Last week, the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USCPR), one of the most radical organizations promoting the antisemitic “Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions” (BDS) movement, posted a now widely-shared photo of aspiring presidential candidate Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) beside the group’s government affairs associate.
The man whom I was proud to call my soul friend for more than 20 years, whom I helped introduce to the American Jewish community, and to whom I taught Torah — which he used in countless successful public speeches — is smiling while holding a sign that says, “From Palestine to Mexico, all the walls have got to go.”
In an apparent attempt to win over the left wing of the Democratic Party, and perhaps prove he can criticize Israel on a par with Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) or Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Cory is increasingly alienating himself from the American Jewish community who once loved him.
As has been widely reported in America’s top news outlets, the same Jewish community played an outsized role in Cory’s political success. Based on his public promises to defend Israel, promises delivered in many speeches where I personally introduced him, Cory became one of the largest recipients of pro-Israel campaign contributions in American political history.
Cory was the president of the student group I founded at Oxford, and we studied Torah almost every day. I saw him as a remarkable person who shared our values in human rights, going beyond tolerance and “Tikkun Olam.” Cory became a passionate supporter of Israel and fighter against antisemitism. I was honored to choose him to lead our pro-Israel L’Chaim Society at Oxford, at the time the University’s second largest student organization, and to study Torah with me so he could speak from the heart about its teachings to Jewish audiences.
But then came his choice to put political expedience over principle by supporting the catastrophic nuclear deal with Iran. He chose supporting his party leader rather than opposing a genocidal regime. Despite all evidence to the contrary, which has been compounded since the agreement was signed, Cory bought the snake oil pedaled by President Barack Obama and the mullahs that Iran had no interest in nuclear weapons, had not engaged in nuclear weapons research, would change its anti-Western policy once sanctions were lifted, and could be prevented from obtaining a bomb by a verification regime that blocked all paths to a bomb.
Then, this past April, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — of which Cory is a member — held a vote to halt U.S. taxpayer funding for the Palestinian Authority’s despicable “pay-to-slay” policy, which grants terrorist murderers and their families actual salaries for the Israelis they murder. The Taylor Force Act was expected to be a no-brainer for Senator Booker.
Unbelievably, Cory voted “No” in committee.
Then came the photo this past Friday.
Cory’s excuse for appearing in it is that he was posing for pictures and was passed a sign to hold. He only glanced at it and thought it was just referring to Mexico and had nothing to do with Israel.
Many have rejected the explanation, saying that no experienced politician poses with a sign that he does not read.
I disagree. I take Cory at his word. But why was he posing with leaders of the BDS movement whose raison d’etre is the destruction of Israel? After all, it was written clearly on her t-shirt, “Palestine is a Feminist / Queer / Refugee / Racial Justice Issue.”
Much more important, if Cory is correct that he was bamboozled into holding an anti-Israel sign by BDS leaders, then he has experienced first-hand BDS leaders’ deception, lies, and attempts to discredit and defame — something that Israel experiences first hand every day. So Cory should not just disown the picture, but denounce the message of those who set him up. He should condemn the BDS movement, which he has thus far refused to do, and stand firmly with Israel.
Israel’s security barrier was erected after more than a thousand Israeli civilians were murdered in a five-year campaign of Palestinian terror. The wall was built to prevent Palestinian terrorists from infiltrating into Israel. The sign he held up is part of the antisemitic campaign to conflate Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians with the human rights concerns of unrelated groups such as Black Lives Matter.
This notion of “intersectionality” is nothing more than a transparent effort by anti-Israel activists to attach themselves like barnacles to whatever cause is popular with students and progressives. The term is new, but the strategy goes back to the 1960s, when Israel’s detractors also tried to attach their propaganda to anti-war protests and other causes.
The sign’s comparison of Trump’s proposed wall on the border with Mexico to keep out illegal immigrants on the one hand, with Israel’s security barrier, which has successfully prevented terrorists from infiltrating Israel, on the other, is as specious as it is appalling. Cory’s spokesman, but not Cory himself, acknowledged that terrorists threaten Israel and the security barrier is necessary to protect human lives.
Cory should also point out the Orwellian t-shirt worn by the USCPR activist, which also typifies that outrageousness of the group’s propaganda. Let’s briefly dissect the slogan: “Palestine is a Feminist / Queer / Refugee / Racial Justice Issue.’
First and foremost, “Palestine” is a land in which two people claim ownership. The Jewish people have a superior claim based on the Bible; uninterrupted presence in the land for more than 2,000 years; international recognition by the Balfour Declaration, the League of Nations, and the United Nations; military victories against armies seeking to drive them into the sea; and the creation of a modern, thriving democracy.
Nevertheless, Israel recognizes that Palestinians also claim a connection to the land. Going back as far as 1937, the Jews in the Holy Land have expressed a willingness to share this land, though they have no obligation to do so. The Palestinians, however, have repeatedly rejected offers for statehood from the British, the U.N., and Prime Ministers Rabin, Peres, Barak and Olmert. For the last nine years, they have refused even to talk with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Instead, they are trying to convince the international community to somehow force Israel to capitulate to their demands while simultaneously pursuing a global campaign to delegitimize Israel. They have no interest in living beside Israel; their goal is to replace Israel. Just look at their maps, their symbols and their speeches.
The principal obstacle to peace was and remains the Palestinians’ unwillingness to recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people and agree to live in peace in a state beside it.
The T-shirt’s slogan is also offensive to the audiences it addresses. Palestine is Feminist and Queer? The Palestinian Authority does not recognize women’s rights. It is a place where women can be killed in so-called “honor killings” if their male relatives or lovers believe they have acted immorally. In Gaza, where radical Islamic terrorists rule, women are expected to be subservient and accept the most restrictive interpretations of Islam on female behavior.
And Palestinian “queers?” They flee to Israel for safety. Gay rights do not exist there, and anyone who is openly gay may be jailed, tortured, and/or murdered.
By contrast, the 1.5 million Arab and Islamic citizens of Israel enjoy the best conditions of Arab citizens anywhere in the Middle East.
As for “racial justice,” what does that mean? What race are they referring to? In Gaza, where the Palestinians are controlled by Hamas, or in in the West Bank, where they live under Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinians are denied freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion, and most other rights. Roughly 98% of the Palestinians in the territories are under the direct control of their own leaders, not Israel.
These are the responses Cory should have given after the picture was published – and it should have come from his lips. Not a spokesperson.
Cory can continue to charm Jewish audiences with his discussion of passages from the Torah and Hebrew phrases that I taught him. Teaching Torah is always important. But it will in no way compensate for his waning support for the Jewish State and Israel’s security, which has American Jewry saddened, perplexed, and alarmed.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi,” whom the Washington Post calls “the most famous Rabbi in America” is the international best-selling author of 32 books including his new book, Lust for Love, co-authored with Pamela Anderson. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.