Shortly after my friend Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey once again broke the hearts of the American Jewish community by condemning President Donald Trump’s proclamation of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a New Jersey imam delivered two antisemitic sermons. This time Cory rose to the occasion and issued a scathing condemnation. This, along with some recent speeches Cory has again begun giving to Jewish groups, is sparking questions as to whether he is gravitating back toward a public pro-Israel posture.
Wherever I go, people ask me what happened to Cory on Israel. “Rabbi Shmuley, you brought Cory to the Jewish community. Rabbi Shmuley, you vouched for him. Rabbi Shmuley, you placed him before national crowds of pro-Israel Jews who made him the single biggest recipient of pro-Israel financial support. Why did you mislead us?” I then ask them what they mean, and they start with their laundry list.
“How could Cory have supported the Iran nuclear deal? That was the most shocking. How could he have opposed the Taylor Force Act in committee? Why did he try and humiliate Ambassador David Friedman in his Senate hearings? And, how could he have come out against Jerusalem being recognized as Israel’s capital?”
These questions become even more pronounced when you contrast Cory’s record with that of his senior colleague from New Jersey, Senator Robert Menendez, who is among the greatest friends Israel has had in Senate history.
Their conclusion: Shmuley, you were had. You were fooled. From the time you made Cory your student president at Oxford University 25 years ago, he was playing you to get the support of the Jewish community.
To which I reply: wrong, wrong and wrong.
Cory is a soul friend, one of the closest friendships I have ever made in life, and is akin to a brother. We gave countless public speeches together on Israel, Judaism, and the African-American history of struggle, and studied thousands of hours of Torah together. He loved Israel and I arranged for him to visit Israel. The idea that any of this was insincere is a grotesque lie and is unfair character assassination of a close friend of our community to which I will always object.
But in the world of politics, on the subject of the Jewish state, I admit that there has been a change in Cory.
And it has been harder for me to witness that change than anyone else. And I have spoken out about it many times in a manner that one can only assume Cory does not appreciate.
But Israel’s survival is paramount and Cory made a big mistake on Iran, a mistake he can still reverse. And if he can find his voice to condemn the antisemitism of an imam in his home state of New Jersey, surely he can find the same voice to condemn the Jew-hatred of Iran, which he ignored when he supported the catastrophic Iran nuclear agreement.
Indeed, the Iranian leaders have not only made similarly crude antisemitic remarks but gone further and threatened the Jews of Israel with genocide.
According to news reports, Aymen Elkasaby, an imam at the Islamic Center of Jersey City, said, “So long as the... Aksa Mosque remains a humiliated prisoner under the oppression of the Jews, this nation will never prevail.” He called on Allah to “wreak vengeance upon the plundering oppressors!” After labeling Jews “apes and pigs,” Elkasaby stated, “Count them one by one, and kill them down to the very last one. Do not leave a single one on the face of the Earth.”
This despicable language is common in the Middle East, and far too common here in the US. I applaud Cory for taking a stand against what he correctly called Elkasaby’s “repugnant,” “dangerous” and “unconscionable” remarks.
To be a truly principled position, however, Cory must be equally willing to condemn similar statements from others, particularly the Iranians whose regime he bolstered with his vote. Sadly, due to his support for the catastrophic nuclear deal with Iran, he has been unwilling to take the Iranians to task. Worse, he supported giving them not only the ability to continue their pursuit of nuclear capabilities under the unverifiable agreement, but also rewarding them with billions of dollars to enable Iran to continue to develop ballistic missiles, sponsor international terrorism and threaten its neighbors.
The ADL describes Iran as “a font of global antisemitism.” Deputy national director Ken Jacobson has noted “classic stereotypes about Jews abound.” One example, is the denial of the Holocaust. “A second stereotype about Jews which Iranian political and religious leadership has purveyed,” Jacobson observed, “was the notion of Jewish control of international financial institutions.”
After Iran’s “moderate” president, Hassan Rouhani, addressed the UN in 2016, ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said, “His espousing of noxious antisemitic conspiracy theories, alleging ‘Zionist’ control of Congress, must be condemned by the international community, specifically, the P5+1 powers who are engaging with Iran, and the countries who are renewing trade and financial deals with the Islamic Republic.”
Following the nuclear agreement that Cory endorsed, president Barack Obama promised a change in Iranian behavior. A year after the deal was signed, the ADL observed:
“[T]he Islamic Republic remains the leading exporter of deadly conspiracy theories and hostile propaganda against the Jewish people and the Jewish state. In recent months we have seen a revival of their notorious Holocaust cartoon contest, which encourages Holocaust revisionism and outright denial... Wild accusations of Zionist plots abound, such as importing genetically modified products to infect Iranians with diseases, or accusing “Jewish actors” of conspiring with Saudis to spread Wahhabism. As the rest of the world mourned the loss of noted peace activist Elie Weisel, Iran opted to slander the Nobel Laureate as a “criminal Zionist and fake witness of [the] Holocaust.”
Iranian leaders also engage in incitement to genocide against the Jewish people, a war crime according to the 1948 Genocide Convention.Newsweek
reported, for example, on the eve of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to the UN, Iran’s army chief warned that his country would immediately lay waste to Israel’s commercial capital of Tel Aviv should Israeli leaders make any mistakes.
Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan said that were president-elect Trump to withdraw from the Iranian nuclear deal, Iran would destroy the State of Israel. Hossein Salami, the deputy head of the Revolutionary Guard, has said: “We will chase you [Israelis] house to house and will take revenge for every drop of blood of our martyrs in Palestine” and that “soon, there will be no such thing as the Zionist regime on Planet Earth.”
Hossein Sheikholeslam, the secretary-general of the Committee for Support for the Palestinian Intifada, declared: “The issue of Israel’s destruction is important, no matter the method. We will obviously implement the strategy of the Imam Khomeini and the Leader [Khamenei] on the issue of destroying the Zionists. The region will not be quiet so long as Israel exists in it....”
Mohammad Ali Jafari, the commander-in-chief of the Revolutionary Guard, has said: “The Revolutionary Guards will fight to the end of the Zionist regime... We will not rest easy until this epitome of vice is totally deleted from the region’s geopolitics.”
These officials all take their cue from Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has made even more blood-curdling threats, such as this one: “It is the mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to erase Israel from the map of the region,” and this one: “The Zionist regime is a cancerous tumor and it will be removed,” and “This barbaric, wolflike & infanticidal regime of Israel which spares no crime has no cure but to be annihilated.”
Instead of condemning Iranian leaders with the same forthrightness that he denounced the New Jersey imam, Cory has been silent. He has been unwilling to speak out against Iranian antisemitism or threats of genocide and continues to defend the disastrous Iran deal. Indeed, at the time of his vote I said many times that even if he unfortunately elects to support the catastrophic deal, he should at least take to the Senate floor to demand that all American negotiations with Iran cease so long as Iran continues to threaten Israel with annihilation.
It is my sincere hope that Cory’s gradual gravitation back to the Jewish community continues. But it will not be effective so long as his silence on Iran’s threatened holocaust of the Jewish people remains deafening.
The time has come to speak up.The author, “America’s rabbi,” whom The Washington Post and Newsweek call “the most famous rabbi in America,” is the international bestselling author of 30 books, including his most recent, The Israel Warrior. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.