The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is promoting Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) at its annual policy conference this week with a keynote address, despite his abandonment of Israel and his support for the Iran deal.
Cory, a dear friend of nearly 30 years, turned dramatically on Israel in an effort to court the extreme left of the democratic party to win the presidential nomination. The effort, of course, failed spectacularly, as Cory was rejected by almost everyone in the party who felt his insincerity on this and many other issues.
But Cory’s stunning unfaithfulness in abandoning the world’s only Jewish state is now being rewarded by AIPAC which, in an act of mystifying absurdity, has honored him with the opportunity to address 18,000 pro-Israel activists in Washington, DC.
I was the first to introduce Cory to AIPAC, America’s most prominent pro-Israel group. In the fall of 2008, I traveled with Cory to Chicago and presented him to a prestigious AIPAC summit. As Cory entered the stage, he picked me up and bear-hugged me, as the assembled crowd was wowed by the deep love that bonded us. He then delivered a speech on the Torah portion of the week, Genesis, that we had practiced together on the plane on the way to the Windy City.
That speech, and many others that we delivered before AIPAC and pro-Israel audiences throughout the United States, would lead to Cory becoming one of the foremost recipients of pro-Israel donations in America, helping ultimately to propel him to the Senate in 2013.
But then came the Iran nuclear deal. Cory voted to give the murderous mullahs of Iran $150 billion, facilitating their murder of innocent people worldwide and wholesale slaughter of political dissidents at home — including just two months ago, when Iran mowed down thousands of peaceful protesters in the streets. Even as Iran threated to annihilate Israel’s six million Jews and bring about Holocaust 2.0, Cory refused to condemn their genocidal promises to destroy Israel.
From there his record on Israel would crater almost completely as he would, in short order, vote against the Taylor Force Bill in a Senate committee, which simply sought to forbid American funds being used in pay-for-slay salaries to Palestinian terrorists (he later voted for an amended version of the bill). He criticized the moving of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem; deleted any mention of Jewish influences or mentorship in his autobiography, especially me, over what the New York Observer called “retaliation” for my criticism of the Iran deal; voted against the Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act, which provided legal cover to state governments that seek to stymie the “boycott, divestment, sanctions” (BDS) movement; and infamously took a smiling photograph with Israel-hating BDS leaders, holding a sign that read: “From Palestine to Mexico, all the walls must go.”
Of course, if the wall built to defend Israeli citizens from suicide bombers would be removed, as Cory’s photo would have it, then the only thing that would go would be the lives of thousands of innocent Israeli citizens.
Now, AIPAC has shocked its conference attendees by announcing, at the last minute, that at its most prestigious plenary session, taking place Monday morning, Cory Booker will follow Vice President Mike Pence as a keynote speaker.
But what has Cory done to deserve such a high honor?
Speaking at an AIPAC plenary is an earned privilege, especially for a failed presidential candidate like Cory who probably now realizes that he has to pivot back to supporting Israel if he is to regain pro-Israel support.
I can almost hear his speech already. He will quote from the Torah, which I taught him. Sprinkle in some Hebrew words that I taught him. And quote from, say, Elie Wiesel, whose books I gave him — all in an effort to obfuscate from his appalling recent record on Israel’s vital security.
But it goes without saying that I did not spend hundreds of hours teaching Torah to Cory in order to have it used as a parlor trick. And that’s what makes all of this so utterly painful.
The amazing friendship between Cory and me once helped to unite the Jewish and African-American communities in a story so inspiring that Barbra Streisand invited us to discuss making a movie about our shared experience. Cory became my student president at Oxford just a year after the Crown Heights riots of 1991 tore the Black and Jewish communities apart.
Cory became like a brother to me, an uncle to my children, and I loved him with all my heart. We spent countless hours together. In the summer of 1994, he moved into my house, and over several months we wrote a beautiful and highly insightful book about our friendship, which in the future will no doubt be published.
We could not have been closer.
His abandonment of Israel would have strained our relationship but it would not have ended our friendship. I have many friends who are serious critics of Israel.
Rather, it was his refusal to condemn genocide that was a mortal blow to the bonds that tied us. Genocide is my red line. Cory professed a love of the Jewish people but would not even go to the well of the Senate to condemn Iran’s promise to exterminate the Jews. He would not even give a single speech demanding that Iran stop promising to kill all the Jews.
So why on earth would AIPAC reward him with a speech before 20,000 people? This makes a mockery of everything AIPAC stands for.
I am a well-known supporter and advocate for AIPAC. But they become their own worst enemy when they undermine their core pro-Israel advocacy with stunts like this.
What message does it send to elected officials when those who abandon Israel’s security become AIPAC standard-bearers? The people who should be speaking at AIPAC are Democratic heroes like Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, Cory’s senior Senator, who risked his entire career to vote against a president of his own party to oppose the Iran deal. Nancy Pelosi’s father, Thomas D’Alesandro Jr., was a brave Democratic congressman who likewise challenged a president of his own party, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, for not doing enough to save Europe’s Jews. Heroes like these should be honored by AIPAC.
There is a way back for Cory. He can apologize for having broken his promises to the pro-Israel community and endangered the security and people of Israel. He can acknowledge that being silent in the face of genocide, especially toward a community that loved him like a son, is indecent.
His votes in the Senate must reflect a renewed commitment to Israel’s permanence. He should say he regrets condemning America’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and should condemn Iran instead for its vile commitment to eradicating the Middle East of all Jews.
Only then, when he has earned it, should Cory be rewarded with the high honor of an AIPAC policy conference speech. Otherwise, that high honor will be cheapened, and AIPAC will continue to hemorrhage credibility and unwittingly contribute to the growing Corbynization of American politics, as more and more leaders on the left cater to the Israel-haters on the fringe and abandon Israel’s security.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, whom the Washington Post calls “the most famous Rabbi in America,” is the international best-selling author of 33 books, including the upcoming “Holocaust Holiday: One Family’s Descent into Genocide Memory Hell.” Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @RabbiShmuley.