WASHINGTON – Some 300 people from AIPAC's New Jersey delegation were gathered on Tuesday to meet with the Democratic hopeful, Senator Cory Booker. The meeting took place despite a campaign from the progressive "MoveOn" organization that called presidential candidates to boycott the Pro-Israel Lobby's annual conference.
AIPAC's Mort Fridman joked that contrary to reports that all major candidates will boycott the conference, Booker is speaking there, "and not a hologram." He added: "I want to show you something. I'm going to put my arm around him. Can you see my arm? He's actually physically here. Cory was the subject of some fake news and organization threatened a number of presidential candidates and said, 'don't show up to AIPAC.'" Fridman said he spoke to Booker's office, and "They said obviously Cory is going to be there because of Corey stands with the state of Israel. The moment this thing came out. Cory immediately told us he would be here. As always. He's always been here for us. He will always be here."
Two other Democratic hopefuls, Senators Kamala Harris and Kirsten Gillibrand also met with AIPAC delegations. Harris tweeted after the meeting: "Great to meet today in my office with California AIPAC leaders to discuss the need for a strong U.S.-Israel alliance, the right of Israel to defend itself, and my commitment to combat anti-Semitism in our country and around the world."
"Israel is not political to me," Booker told the crowd. "I was a supporter of Israel well before I was in the United States Senate. I was coming to AIPAC's conferences well before I knew that one day I would be (a Senator). 'If I forget thee, O Israel, may I cut off my right hand.'"
Addressing the controversial remarks made by Rep. Ilhan Omar, Booker told New Jersey delegates that "When we had a congresswoman who said absolutely unacceptable things, I came out and made clear, condemnation of antisemitism."
"Antisemitism is un-American is anti-American," Booker continued. "It violates most deeply our commonly held values. And we must take steps, on the global stage against a vicious act that targets Israel. That is why I'm a cosponsor of Senate bill 720 the Israel anti-boycott ACT, which opposes international efforts to encourage BDS. While Protecting First Amendment rights."
He added that "Every month I talk to people in New Jersey who have a misunderstanding of my stances in my beliefs because they are believing right-wing attacks trying to undermine the base of Democrats like me supporting Israel. So please, if you ever want to know where I stand on an issue, call my office."
Senator Booker criticized Vice President's Pence speech at AIPAC main stage, calling it partisan. "There was no Grace in his remarks. There was no 'Let's reach out and unify Democrats and Republicans.' No. His words were rank partisanship. We, right now, need voices in our country that are wanting to shun the tribalism that is deepening in our country."
He also raised concerns about the political climate in the US, telling the audience: "Everywhere I go around the country now, and you might've noticed I'm traveling a lot, I say that this coming 2020 election can't be about what we're against. It must be about what we're for. It can't be about 'beating the Republicans,' no. We need leadership in both parties that is about uniting Americans around a common cause. And what greater tradition has there been in America, going back to the founding of Israel that we have common cause with the state of Israel. We have a common cause, and they are our allies."