Yesterday the New York Times ran a big article about Senator Cory Booker hailing him as a “longtime activist for social justice.” The Times took Booker to lunch with Susan Sarandon, whom it also described as an activist; and the two talked about racial and bias issues. Of course, Israel and Palestine never came up. Here are some of Booker’s good comments on prison numbers and hate speech:
[S]ince 1980… our prison population has grown about 800 percent, 500 percent at the federal level. Before that, we expected our prison population to shrink. This problem is the result of policies we made in our lifetime…
Between 20 and 30 transgender Americans were killed last year for who they were. We had a church in South Carolina where someone walked in to kill black people specifically. But what concerns me more are all the good people who sit silent in the face of what’s going on. We all have a choice. We can do nothing and accept things as they are, or we can stand up and take responsibility for changing them.
Well, social justice only goes so far. Last Thursday Booker gave a radio interview in which he smeared the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign aimed at Israel as “an anti-Jewish movement.”
Booker was interviewed on the Michael Medved radio show, and when a caller asked him to repudiate the anti-Zionist writer Max Blumenthal (whom Booker’s former friend Shmuley Boteach has sought to tie to Hillary Clinton, whom Booker has endorsed for president), Booker went off on the BDS campaign– a Palestinian-led campaign to end the occupation and end racial discrimination inside Israel. The audio was posted by Buzzfeed. Booker:
Let me go to the core of the point you’re making. I’m gonna go even further: I think, what I’m seeing now in the BDS movement that’s going around this country. What I’m seeing now in the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe. These are things that have to be condemned for what they are, which in my opinion are efforts to undermine America’s most significant ally, specifically in that region. And call it for what it is. And I really do think it is an anti-Jewish movement.
And I say that, and I know a lot of people are gonna rankle and get upset that I said that, but please. When people start talking about boycotting Israel, the first thing I want to know is, there’s, if you look at the numbers of countries who are violating human rights–
I think that Hillary Clinton, I would not support her, frankly, this would be a deal-breaker for me, if she did not have a very pro-Israel stance and a vision for our alliance.
Let’s be very clear about this moment. Booker feels a lot of pressure from the Democratic base on this issue. A lot of people are going to get upset, he says; he knows that younger Democratic voters, and women and people of color are highly critical of Israel. Notice his defensive tone.
The time is approaching swiftly when you cannot maintain that you are an activist for social justice and are working against the Palestinian call to do something about their disfranchisement.
And the broad official effort to smear the BDS campaign as “anti-Semitic” — which Booker is jumping into with both feet — means that the Jewish state, which practices Jim Crow policies over more nearly 5 million Palestinians, stands for the Jewish religion. This is clearly wrong, in many Jews’ eyes.
Also, note that both Booker in New Jersey and Hillary Clinton are highly dependent on pro-Israel donors. This is why Hillary Clinton has promised a big donor that she will work against BDS. It is also why Booker’s fellow Democratic senator from New Jersey, Robert Menendez, says that Jewish claims on the land of Palestine go back to the bible and Abraham and Sarah; he needs rightwing pro-Israel donors.
Again: the PEP contradiction– progressive except Palestine — cannot be maintained forever. It will come under great pressure in this political cycle. And hopefully more and more Americans will be educated about Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions.
Booker is right in line, by the way, with Brooklyn Congressman and Clinton supporter Hakeem Jeffries, who says “Israel today, Israel tomorrow, Israel forever” even as he works hard on the great issue of getting people freed from harsh, overlong prison sentences in New York (BTW, the issue my wife works on).