Washington – Some 300 people from AIPAC's New Jersey delegation gathered earlier this week for a meeting with Democratic presidential hopeful, Senator Cory Booker. The event took place despite a campaign by the progressive "MoveOn" organization which called on presidential candidates to boycott the pro-Israel lobby’s annual conference.
AIPAC's Mort Fridman joked that contrary to reports that major candidates were boycotting the conference, Booker was live, "and not a hologram."
"I want to show you something,” said Fridman. “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. An 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 Cory stands with the state of Israel.”
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 antisemitism 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].”
Booker did not shy away from controversy. He addressed the antisemitic remarks made over the last two months by Rep. Ilhan Omar straight on: "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.”
Booker helped compose Senate Bill 720, known as the anti-boycott ACT, which opposes international efforts to encourage the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement (BDS).
He likewise criticized Vice President Mike Pence’s speech to AIPAC on Monday, calling it partisan.
"There was no grace in his remarks,” said Booker. “There was no, ‘let's reach out and unify Democrats and Republicans.'
"We, right now, need voices in our country that are wanting to shun the tribalism that is deepening in our country,” he continued.
Booker also raised concerns about the political climate in the US, telling the audience that, “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,” he continued. “We have a common cause, and they are our allies."