Post -“Netroots”: Cory Booker’s Growing Jewish Community Issues

The annual Netroots Nation convention is perhaps the most significant gathering of Progressive Democrats on the political calendar.  For New Jersey’s US Senator Cory Booker, this year’s Netroots Convention was a career debacle, a huge setback to his presidential ambitions, on a scale of George Romney’s “brainwash” comment upon his return from Vietnam in 1967 or Gary Hart’s May, 1987 “Follow me around”. statement to Miami Herald reporter Tom Fiedler, after which he was soon found in the loving, yet forbidden arms of the supremely lovely Donna Rice. 

It is a cliché to say that a picture is worth a thousand words.  The above picture of Cory Booker at last week’s Netroots Nation convention in New Orleans may well spell “Fini la comedie” to his 2020 presidential aspirations.  The picture is indisputable proof of one of two happenstances.  Either Cory Booker is continuing to pander to the anti-Israel elements of the Progressive Democrat movement, or he is shown making a horrific rookie mistake, evidencing that he is totally not ready for prime time in terms of the 2020 presidential race.  Or maybe both.

The following is a narrative explanation, provided by the conservative political journalism website, Washington Free Beacon, of the events that led up to this controversial photo. 

Booker, standing next to radical activists from the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights, is holding a sign that says, “From Palestine to Mexico, all the walls have got to go,” a slogan used by the group in its call for the removal of Israeli security barriers used to protect its citizens from terrorist attacks.

The U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights is a radical activist group that supports anti-Israel campaigns such as the Boycott, Divest, and Sanction (BDS) movement and was recently found to be financially tied to designated terrorist groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Standing next to Booker in the picture is Leah Muskin-Pierret, who heads government affairs for the group and is wearing a shirt that says, “Palestine is a feminist/queer/refugee/racial justice issue.” 

Muskin-Pierret has been a vocal anti-Israel advocate since her college years at Tufts University, where she was an active member of Students for Justice in Palestine, the main vehicle for rising anti-Israel activity on college campuses across the United States. 

Muskin-Pierret’s views on Israel are so radical that she has even targeted J Street, a left-wing group highly critical of Israel that I have described in my columns as the appeasement lobby of the Jewish community.  She also contributed to the legal defense fund for Rasmea Odeh, who was convicted for her role in 1969 terrorist bombings in Jerusalem that killed numerous Israelis. The U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights has regularly voiced support for Odeh, professing its “love” for the terrorist and saying it hopes to see her in a “liberated Palestine.” 

After the Washington Free Beacon published the above account, Booker sent a statement claiming the New Jersey senator didn’t know what was written on the sign he was holding. 

“Just before delivering a speech in New Orleans, Senator Booker was approached by dozens of people for photos,” said spokesman Jeff Giertz. “In one instance, amid the rush, he was posing for a photo and was passed a sign to hold—he didn’t have time to read the sign, and from his cursory glance he thought it was talking about Mexico and didn’t realize it had anything to do with Israel.” 

Giertz added that Booker does believe security barriers are necessary as long as “active terrorist organizations threaten the safety of the people living in Israel.” 

“He hopes for a day when there will be no need for security barriers in the State of Israel, but while active terrorist organizations threaten the safety of the people living in Israel, security barriers are unfortunate but necessary to protect human lives,” Giertz said. 

This explanation, however, is not credible unless you believe that Cory Booker is a complete political incompetent. 

Only a political incompetent would hold and pose with a sign without reading it first.  There is nothing in terms of political etiquette that required Booker to hold the offensive sign prior to reading it.  If that is what Booker did, then he clearly is not ready for the prime time of a presidential race in 2020 in terms of political sagacity and acumen.  

But Jews who have followed Cory Booker’s career closely will not readily accept his explanation.  The truth of the matter is that since 2015, Booker has been pandering to the anti-Israel elements in the Democratic Party Progressive movement.  This is a radical departure from the early days of his elective political career, when he was viewed as a close ally of Jewry and Judaism, a bond forged during his tenure as a Rhodes scholar at Oxford. 

This pandering began in 2015, when Booker voted for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the Obama administration’s agreement with Iran regarding nuclear weaponry.  This deal has had a most deleterious impact on Israel’s future security prospects.  In voting for this wretched agreement, Booker assigned to his past concerns for Israel’s security a lesser priority than his desire for future Progressive Democrat support.   

This was in sharp contradistinction to the action of New Jersey’s senior US Senator Bob Menendez in voting against the JCPOA.  When Bob Menendez faces the voters of New Jersey this November, he will receive overwhelming Jewish community support.  The same will not be true of Cory Booker, whether his next run is for US Senator or president. 

The next major measure of Booker’s tilt against Israel was his initial opposition in 2017 to the Taylor Force Act, legislation that cut aid to the Palestinian Authority until it ended its “pay to slay” policy of paying families of terrorists. Booker voted against advancing the now-passed law out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  He only supported passage of the bill after an amendment that limited the cut off to assistance that “directly benefits the Palestinian Authority”, thereby limiting the bill’s impact. 

In any event, when it comes to the American-Israel alliance, New Jersey’s two US Senators are now viewed differently by the New Jersey Jewish community.  The senior senator, Bob Menendez, is considered by the pro-Israel community in both New Jersey and nationally to be one of Israel’s strongest and most effective supporters in the US Senate since the establishment of the Jewish State in 1948.   

The junior senator, Cory Booker, is viewed with growing skepticism by an increasing number of advocates of Israel both in New Jersey and nationally.  That skepticism has risen both in intensity and numbers since this past week’s Netroots Nation conference.  It will not go away until Booker demonstrably ceases his pandering to the anti-Israel elements of the Progressive Democrat movement. 

Alan J. Steinberg served as Regional Administrator of Region 2 EPA during the administration of former President George W. Bush and as Executive Director of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission under former New Jersey Governor Christie Whitman. 

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