An article in the national media a few weeks ago said that my 25-year friendship with Cory Booker “had foundered.” I must dispute this characterization.
My friendship has not foundered. It was betrayed.
It was betrayed by a friend who was as close to me as a brother, whom my people embraced as a son, but who decided to vote to fund a government that was calling for our annihilation. It was betrayed by a friend whom I introduced to Elie Wiesel, and who quotes the great Holocaust survivor at every turn, but who chose to close his eyes to Iran’s promise to perpetrate a second Holocaust. And it was betrayed by a politician to whom the Jewish community gave incalculable support for his promises to support Israel, only to see him condemn the embassy move to Jerusalem and vote in committee against a bill that would stop payments to Palestinian terrorists for murdering Jews.
I will always love Cory as the man who became my closest friend. But I cannot overlook his stunning unfaithfulness to the Jewish people at a time when antisemitism is rising throughout the world.
The person who has suffered the most from this betrayal is Cory himself. From the time he was 22 years old, I would look him in the eye and tell him he would one day be president of the United States. I was sure that when he would one day announce his candidacy, it would drop like an earthquake. Instead, the announcement came and went, this past February, to barely a ripple. And the reason? America is sick of politicians. And Cory’s betrayal of Israel for political gain was seen for what it was: an honest, good, and forthright man suddenly becoming a politician.
Cory announced recently that his presidential campaign had raised a bit over $5 million in the first quarter of the year. The sums raised by other candidates underline his underperformance: Bernie Sanders raised $18.2 million, Kamala Harris raised more than $12 million and Beto O’Rourke raised $9.4 million. Even Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, out-raised Cory with $7 million in disclosed donations.
As for the polls, NBC News had Joe Biden at 30%, Bernie Sanders at 23%, and Beto O’Rourke and Kamala Harris at about 8% each. Cory, until this year a national celebrity, was at 3.5%.
This news was for me especially shocking. I was, in all likelihood, the first person besides family who ever told Cory that he would rise to the highest office in the land. He was just a young student, but his formidable potential was undeniable. For years, I lauded his warmth, morals, and abilities, and I worked to earn him support from across the country for city councilman, then for mayor, and eventually senator. I connected Cory with AIPAC, NORPAC, and countless other Jewish organizations, synagogues, panels and conferences.
HOW DID the distance come between us? After all, for 25 years our bond stood the test of time. Never dwindling, its intensity stayed bright. We loved each other like brothers and were united by the iron bond of shared goals and values. But I told Cory that voting for the Iran deal would constitute a betrayal not only of the Jewish people but of humankind’s principal mission of protecting life on Earth.
Giving the Iranian terrorists more money by which to murder innocents would mean granting the regime a direly needed tens of billions of dollars infusion. It would open the gates to lush opportunities of a global economy happy to overlook the mullahs’ vows to eradicate Israel and its support for murderers already at work. Worst of all, outrageously generous sunset clauses meant that Iran would be able to build a nuclear device within seven to ten years. Its weak system of oversight on the Iranian ballistic missile program meant that Tehran, by that time, may very well have developed the chariot to deliver the payload. This deal, I told him, could put the power of genocide in the hands of a government hateful enough to carry it out.
Combating genocide and its rhetorical forewarnings were especially relevant to the two of us then, as we looked for answers in the wake of the Rwandan genocide, which took place while Cory studied at Oxford – its 25th anniversary took place this week. And they are especially relevant to me now, with the world’s newest calls for mass murder aimed at the six million Jews inhabiting the world’s only Jewish state.
Shortly before the vote, Cory announced his intention to vote in support of the Iran deal. Even then I begged him to at least use his Senate platform to condemn the genocidal rhetoric emanating from Ayatollah Khamenei and fellow antisemites who promised a second Holocaust. Could he not, in just a single op-ed or speech, fulminate against their calls to “level Tel Aviv” – a city of a million – or “annihilate the Zionist regime.”
I made this plea, privately as well as publicly, on several occasions: in The Hill, The Huffington Post, and The New York Observer. He may have chosen to ignore my calls, but he knew just how pensive millions of Jews were at the site of the United States legitimizing the leading purveyors of antisemitic word and action.
But while for 25 years our friendship was unbreakable, it simply could not survive Cory’s betrayal of the fundamental value that had undergirded our mutual values: to safeguard the sanctity of human life.
In an age where we wage wars to knock vile white supremacists off of YouTube, Cory’s vote provided far more dangerous bigots with the significant platform of being invited back into the community of civilized nations. From neglect, a relationship can flounder. Betrayal, though, is a far more serious challenge.
Which leads us to my primary point: Cory is foundering in this election because he’s proven himself the classic politician, driven less by conviction than opportunity, more by the allure of stature than the love of mankind. Only a politician would choose party over principle in the face of the genocidal aspirations of Iran.
Americans is sick of politicians. They are searching for authenticity. And all the candidates who are excelling are seen – love them or hate them – as being true to their political ideology.
America knew Cory had a special friendship with Israel and the Jewish community, which he and I had built over 25 years. As he has abandoned Israel over the past three years to cater to extreme left-wing elements of the Democratic Party, America has seen him as just another politician who will sell out allies, friends, and a vulnerable democracy for political and personal gain. And they have punished him in the polls as a result.
To win over the masses, one must beam with the brightest message of all: that one’s moral convictions are one’s sole authority. For if individuals cannot innately discern their own path, by what right can they demand worth in charting it for others?
The writer, ‘America’s Rabbi,’ whom The Washington Post calls ‘the most famous rabbi in America,’ is the international bestselling author of 32 books, including his most recent, Lust for Love.
He served for 11 years as the rabbi at Oxford University, where Cory Booker was his student president. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.
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