on an email address I have never used when he could easily have written to me through my website or contacted me through any number of his Daily Beast colleagues with whom I am friendly. I have authored an untold number of columns discussing all topics related to Israel – its security, the Middle East peace process, the plight of Palestinians and Israelis, and much more – any one of which could have been consulted for an accurate portrayal of my positions on Israel. Beinart’s editorial connected me with Chabad’s “deeply primitive” theology. I am proudly Chabad and it was the Lubavitcher Rebbe who sent me to Oxford to look after students like Beinart, who came to us many times for Shabbat at Oxford, and more open-minded students like Cory, who became as close as a brother.
Beinart’s attacks on Chabad are mystifying and unfortunate, given that Chabad is universally famous for the unconditional love it shows all humanity. Indeed, Chabad has emerged at the forefront of disaster relief in places like Haiti, which I visited shortly after its catastrophic 2010 earthquake, New Orleans, and most recently Oklahoma.
My own issues with a Palestinian state, in the way it would currently be incarnated, has to do with how Hamas has taken over Gaza, subjecting the innocent Palestinian people to its brutal and terrifying regime. Hamas, as I said in my most recent response to Beinart, is a genocidal organization, whose covenant calls for the annihilation of the Jewish people wherever they may be found. It is profoundly racist, hates and murders gays, is deeply misogynistic, murdering young Arab women for simply having boyfriends, and terrorizes Palestinians who resist its rule. Hamas represents a danger to Jew and Palestinian alike.
My fears, shared with untold numbers of experts, is that immediate Palestinian statehood would extend a warm invitation for Iranian influence when Israel is already contending with Hamas and Hezbollah on its borders. If a Palestinian state turns out to be Hamasistan, or if its demilitarization is not a precondition to independence, would Beinart and Goldberg support it? Should Israel willingly consent to the creation of another entity on its borders whose avowed or undeclared purpose is to destroy it rather than first insisting on a viable and free Palestinian democracy, untainted by terror or rampant corruption, which has yet to transpire. My position now, as it has been for years, is that the existing Palestinian infrastructure needs to embrace real democratic reforms and institutions, that the corruption in the Palestinian authority which robs innocent Palestinians of international aid and destroys their own economy, needs to end, and that Hamas must renounce its charter in which it pledges to destroy the Jewish state at all costs.
I wish for Palestinians in the West Bank to live with the same freedoms of the 1.5 million Arab citizens of Israel rather than the extreme poverty and desperation of the Palestinians residents of Gaza under Hamas.
Those like Peter Beinart and Jeffrey Goldberg, who maintain far-left sentiments on Israeli politics, would do well not to condemn those who have invested their lives to bring leaders like Cory Booker and so many others to the Jewish community and continue to extend friendship and brotherhood to non-Jews. Peter Beinart was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford at the same time as Cory Booker. Why did he neglect to teach him anything of Jewish values or the State of Israel? Indeed, I do not recall Peter involved in any of our concerted efforts – joined by thousands of Jewish and non-Jewish students – to protect Israel’s reputation at Oxford from a ferocious onslaught, as we brought six Israeli Prime Ministers and countless other Middle East experts, to lecture at the University and tell Israel’s side of the story.
I ask colleagues like Beinart if they themselves are reaching out to the non-Jewish community to promote rather than just assail Israel and call for boycotts against it. I have often witnessed that the most serious opposition to my work of reaching out to non-Jews comes often from Jews themselves who lack the confidence in their own heritage to believe that Judaism has anything constructive or refreshing to offer our non-Jewish counterparts and who believe that jumping on an anti-Israel bandwagon provides the means by which to ingratiate themselves with others. My message to them is that perhaps they should have taken an interest in Cory Booker well before he started running for the United States Senate. The time for the Jewish community to show love and friendship to our non-Jewish brothers and sisters is not when they become influential or powerful, but when they are students at universities, far away from home, simply looking for a universal home.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is founder of This World: The Values Network, which is now launching the American Institute of Jewish values to promote universal Jewish teachings in the American media. He has recently published “The Fed-Up Man of Faith: Challenging God in the Face of Tragedy and Suffering.” Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.