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June 20, 2013 9:17 am

Cory Booker, Chabad and Peter Beinart’s Manufactured Scandal

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"Open Zion" Editor Peter Beinart. Photo: JStreet.org.

In a recent column, political pundit and career Israel-basher, Peter Beinart, had harsh words for the world’s largest Jewish outreach movement – Chabad.

More specifically, Beinart expressed concern over the relationships that Newark Mayor and would-be-Senator of New Jersey, Cory Booker, maintains with two Chabad rabbis whom the star politician became acquainted with as a student.

Citing the lone testimony of the late Rabbi David Hartman, Beinart concludes that Chabad is theologically “deeply primitively racist.” Interestingly, just paragraphs later, Beinart praises Rabbi Shmuley Boteach for referring to Islam as “a great world religion.”

Of course many of the world’s great religions include phrases in their core texts that claim the superiority of the said set of beliefs. However, surely any doctrine is better judged based on the way in which its adherents go about their lives.

I wonder what the many Asian victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami who were the benefactors of Chabad’s color blind relief effort, would have to say about Beinart’s assessment. “When it comes to the aid, we have seen no lines in who we assist,” Yosef Zaklos, a Chabad rabbi involved in the relief efforts, told the Jerusalem Post at the time, “Just the other day, we gave aid to a Muslim family. It’s not Jewish-oriented aid, it’s humanitarian aid.”

Perhaps another point of call for Mr. Beinart in his efforts to research Chabad should have been the members of the largely African American community whose lives were devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. “One of those rescued from New Orleans put it this way: In the days after Katrina hit, Chabad saved lives,” said President George W. Bush, singling out Chabad for praise.

Victims of Hurricane Sandy, the Japanese earthquake of 2011, the recent Oklahoma tornadoes and numerous other crises will tell you the same story. Perhaps Mr. Beinart, before trumpeting your wholesale slander of one of the most active and powerful Jewish humanitarian organizations the world has ever seen, you will provide one, just one example of an act of racial prejudice that has been perpetrated in the name of Chabad’s ideology.

Islam’s Koran on the other hand, includes such phrases as this one: “The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His apostle and strive to make mischief in the land is only this, that they should be murdered or crucified or their hands and their feet should be cut off on opposite sides or they should be imprisoned.”

Sadly, the instances in which the followers of Islam have perpetrated such brutalities it its name are too numerous to count.

Yet in Beinart’s world of supreme intellectual dishonesty and stunningly blatant hypocrisy, it is Chabad that is to be singled out for “racism”?

The next bone that Beinart has to pick with Chabad is over the stance held by many of the movement’s rabbis regarding whether or not it is a good idea for Israel to give away land to the Palestinian Arabs.

In Beinart’s reckoning it appears that this issue is the sole barometer by which the values of “universal justice” are measured, and Cory Booker is lacking in moral leadership by virtue of his mere affiliation with those who aren’t enthusiastically parading the banner of Palestinian Arab nationalism.

“How could rabbis so blind to injustice against Palestinians forge such a close bond to a politician who has built his political persona on impassioned pleas for justice?” asks Beinart of the relationship between Booker and rabbis Boteach and Shmully Hecht.

But if Beinart actually made an effort to research Chabad’s position on the creation of a Palestinian Arab state he would come to understand that it is rooted in the ultimate justice: the preservation of human life.

“The only subject matter under discussion -at any rate, from my treatment of it – is the purely Halachic (Jewish legal) subject of the preservation of life as it affects the question of returning any part of the liberated areas,” wrote the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem  Schneerson, in correspondence with the late former Commonwealth Chief Rabbi Immanuel Jakobovits on the matter, between 1980 and 1982. “Now in regard to the liberated areas, all military experts both Jewish and non-Jewish agree that in the present situation giving up any part of them would create serious security dangers,” he explained.

Years later Schneerson’s concerns were affirmed when successive territorial compromises resulted almost directly in increased bloodshed.

Perhaps Beinart can explain why Palestinian Arab nationalism is so important a goal in his eyes that he does not even consider the concerns held by Chabad to be worthy of consideration.

If Beinart’s un-expert military opinion differs from those cited by the Rebbe, then let him make his case. But, to assault the moral fiber of Chabad’s ideology, which is based on the belief that there is no greater injustice than the loss of human life, is simply perverse.

To Mr. Booker: please pay no heed to Beinart’s ill-informed, self-righteous pronouncements and feel free to get chummy with as many Chabad rabbis as you please.

The author is the Editor-in-Chief of The Algemeiner and director of the GJCF and can be e-mailed atdefune@gjcf.com.

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