How Cory Booker Can Return to the Jewish Community
Shortly after Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey once again broke the hearts of many in the American Jewish community by condemning President Donald Trump’s proclamation of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a New Jersey imam delivered two antisemitic sermons. This time, Cory rose to the occasion — and issued a scathing condemnation. This, along with some recent speeches that Cory has been giving to Jewish groups, is sparking questions as to whether he is gravitating back toward a pro-Israel posture.
Wherever I go, the question of what happened to Cory on Israel is asked of me by countless people.
How could Cory have supported the Iran nuclear deal? How could he have opposed the Taylor Force Act in committee? Why did he try and humiliate now-Ambassador David Friedman in his Senate hearings? And, how could Cory have come out against Jerusalem being recognized as Israel’s capital?
These questions become even more pronounced when you contrast Cory’s record with his senior colleague from New Jersey, Senator Robert Menendez, who is among the greatest friends that Israel has ever had in the Senate.
Their conclusion: Cory lied in order to get the support of the Jewish community. They are wrong.
Cory is a very close friend of mine, akin to a brother. We gave countless public speeches together on Israel, Judaism and the African-American history of struggle, and studied thousands of hours of Torah together. He loved Israel, and he visited Israel. The idea that any of this was insincere is a grotesque lie, and is unfair character assassination of a close friend of our community.
But in the world of politics, and on the subject of the Jewish state, I admit that there has been a change in Cory.
And it has been harder for me to witness this change than anyone else. I have spoken out about it many times, in a manner that one can only assume that Cory does not appreciate.
But Israel’s survival is paramount, and Cory made a big mistake on Iran — a mistake that he can still reverse. And if he can find his voice to condemn the antisemitism of an imam in his home state of New Jersey, surely he can find the same voice to condemn the Jew-hatred of Iran, which he ignored when he supported the catastrophic Iran nuclear agreement.
Indeed, the Iranian leaders have not only made similarly crude antisemitic remarks, but gone further and threatened the Jews of Israel with genocide.
According to news reports, Aymen Elkasaby, an imam at the Islamic Center of Jersey City, said: “So long as the Al-Aqsa Mosque remains a humiliated prisoner under the oppression of the Jews, this nation will never prevail.” He called on Allah to “wreak vengeance upon the plundering oppressors.” After labeling Jews as “apes and pigs,” Elkasaby stated: “Count them one by one, and kill them down to the very last one. Do not leave a single one on the face of the Earth.”
This despicable language is common in the Middle East, and far too common here in the United States. I applaud Cory for taking a stand against what he correctly called Elkasaby’s “repugnant,” “dangerous” and “unconscionable” remarks.
To be truly principled, however, Cory must be equally willing to condemn similar statements from others, particularly the Iranians. Sadly, due to his support for the catastrophic nuclear deal, he has been unwilling to take the Iranians to task. Worse, he supported giving them not only the ability to continue their pursuit of nuclear capabilities under the unverifiable agreement, but also rewarding them with a windfall of billions of dollars to enable Iran to continue to develop ballistic missiles, sponsor international terrorism and threaten its neighbors.
The ADL describes Iran as “a font of global anti-Semitism.” ADL Deputy National Director Ken Jacobson has noted that in Iran, “classic stereotypes about Jews abound.” One example, is the denial of the Holocaust. “A second stereotype about Jews which Iranian political and religious leadership has purveyed,” Jacobson observed, “was the notion of Jewish control of international financial institutions.”
After “moderate” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani addressed the UN in 2016, ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said: “His espousing of noxious anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, alleging ‘Zionist’ control of Congress must be condemned by the international community, specifically, the P5+1 powers who are engaging with Iran, and the countries who are renewing trade and financial deals with the Islamic Republic.”
Following the nuclear agreement that Cory endorsed, former President Barack Obama promised a change in Iranian behavior.
A year after the deal was signed, the ADL observed:
[T]he Islamic Republic remains the leading exporter of deadly conspiracy theories and hostile propaganda against the Jewish people and the Jewish state. In recent months we have seen a revival of their notorious Holocaust cartoon contest, which encourages Holocaust revisionism and outright denial. … Wild accusations of Zionist plots abound, such as blaming imports of genetically modified products to infect Iranians with diseases on the Zionists or accusing “Jewish actors” of conspiring Saudis to spread Wahhabism. In the last few days when the rest of the world has mourned the loss of noted peace activist Elie Weisel, Iran opted to slander the Nobel Laureate as a “criminal Zionist and fake witness of Holocaust.
Iranian leaders also engage in incitement to genocide against the Jewish people, a war crime according to the 1948 Genocide Convention.
Newsweek reported, for example, on the eve of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to the UN, that Iran’s army chief warned that his country would immediately lay waste to Israel’s commercial capital of Tel Aviv should Israeli leaders make any mistakes.
Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan said that were Trump to withdraw from the Iranian nuclear deal, Iran would destroy the state of Israel.
Hossein Salami, the deputy head of the Revolutionary Guard, has said: “We will chase you [Israelis] house to house and will take revenge for every drop of blood of our martyrs in Palestine,” and that “soon, there will be no such thing as the Zionist regime on Planet Earth.”
Hossein Sheikholeslam, the secretary-general of Iran’s Committee for Support for the Palestinian Intifada, declared: “The issue of Israel’s destruction is important, no matter the method. We will obviously implement the strategy of the Imam Khomeini and the Leader [Khamenei] on the issue of destroying the Zionists. The region will not be quiet so long as Israel exists in it.”
Mohammad Ali Jafari, the commander-in-chief of the Revolutionary Guard, has said: “The Revolutionary Guards will fight to the end of the Zionist regime. … We will not rest easy until this epitome of vice is totally deleted from the region’s geopolitics.”
These officials all take their cue from Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has made even more blood-curdling threats, such as this one: “It is the mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to erase Israel from the map of the region.” And don’t forget this one — “The Zionist regime is a cancerous tumor and it will be removed” — or this one: “This barbaric, wolflike and infanticidal regime of Israel, which spares no crime, has no cure but to be annihilated.”
Instead of condemning Iranian leaders with the same forthrightness that he denounced the New Jersey imam, Cory has been silent. He has been unwilling to speak out against Iranian antisemitism or threats of genocide, and continues to defend the disastrous Iran deal.
It is my sincere hope that Cory’s gradual gravitation back to the Jewish community continues. But it will not be effective so long as his silence on Iran’s threatened holocaust of the Jewish people remains deafening.
The time has come to speak up.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi,” whom The Washington Post and Newsweek call “the most famous Rabbi in America,” is the international bestselling author of 30 books, including his most recent, “The Israel Warrior.” Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.