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July 15, 2019 1:02 pm

Democrat Cory Booker to Anti-Israel Activist: ‘I Would Understand if You Want to Support Somebody Else’

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

US Senator Cory Booker is seen during a visit to a migrant assistance center in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, July 3, 2019. Photo: Reuters / Jose Luis Gonzalez.

Democratic presidential candidate Cory Booker told an anti-Israel activist who confronted him at a campaign event over the weekend, “I would understand if you want to support somebody else.”

Booker was approached by an activist from the progressive Jewish group IfNotNow, who said to the candidate, “It’s been really difficult and painful to understand, as you’re speaking out against mass incarceration, how the imprisonment of Palestinian children, thousands of them in military prisons, is something that you could ever be ok with.”

Booker replied, “So, I’m sorry that you think I’m ok with that, which I’m not, and I will continue to do everything I can to address this issue. We may not agree on strategies but…”

The activist interrupted, asking, “So do you think the occupation is a human rights crisis?”

“You’re not gonna get me to address that question as you want and I know that that’s a question that you’ve been asking every presidential candidate,” Booker said. “But I’m working on this issue, probably more than any other foreign policy issue.”

Booker asked if the activist had been to Israel, and when she replied that she had, he said, “So you and I both know that suffering firsthand.”

“Which is why I need to see leadership to end the occupation to create a better future for Israelis and Palestinians,” the activist stated.

“If that’s your issue I would understand if you want to support somebody else,” Booker replied, “but know I’m just as committed to that as you are.”

IfNotNow tweeted a video of the exchange with the comment, “Looks like he’s choosing @AIPAC over the grassroots.”

The pro-Israel progressive group Zionness praised Booker’s response to the activist, tweeting, “Thank you @CoryBooker for refusing to fall into the trap of treating complex probs of Middle East as a binary, as if all blame for Israeli Palestinian conflict falls on the Jewish state, as if one side is good & the other (the Jews) are evil, as if this can be boiled into a soundbite.”

“Thank you 4 moral courage in a moment of immense pressure, 4 your unwillingness to dehumanize the people in BOTH communities by pedantically simplifying their realities. We hope fellow candidates will follow your lead in recognizing complexity of issue & fighting 4 human rights 4 ALL,” the group added.

Meanwhile, the news site Axios asked the Democratic presidential candidates for their views on President Donald Trump’s move last year of the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.”

“I opposed the move of the embassy because I believed it should have been included in the larger process of negotiations of a final status agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians,” Booker said. “Now that the embassy has been moved, I do not see moving it back as either practical or productive, and believe we should focus on reclaiming our status as a trusted mediator as we work towards peace and a two-state solution.”

Former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign said, “Vice President Biden would not move the American embassy back to Tel Aviv. But he would re-open our consulate in East Jerusalem to engage the Palestinians.”

“He would also return the United States to the effort of encouraging a two-state solution — the only way to truly guarantee Israel’s long-term security as a Jewish and democratic state and meet the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinians for a state of their own,” the statement added.

Pete Buttigieg has said that he would not move the embassy back to Tel Aviv, as has Beto O’Rourke, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Amy Klobuchar.

Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, and Julian Castro did not respond to requests for comment.

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