Yesterday the Intercept published a secret recording of Senator Cory Booker meeting with a New Jersey delegation at the AIPAC policy conference in Washington last week — AIPAC is the leading Israel lobby organization — and the speech is so over the top it’s hard to fathom. It ends with Booker consecrating Israel and the U.S. as one in the name of Martin Luther King and his murder in Memphis, a sermon by the senator you will have to read to believe.
Booker also says: Donald Trump is endangering Israel’s security in Syria; there is no “greater moral vandalism” than dividing the US and Israel; Booker would cut off his right hand before abandoning Israel; he lobbied black congresspeople not to boycott Netanyahu’s 2015 speech because we need to show a “united front” with Israel; AIPAC is an “incredible… great” organization whose mission is urgent now because of rising anti-Semitism; he “text messages back and forth like teenagers” with AIPAC’s president Mort Fridman; and he swears to uphold bipartisan support in the Congress for Israel and give it even more money.
And Booker says not one word about Palestinian human rights or Israel’s persecution of Palestinians. That’s right. A progressive senator who invokes Martin Luther King Jr. over and over again has not one word to say about the Jim Crow status of Palestinians while describing Israel as a “country that I love so deeply, that changed my life from the day I went there as a 24 year old.” I assume this really is all about the Benjamins. Booker is running for president and needs mainstream Jewish/Zionist funding.
The progressive base of the Democratic Party is going against Israel, but Booker isn’t leaving the choir.
Here’s the Jersey senator’s cut-off-my-right-hand moment. Booker lavishes praise on AIPAC and then echoes the famous psalm:
Don’t fall prey to cynical attempts to try to pit members of this great organization against the Democratic Party…
Israel is not political to me. It’s not political. I was a supporter of Israel well before I was a United State Senator. I was coming to AIPAC conferences well before I knew that one day I would be a federal officer. If I forget thee, o Israel, may I cut off my right hand. [Applause]
Here’s the long Martin Luther King sermon at the end. The setup is that Booker’s gone to Israel and the region more than any other place, and on one visit, he did a late night desert campfire with a “buddy from New York” and two “very big and intimidating” Israelis. The Israelis pointed out Mt. Nebo in Jordan and Booker says he “got chills” because that’s where Moses saw the promised land.
And Martin Luther King in his last speech, hours before he would die, spoke about Mt. Nebo, he said, I have been to the mountaintop and I have looked over and I have seen the promised land. I may not make it, but we as a people will make it to the promised land, and I literally said to the men, please pull out your Ipads and your Torah, something you could only do in modern Israel, and I played that speech. We fell silent as the words of Martin Luther King echoed into the desert. And then I said to them, that if you went across the planet now to a place called Memphis, to a spot called the Lorraine Motel, and you saw where Martin Luther King was slain, the man who just spoke that speech that we heard, if you go there right now, there would be words from the Torah on the spot where he was slain and murdered and what were those words?… They’re words from that week’s parsha, when I was there. Open up to this week’s parsha and they did…. [Joseph’s brothers] throw him in the pit to die, and I’m telling you, I’m telling you right now, this country right now, we’re in a pit. When we should be unified, we’re separated and divided. Americans all over this country feel alone, feel isolated, but we’re not, we’re one people with one cause, but that’s how people feel.
And when a King was slain who led a movement where blacks and whites, Christians and Jews found their connection so deep that they were willing to die together like Goodman, Chaney and Schwerner… That leader of that movement, where he was slain– there are words from that week’s Torah portion… It says right there, go to the Lorraine Motel… it says right there Joseph’s brother’s words. “Behold. Here cometh the dreamer, let us slay him and see what becomes of the dream.”
When we read those words from the Torah, those four men in that desert, the lines that divided us evaporated, the ties that bound us were there. We may have been black and white, Christian and Jewish, American and Israeli, but we were one. Because we believed in the dream. The dream of Israel, the dream of America, the dream of democracies. That people can be free. That though we may pray different or look different, that we are one, as King said, all caught in inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a common garment of destiny, that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere..
To all my brothers and sisters right here, what will become of the dream? In a country right now of rising hate and bigotry, what will become of our dream? Where tribalism is pitting this nation against itself, What will become of our dream?…
Our call right now is to unify again. To not let our petty differences overwhelm our common cause… We are the caretakers of the dream, the dream of Israel, the dream of America, the dream of humanity. And I believe in my heart that if we can get beyond this divisiveness, if we can overcome hate with our love… I promise you that if we can love like that and live like that, then this country’s best days will be… ahead of it, that Israel’s security will be affirmed, I promise you. If we now take care of the dream, then Israel and America will live that prophet’s ideal, that we will be nations that will be a light unto all nations.
I know that was a lot! Here are some of the other moments.
Booker says that the AIPAC “conference is coming at a deeply critical time” because of the rise of anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. in recent years. He segues right from the rise of anti-Semitism to the rise of anti-Zionism. “We must take acts on a local stage against vicious acts that target Israel. That’s why I’m cosponsor of Senate Bill 720. Israel anti-Boycott Act,” he says.
Booker deplores the Republican effort in the Senate to push legislation that divided Democrats and Republicans over Israel. He says that he “worked with AIPAC on the last BDS bill… condemning the BDS movement for its threat to the state of Israel” and sought to make the legislation acceptable to everyone. But the Republican leadership insisted on a partisan bill.
This is not in the AIPAC spirit.
This incredible organization has been trying to say again and again. Partisanship stops at the water’s edge… 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?… God, I find myself fighting every year to make sure that the bipartisan commitment stays.
As part of that fight, Booker consulted with AIPAC in 2015 when Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to Congress in defiance of the Iran deal, to keep black congresspeople from boycotting the speech. They should hang in there out of respect for the office of prime minister:
I am here today because I am a fighter…. I got on the phone fighting with others in the Congressional Black Caucus, or encouraging others in the Congressional Black Caucus not to boycott the speech. Not because of Netanyahu and his policies. But because we need to continually show a unified front in our support for Israel. The same way I told people not to boycott Donald Trump’s inaugural speech…
These offices — prime minister of Israel or the presidency of the Untied States — we have to have a deep commitment to our institutions, to our alliances, to our relationships… Right now… what greater moral vandalism is there… than those who seek to divide this country, those who seek to undermine the bonds that tie us together in our common commitment.
Booker says that Donald Trump is endangering Israel by going wobbly on Syria/Iran when Israel’s neighborhood just gets more dangerous.
This administration’s seeming willingness to pull away from Syria makes it more dangerous to us, makes it more dangerous to Israel, and this is not sound policy…. When you’re tweeting about pulling out of Syria within days, when that would create a vacuum that would not only endanger the United States of America but it would endanger our ally Israel as well. We need a comprehensive strategy for that region because Israel’s neighborhood is getting more dangerous than less. Syria is becoming a highway for Iran to move more precision guided missiles to Hezbollah. There has got to be a strategy in this country to support Israel that is bipartisan that is wise and that frankly calls upon all the resources of this country, not just military.
Booker assured a questioner he’s always been for more money to Israel.
Unequivocally 100 percent absolutely [yes] to the 3.3 billion [a year]. I have been on the front lines every time an MOU is up to make sure Israel gets the funding it needs. I even pushed for more funding.
But that’s not enough.
I want our partnership to go even further than just security alliance. I am emboldened with a hope for humanity when I visit Israel and see what they’re doing in other areas beside military…. [Like water reclamation] This is the power of Israel. It’s the country that when they win a war, they turn the keys to the Temple Mount back over to people that were trying to rid them of their country.