The ADL cannot honor Cory Booker

The ADL cannot honor Cory Booker

On June 10th in New York City, our organization the World Values Network will be outside an ADL luncheon with hundreds of people at Cipriani on 42nd Street protesting the ADL’s incomprehensible decision to honor our senator and my former closest friend Cory Booker. I do not take the decision to protest America’s supposedly foremost organization combatting antisemitism lightly. Indeed, the national director, Jonathan Greenblatt, is a close personal friend, with whom I have worked on many important projects for Israel and the Jewish community, and Cory was once like a blood brother to me, serving as my student president at Oxford University and spending countless Sabbath meals at my home with my family and studying hundreds of hours of Torah together.

But Cory destroyed all that when he became the 41st vote for the Iran Nuclear Agreement of 2015, otherwise known as the JCPOA. Without Cory, President Obama, who had only 40 Democratic votes, knew that his arms control deal would have been overridden by a majority Republican Congress filibuster. Once Cory joined, the deal was done. It’s why Cory waited to the very last minute, literally, to announce he was voting in favor, knowing that he would lose the pro-Israel community forever. And Cory had every excuse not to vote for it, since the Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and Cory’s senior senator in New Jersey, Bob Menendez, had voted stalwartly against.

We now see the ramifications of Cory’s vote. Iran is the existential threat to the State of Israel, and directly financed, along with Qatar, the Holocaust-level day of extinction of October 7th. Without Cory’s vote and the JCPOA, Iran would not only not have received an astonishing $150 billion in finance — something that it would take Israel 50 years to receive from the United States — but Iran would have been prevented from selling their oil on international markets. Hamas would have remained impoverished, and October 7th would likely never have happened. And this is aside from Iran’s far more dangerous proxies — Hezbollah, Syria, Islamic Jihad, the Houthis, and government of Iraq.

I have two sons fighting in this war in the IDF. Cory was at the bris of both of them and was something of an uncle to each. How he could have funded Iran remains a mystery that destroyed his career. Even the African-American community saw Cory’s betrayal of both his closest friend and the Jewish community, which had raised tens of millions of dollars for his elevation to the Senate, as an act of perfidy and betrayal, and when he ran for the presidency in 2019, Cory was obliterated in even the Black vote, where he garnered nothing more than approximately three percent.

So why on earth is the ADL honoring Cory? The question becomes even more acute when you consider that ever since 2015 Cory’s betrayal of Israel has become so much worse, with constant selfies of Cory with Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar and the truly infamous photo he took in August 2018 in New Orleans with anti-Israel activists. Cory is smiling ear to ear, holding a sign that reads, “From Palestine to Mexico, All the Walls Have to Go.” Everyone knows that the wall that Israel built to cordon off Palestinian areas in Judea and Samaria of the West Bank reduced suicide bombings by about 95%, and it can be argued, as I did with senior IDF commanders, that if Israel had built a wall around Gaza, rather than a stupid fence, October 7th could not have occurred.

Which raises the question again, has the ADL lost it? Why not honor Senator John Fetterman of Pennsylvania, the single greatest Democratic defender of Israel in the Senate?

Indeed, after Cory, my closest high-profile friend in the world was Dr. Mehmet Oz, the world’s most famous physician. We met when we both were on the Oprah and Friends Radio Network, when the world’s most famous African-American woman gave us each a one-hour daily show on Sirius-XM. Like Cory, I took Dr. Oz and his family to Israel, where we met with PM Netanyahu and countless other Israeli leaders.

But that didn’t stop me, after Mehmet ran for the Senate in Pennsylvania, from coming out strongly against his candidacy once he betrayed Israel, over his close friendship with Turkish tyrant Erdogan, and even denied the Armenian genocide. Much to the consternation and shock of all my Republican friends, including GOP senators and congressmen and women, I threw my personal support behind Fetterman, who fully vindicated that support by becoming the hero that he is today.

Shouldn’t the ADL laud Fetterman instead of Cory?

Jonathan Greenblatt told me that Cory is the personal choice of fellow honorees, the Tisch family, for the lunch on June 12th. This explanation is utterly unacceptable. Jewish billionaires, however virtuous and generous, do not and should not control Jewish organizations. We who fight for the Jewish community and Israel must show that our values, rather than funding, dictates our activism.

You can only imagine how much money the World Values Network — which has many right-wing and Orthodox Jewish and Christian evangelical supporters — lost when we honored Caitlyn Jenner, or supported Amir Ohana, Israel’s openly gay and married speaker of the Knesset, or fought the Republican Jewish Coalition over the travesty of their wasting $3 million on the candidacy of Dr. Oz even as he denied that our Armenian brothers and sisters experienced mass murder at the hands of the Ottoman Turks.

Without my having studied thousands of hours of Torah with Cory, and without my having composed many to most of his speeches to the Jewish community at the launch of his political career, it is highly unlikely that he would ever have known the Tisches in the first place. Jewish donors were spellbound that an African-American Christian politician could quote the parsha of the week, including passages in Hebrew that Cory and I practiced for hours.

Sadly, Cory turned all of that Torah into a parlor trick as he slowly abandoned Israel in favor of the rise of the left wing of the Democratic Party, with whom he thought he had to curry favor for a proposed White House bid, which would end dismally and embarrassingly in 2020.

And that’s not even the strangest thing that happened. On October 7th, Cory was actually and providentially in Israel, out jogging when the rockets began fall on Jerusalem. As 1,200 women, babies, young soldiers, and civilians were being burnt alive, disemboweled, decapitated, and gang raped, the highest ranking American official in all of Israel immediately put his staff to work to spirit him the hell out of the country. Till today we don’t know the details of how Cory got a flight when all were completely booked, and he has refused to say.

The plot thickens. In recently released audio transcriptions of President Biden of  March 13, 2023, as part of the Hur conversations, Biden said, “Even my staff wondered why the hell I’m calling Cory Booker to make sure he’s safe. ‘Why are you calling him?’ Because I called when they were in, in — Jesus — in Israel… [And] I called him when they got home because I wanted him to know that I cared about him.”

On March 14, Cory confirmed his conversations with President Biden in an X post that read, “Joe Biden did check in on me, more than once over those days — as he was managing multiple international crises; interviewing for hours with the special counsel; and governing our country. Regardless of your politics, Joe Biden is an exceptional human being.”

No doubt the president is just that, and then some, as we’ve seen by how he has, mostly, had Israel’s back since October 7th.

But what does that have to do with a senator possibly bumping other American citizens off their flights to flee a war zone? And what does it say about Cory’s total lack of courage?

Just two days after Cory fled Israel, Senator Joni Ernst, Republican of Iowa, led a bipartisan delegation of Republicans and Democrats to the same city of Jerusalem in a show of solidarity with the Israeli people. And just six days later, the most powerful senator of all, Chuck Schumer of New York, led another bipartisan delegation of senators that included the only female Jewish senator in the chamber, Jacky Rosen, Democrat of Nevada.

And a few days later, President Biden himself became the first ever U.S. president to enter an active war zone when he conducted his own solidarity visit to Israel. The only American official who fled the Jewish State was Cory Booker.

All of which just shows that the ADL is making a monumental error in honoring an American elected official who should be held accountable for abandoning — literally — the State of Israel in its most dire hour of need. Cory would later go on to sign a February 2024 Senate petition calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, even before the last Hamas battalions in Gaza are destroyed, thereby all but guaranteeing another October 7th in future and subverting the will of the Israeli people, nearly 80% of whom in polls demand the total destruction of Hamas.

What remains, therefore, is this question. Should a rabbi and a Jewish organization publicly protest the ADL while antisemitism is out of control and Israel is at war?

I faced this question in this most brutal way when I suffered, just last month, the most vicious attacks by Republican and politically conservative Jews for calling out Ben Shapiro for his employment and making millions of dollars from the foremost female antisemite in America, Candace Owens. Shapiro’s defense and employment of Owens —as she defended Kanye West’s praise of Hitler and as Owens promoted the idea that I, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, “get drunk on the blood of Christian children,” falsely accused Israel of genocide, and said that all Jewish knees must bow to Christ — was a staggering act of betrayal against his own community. Much to the outrage of Republican Jews everywhere, I attacked Shapiro’s decision relentlessly until, under the pressure that I and my social media influencer daughter Rochel Leah Taktuk brought to bear upon him, he was forced to fire Owens, who has now been cast to the utter fringes of the internet, where she belongs.

We in the Jewish community dare never become like our Arab brothers and sisters, who have a rule that they never criticize one another and where even Mahmoud Abbas, himself a Holocaust denier and terror supporter, refused to condemn genocidal Hamas.

To the contrary, the reason that the Jewish community in general and the State of Israel in particular remain just, righteous, and democratic, is because we do call each other out — respectfully and based on lawful conduct — when the other is wrong.

Last year, when I sat shiva for my beloved mother, Eleanor, Cory came to sit shiva with me. It was sad and tragic, but also loving and heartwarming. Cory loved my mother, just as I loved his father, whose funeral I walked to on the Sabbath in a church in Atlanta. We knew that a cult separated us in terms of policy but were still united in our deep and unbreakable affection for one another.

But I cannot allow those personal feelings of friendship to excuse Cory’s vote to arm, fund, and supply a genocidal enemy whose highest ambition is a promised second Holocaust of the Jewish people.

If the ADL wants to honor Cory, let them demand of him that at the June 10th luncheon he repudiate his 2015 vote and condemn the genocidal maniacs of Iran. And if he refuses, dear readers, your place is with us, the protesters, outside of Cipriani, rather than eating the five-star fare inside while Israel’s hostages, whom Iran can order released tomorrow, continue to suffer and rot.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach of Englewood is the author of “The Israel Warrior” and “Holocaust Holiday: One Family’s Descent into Genocide Memory Hell.” Follow him on Instagram and Twitter @RabbiShmuley.

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