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Cory Booker says he supports new anti-BDS legislation: ‘There are elements in the BDS movement that want to destroy the state of Israel’

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In a Huffington Post interview published on June 5, U.S. Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Cory Booker announced that he now supports a federal anti-BDS bill, which would allow states to punish contractors for boycotting Israel. Booker voted against similar legislation earlier this year.

In February, the Senate voted on the Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act (S.1), a piece of legislation that was introduced by Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) James Risch (R-ID) Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Mitch McConnell (R-KY). The final section of the bill is called The Combating BDS Act and it would allow local and state governments to “divest from entities that engage in certain Boycott, Divestment, or Sanctions activities targeting Israel or persons doing business in Israel or Israeli-controlled territories.”

The bill passed in the Senate 77-23, but almost every Democratic presidential candidate in the Senate voted against it. Vermont’s Bernie Sanders, Massachusetts’ Elizabeth Warren, Ohio’s Sherrod Brown, California’s Kamala Harris, and New Jersey’s Cory Booker all released statements to Haaretz making it clear that they’re against boycotts of Israel and opposed the bill for First Amendment reasons. New York’s Kirsten Gillibrand voted against the bill, but never responded to the request for comment. Minnesota’s Amy Klobuchar was the only Senator running for president who voted for the legislation, but she also did not provide an explanation.

In his statement, Booker alluded to his history of fighting against BDS. “I have a strong and lengthy record of opposing efforts to boycott Israel, as evidenced by my cosponsorship of S. 720, the Israel Anti-Boycott Act,” said Booker, “However, this specific piece of legislation contains provisions that raise serious First Amendment concerns, and that’s why I voted against it. I drafted an amendment to help address these widely-held concerns, but there was no amendment process offered to allow for this bill to be improved. There are ways to combat BDS without compromising free speech, and this bill as it currently stands plainly misses the mark.”

Despite opposing this act just four months ago, Booker recently reiterated his support for the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, which is designed to have the same impact as The Combating BDS Act. He was originally a cosponsor of the bill (as he mentioned) and any subsequent reservations have seemingly been assuaged by the fact Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) amended the legislation last year to allegedly remove any First Amendment violations. However, critics point out that the bill remains unconstitutional despite the changes. “Senator Cardin has been struggling to pass this legislation, first sneaking it into other legislation before it was ruled out of procedure, and most recently by making amendments in an attempt to buy the consent of those with free speech concerns,” said Executive Director of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights Yousef Munayyer at the time.

Booker told the Huffington Post:

I voted against the anti-BDS bill that I thought was an assault on first amendment rights. I support the [current] bill because, again, as a guy who knows a little bit about constitutional law and I know there are people who disagree with me — that is not, it actually protects American companies from being forced by foreign international organizations from complying with things that they shouldn’t have to comply with.”

I do not support BDS. To me, I think, there are elements in the BDS movement that want to destroy the state of Israel, that are engaged in things that will undermine Israel’s ability to survive, to exist, to protect itself. Israel is a democratic ally of ours in a region that is surrounded by nations, many of them who are doing things to suppress minorities, violate rights in a way that should be calling on all of us to say, ‘Look what you are doing to your minorities, to gays and lesbians, look what you are doing to women.’ But yet people seem to be focused on a state that is a democratic state, that has Muslims on its Supreme Court, Muslims in its legislature. And I support the right of Israel to exist and to defend itself.

But I also support the rights of Palestinians — the human rights of the Palestinians… this administration is pulling back the resources necessary, pulling back a commitment to a two-state solution — because just as much as the Israelis have a right to self-determination, so do Palestinians. But I am sorry, this BDS movement is something that I do not support, and I think that we should do what we can to protect American companies, and other Americans, from being attacked in a way that undermines their ability to stand up for what they believe is right. That is where I stand.

In March, The Intercept published a leaked recording from a meeting between Cory Booker and members of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). In that recording, Booker says he wants to establish a “unified voice from Congress” to oppose BDS.

Just a few days before Booker’s interview was published, New York City Mayor and Democratic presidential candidate Bill de Blasio told a NYC radio station, “New York City stands with Israel. We say, ‘Yes to Israel.’ We say, ‘No to BDS.’”

Mondoweiss reached out to the presidential campaigns of Pete Buttigieg and Joe Biden for a comment on anti-BDS legislation but they didn’t respond by the time of this piece’s publication.

Michael Arria

Michael Arria is the U.S. correspondent for Mondoweiss.

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20 Responses

  1. eljay on June 10, 2019, 3:04 pm

    … Booker told the Huffington Post …

    I believe in Jewish supremacism in/and a religion-supremacist ‘Jewish State’ in as much as possible of geographic Palestine, and the ‘right’ of Jews to do unto others acts of injustice and immorality they would not have others do unto them.

    And if that’s not enough, well, whataboutism. There, that’s enough. Don’t you dare make me have to say Holocaust.

    • Misterioso on June 11, 2019, 9:25 am

      @eljay, et al

      Meanwhile:

      “Ashkenazi petition against Israeli State-Nation Law”

      Press Release, June 11/19

      “A new petition was filed to High Court of Justice in Jerusalem, in a bid to strike down the newly passed Nation-State Law. The petition argues that the law discriminates against the non-Jewish – mainly Palestinian – citizens of Israel, as elaborated in a similar petition submitted by Adalah against the same law. Furthermore, the petition supports the petition of some 60 Mizrahi Israelis who argued that the law discriminates against Jews of Arab extraction as it degrades the Arabic language to that a ‘special status.’

      “In addition to these main arguments, Ashkenazi Israelis argue that the Nation-State Law defines them as superior to non-Jews as well as Mizrahi Jewish-Israelis. We refuse to inhabit the privileged position allocated to us. We demand a full equality for all the residents of this country.

      “We see ourselves as the bearers of a tradition pioneered by Ashkenazi Jews who lived in this country and mastered the Arabic language out of respect for the language of the region, rather than the ‘enemy language’ which is the way it is often perceived in Israel nowadays.

      “There were also Jews in Europe in the 19th and early 20th centuries who saw the studying of Arabic language and culture as an important tool to emancipate themselves as Jews. This is the Israeli Ashkenazi identity we wish to champion, against a racist colonial one.”

      For more information contact Eitan Bronstein Aparicio: +972(0)50-6314229
      [email protected]

      • LiberatePalestine on June 11, 2019, 2:02 pm

        Good for them. They won’t succeed, but they are right to try. Maybe they’ll at least create a minor embarrassment.

        Here’s an Arabic lesson:

        فليسقط الكيان الصهيوني
        Down with the Zionist entity

        فلسطين الحرة
        Freedom for Palestine

  2. Kay24 on June 10, 2019, 4:31 pm

    Cory Booker will never be President, so his kissing up to Israel is pointless. New Jersey is cursed with two shameful senators, who kiss up to a brutal occupier, that keeps stealing lands to building illegal settlements, and kills unarmed civilians, breaking all international laws.

    • RoHa on June 10, 2019, 7:18 pm

      Not pointless at all. He wants to stay a senator, so he has to keep on the right side of Israel. Mustn’t let those videos go public.

    • DaBakr on June 10, 2019, 10:15 pm

      @k

      Why never? Because America is too polarized to elect another black president? He has all the chops obama had plus more. Actual experience.

      I mean, I tend to agree he isn’t front running now, but never?

      • Donald on June 10, 2019, 11:21 pm

        I think Booker’s chances of ever being President are not terribly high, but they aren’t zero.
        Certainly a black man or woman could do it again. But there is no strong reason for thinking it will be Booker.

        Obama, though, was special in a a couple of ways. I don’t mean that in some star struck way— I was not in love with him. But millions were. He was the first black President and he had this political gift where people would project their own imaginary version of Obama onto Obama. I knew people in real life like this— in fact, I still know one who was swooning over him just the other day. Phil had a bad case of this for awhile. In reality Obama is a centrist liberal who genuinely thought he could strike grand centrist bargains with Republicans over Social Security. Fortunately he couldn’t. On foreign policy he had no intention of sending US troops into another major war, like Syria, but he was fine with sending weapons into the hands of rebels which quickly ended up in the hands of Isis and Al Qaeda. He wanted a 2ss, but it wasn’t important enough to him to push for it against Israel supporters in his own party who hate the idea of any pressure put on Israel. He spent his political capital on the Iran deal and then placated the Saudis by helping them bomb civilians in Yemen.

      • Misterioso on June 11, 2019, 8:28 am

        @DaBakr

        NEVER!!

      • DaBakr on June 12, 2019, 11:25 pm

        @dnld

        Agreed. I still don’t understand why Obama spent his capital pushing the Iran deal. He never explained to the American people why strengthening the mullahs at the expense of the Saudis (two arguably equal and awful oppressive regimes). How could his ‘brilliant’ english major point man rhodes have missed the Iranian quest to expand its military through syria and Lebanon while putting off the mostly symbolic bomb for a few years. I mean, I get why the greedy EU wanted it, but for what benefit to America? I mean, fuck Israel for the moment and explain Obamas famous ‘long term strategy’ in light of the current situ in Syria with putin and the irg how it was in America’s interests? I guess I was too thick to understand. (I admired Obamas ability to inspire through his stentorian voice, however )

  3. LiberatePalestine on June 10, 2019, 7:50 pm

    → Israel is a democratic ally of ours

    Like Germany in the 1930s.

    → in a region that is surrounded by nations, many of them who are doing things to suppress minorities,

    Whereas the non-nation of the Zionist entity suppresses the majority.

    → violate rights in a way that should be calling on all of us to say, ‘Look what you are doing to your minorities, to gays and lesbians, look what you are doing to women.’

    Typical Zionist smoke screen. What does that, if true, have to do with opposition to the Zionist entity? Even if conditions in all of the rest of the region were horrible, we would be entirely justified in opposing the genocidal Zionist occupation of Palestine.

    For that matter, the US seems perfectly content with oppression of minorities, gays, and women as long as the oppressing party is a client régime such as that of Saudi Arabia or Turkey. Only those states that find themselves in Yankee cross-hairs are vilified, accurately or otherwise, for oppressing those groups.

    → But yet people seem to be focused on a state that is a democratic state,

    The Zionist entity isn’t democratic even on its own terms. There can be no «Jewish and democratic state»: one or the other has to go, and we know which one it is.

    Herrenvolk «democracy» as practised in white-occupied Azania, the US under Jim Crow, and Germany during the Nazi era is not accepted in the twenty-first century—except in the case of the criminal Zionist entity, which gets away with its genocidal master-race politics thanks to the backing of the big imperialist powers and the complicity of the rest of the world (including, disgustingly, many Arab states eager to ingratiate themselves with the imperialist bloc).

    → that has Muslims on its Supreme Court, Muslims in its legislature.

    Sure. And some of your best friends are Black.

    → And I support the right of Israel to exist and to defend itself.

    No state, in particular the Zionist entity, has a «right to exist», still less a right to exist on any particular parcel of land. And the reference to defence serves only to cast the criminal aggressor as an innocent victim.

  4. mondonut on June 10, 2019, 7:54 pm

    ‘There are elements in the BDS movement that want to destroy the state of Israel’

    Whatever anyone thinks of Booker or his positions – his quote above is 100% accurate.

    • oldgeezer on June 10, 2019, 9:47 pm

      @mondonut

      I don’t have personal knowledge of any element within the BDS movement that wants to destroy the state of Israel. Having said that I would be surprised if there wasn’t.

      Just as there are elements in Israeli society that want to destroy the Palestinians. Genocide, ethnically cleanse or supremacists willing to tolerate them in bantustans.

      So what?

      An element being present isn’t relevant.What is relevant is what the majority, or controlling constituency, want and do.

      In the case of Israel we can see the racists and extremists control the government.

      Maybe Israel should be a light unto nations??!!

      Clean up your society and then you can ask the BDS movement, which has zero say or control in what individuals do or do not boycott, to clean up the movement. Ooops!!! There are no membership cards because there is no membership for those adhering to the call from Palestinian civil society.

      • LiberatePalestine on June 11, 2019, 4:08 am

        I’m an element in the BDS movement, and I certainly do want to destroy the Zionist entity, a criminal project that must be smashed and relegated to the dustbin of history. In its place should be created a state (some would say two states) not founded on racial or religious supremacy. I’m quite open to a peaceful transformation of the Zionist entity into something humane—but that too entails the destruction of the Zionist entity, for it will have to cease to be Zionist.

        Many people in the BDS movement hold similar views. Many others wish to maintain the Zionist entity on different terms, such as by restricting it to a portion of Palestine’s territory. The BDS movement accommodates a range of opinions on Palestinian politics.

        Furthermore, even if I am wrong to advocate the elimination of the Zionist entity, it does not follow that the BDS movement is wrong. The BDS movement may be correct and noble even if some of its members are not. Thus the usual allegation of anti-Semites in the BDS movement is irrelevant: if there are any anti-Semites (and there probably are, just as there are plenty of anti-Semitic Zionists), they will get a hostile reception from the rest of the BDS movement.

        The analogy between wanting «to destroy the state of Israel» and wanting «to destroy the Palestinians» is poor: the former is a matter of political organisation; the latter, a proposal of genocide.

    • eljay on June 11, 2019, 8:15 am

      || mondonut: ‘There are elements in the BDS movement that want to destroy the state of Israel’

      Whatever anyone thinks of Booker or his positions – his quote above is 100% accurate. ||

      Booker’s BDS “elements” (how many is that exactly?) got nuthin’ on the 100% accurate fact that 100% of Zionism’s adherents believe in:
      – Jewish supremacism in/and a religion-supremacist “Jewish State” in as much as possible of Palestine; and
      – the “right” of people who have chosen to embrace the religion-based identity of Jewish to do unto others acts of injustice and immorality (a.k.a. “necessary evil”) they would not have others do unto them.

    • Misterioso on June 11, 2019, 8:36 am

      @mondonut

      There are and always have been “elements in” the Zionist “movement” that want to “destroy,” all of Palestine, expel its indigenous Arab Muslim and Christian inhabitants and create therein a racist, expansionist, fascistic “Jewish state” comprised of only Jews of foreign origin.

  5. RoHa on June 10, 2019, 9:19 pm

    ” that has Muslims on its Supreme Court, Muslims in its legislature.”

    If the Israelis are so happy with having Muslims in positions of power and influence, why don’t they go for the one-state-with-full-citizenship-for all idea?

    • LiberatePalestine on June 11, 2019, 4:24 am

      What it has, of course, are tokens. There were Chinese compradors (‘buyers’ in Portuguese) who facilitated the exploitation of the Chinese masses by European colonialists. There were Uncle Toms in the US who curried favour with the white oppressors. There were Jewish kapos who did some of the Nazis’ dirty work. And there are Palestinians who throw their lot in with the Zionists.

      I won’t go so far as to say that all Muslims high up in the administrative apparatus of the Zionist entity are tokens or kapos. The legislators, for instance, typically are just trying to achieve what they can within an odious apartheid state set up to minimise or thwart their influence. Various Jewish-supremacist «basic laws» tie the hands of legislators, including Jewish ones, who would challenge Zionist apartheid.

  6. Ossinev on June 11, 2019, 10:55 am

    @mondonut
    ‘There are elements in the BDS movement that want to destroy the state of Israel’

    Whatever anyone thinks of Booker or his positions – his quote above is 100% accurate.”

    There are elements in the Zionist movement that want to ethnically cleanse “Eretz Israel” of the native indigenous people the Palestinians:
    https://www.haaretz.com/1.5011075

    Much the same philosophy as that of the Nazis who wanted to cleanse Germany and occupied Europe of Jews.

    The major difference is that BDS supporters are intelligent,moral and compassionate
    whereas “Eretz Israel” Zionists are unhinged fruitcakes who never had and never will have any form of moral compass.

  7. James Canning on June 11, 2019, 11:43 am

    I have a hunch Corey Booker can comprehend an important fact: BDS is actually a good thing for Israel. What other means is available, to pressure Israel toward ending the occupation of the West Bank?

  8. genesto on June 11, 2019, 12:14 pm

    Allow me to answer for Pete and Joe:

    “We are vigorously opposed to anything, such as BDS, that threatens the very existence of the state of Israel, our special friend and the only democracy blah, blah, blah, blah —–“.

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