Voting Against Israel Doesn’t Stop AIPAC From Supporting Cory Booker
During a CNN town hall last week, presidential candidate Cory Booker made headlines in the Jewish press by reciting a few words in Hebrew. Asked by a pastor how his faith would influence him as president, Booker said, “Christ is the center of my life,” and added, “I studied the Torah, too.” He then referred to a song sung during the High Holidays: Ki veiti beit t’fila yikareh l’chol ha’amim — “For my house shall be a house of prayer for all nations.”
Many media outlets commented on the fact that I had taught Cory that and other Hebrew phrases. When I was the Chabad rabbi at Oxford, Cory and I studied Torah together. We developed a close friendship, so it was only natural that I would offer to help Cory when he entered politics.
Increasingly, however, Cory has used his knowledge of Hebrew and Judaism to evade questions about Israel and the problematic positions he has taken.
Last week, Cory did not deliver an address to AIPAC’s annual Policy Conference, but instead held a closed-door, off-the-record meeting with some of his constituents, which once again allowed him to avoid addressing his increasingly problematic positions on Israel in public. AIPAC praised him rather than challenge him about a series of negative votes related to Israel, including his most recent vote against anti-BDS legislation.
People who aspire to greatness, and now the highest office in the land, must pass tests along the way to fulfill their potential. Sadly, when it counted most to the pro-Israel community, Cory failed repeated tests of principle as he increasingly sought to court the extreme left wing of the Democratic Party.
President Barack Obama negotiated a catastrophic nuclear deal with the genocidal government of Iran. It was headed for defeat in Congress, but it never came to a vote because — in my view — Democrats, including Cory, put politics over principle. I was shocked and saddened.
Ever since that feeble act, Cory’s support for Israel has cratered, even as President Trump courageously pulled us out of the Iran deal, and imposed draconian sanctions needed to cripple Iran and take measures to prevent the mullahs from achieving their hegemonic goals.
More recently, Cory failed another test. In February, the Senate voted 77-23 to extend an existing loan guarantee program with Israel, authorize security assistance to Israel over a 10-year period, make it illegal under Federal statute to boycott Israel, and grant Federal protection to state and local governments that refuse to invest in or contract with companies that boycott Israel. Cory voted with the minority.
He said he voted against the bill because he believed the anti-boycott provisions threatened free speech. The truth is the law does not impinge on First Amendment rights. Israel’s detractors can continue to rant against the Jewish state as much as they want. The boycott movement, however, seeks the destruction of Israel. By failing to vote against the effort to eliminate the Jewish state, Cory again gave oxygen to the parties seeking Israel’s complete economic isolation.
Cory faced and failed a third test after Ilhan Omar’s antisemitic remarks. When first asked about them, he refused to comment and abruptly ended a press conference. Later, he said Omar’s comments were “disturbing,” but added that some of the attacks against her had “anti-Islamic sentiment.” Ultimately, Booker joined with his Democratic colleagues in voting for an essentially meaningless resolution that did not specifically condemn Omar.
Like his colleagues, Cory was unwilling to support a simple resolution expressing zero tolerance for antisemitism. Instead, he voted to oppose all forms of bigotry out of fear of offending the far left of the party by not acknowledging their victimhood.
When he met privately with AIPAC, Cory was still unwilling to call out Omar by name for her antisemitic remarks, saying only that “they” were “absolutely unacceptable.” I am anxious to see if he is willing to even go that far when he speaks to Democratic Party activists.
American Jews are looking for a leader who has courage, passion, and vision. They seek a man or woman who understands that Israel is our democratic ally, and will stand by her against Iran and the terrorists who threaten their people. We want someone who recognizes the danger of the normalization of antisemitism occurring as our elected officials protect antisemites in their midst. We need a president who will choose the moral and principled path and not the easy or politically expedient one.
When I taught Cory Hebrew, it was not meant to be a parlor trick, like a sleight-of-hand where you can promote Torah and Judaism while abandoning the security of the Jewish people and Israel.
Cory will always be a friend. But even my friendship with him will not allow me to give him a pass while he supports the mullahs of Iran or refuses to vote against BDS. AIPAC should likewise be holding him accountable and using its vaunted influence to persuade Cory to fulfill the promises he made, and continues to make, to support Israel rather than pander to far-left elements of the Democratic Party.
Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi,” whom The Washington Post calls “the most famous rabbi in America,” is the international bestselling author of 32 books. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.