Nearly half of Americans are cynical about politicians’ use of Israel, according to a new poll. “Around 28%… believed that ‘political figures often invoke Israel as a political tool more than genuine concern for the state,'” while another 18 percent believed that the politicians don’t “actually care about Israel at all, and strictly use it as a political tool.”
A 2012 speech by New Jersey Senator Cory Booker was lately published that might fulfill those skeptical attitudes, due to its over-the-top embrace of Israeli soldiers as “the most courageous men imaginable.”
Shabtai, a Jewish leadership group at Yale that Booker co-founded when he was a law student in New Haven, last month released a video of Booker at Shabtai in 2012, greeting Gilad Shalit, the former Israeli soldier/prisoner.
Shalit was captured by Hamas in 2005 and held for five years till he was released in a prisoner exchange. A year later, the 26-year-old came to the New Haven gathering with former members of his military unit.
Booker, who is on the right side of the Democratic field in his full-throated support for Israel, likened Shalit to Nelson Mandela, who was imprisoned for 27 years in South Africa.
We now live in this insidious world where right now the state of Israel is under attack. By Hamas, by Hezbollah. There’s a madman standing in Iran determined to have a weapon of mass destruction, who has sworn that he wants to and will destroy Israel and the Israeli people. We must recognize that right now we stand in a distraught present where people are plotting who are making it their very life purpose to destroy the state of Israel…
[T]his is an affront not just to Jewish people, but this is an affront to all of us. Because there is a oneness of humanity, there is a oneness of the children under God. So as I get the privilege of being in the presence of men from a unit who stood to face danger and peril and challenge and threat and hatred in a way that I’ve never had to face, I am in awe of their courage, I’m in awe of their fortitude, I’m in awe of the resiliency of a young man that was cast into a pit like Joseph yet still found a way thanks to the brotherhood and the sisterhood and the love of people in Israel and beyond, to ascend from that pit back to his rightful place amongst his brothers and sisters and family.
I know there are many parallels to what we face right now from my own tradition, of people being hated just for who they are. I think of other great leaders from our common heritage of humanity. A person like Nelson Mandela, thrown into a prison and forgotten about by many but still held on to by a love of a people who have not let his memory die, who every day worked for his freedom. There’s a poem that he read that many of you know. [Booker recites from Invictus] “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.”
That resolve, that determination, that indominable will is what stands between us and tyranny, stands between us and hatred, it stands between us and destruction. This is a time for us to celebrate the release of our brother. This is a time to celebrate the courage of a unit. But it is also a time to to redouble our determination not to let the flame of Israel to flicker again, not to let the threats of terrorism to ever roll upon our shores again. We have a mission to do. It is not a Jewish mission, it is a mission of peace and mission of justice.
Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and several Israeli diplomats were also at the gathering.
Later in that speech Booker linked Israel’s cause to “the cause of freedom,” led by Martin Luther King Jr. and again lauded the Israeli soldiers.
We were all caught up in something that is bigger than race and religion and geography. It is the cause of freedom. You may put a man into a pit, you may steal from us our greatest leaders but as long as we are determined to fight for freedom, to stand for democray, to defend those ideals that others are trying to take away from us, then we will in this world secure the highest ideals of humanity… Today as we gather… giving honor to a group of the most courageous men imaginable, I ask us also to recommit ourselves to the cause of freedom. Because there is still work to do. Israel is still under threat as we speak right now. The ideals that bond us together as men and women, the ideals to which God calls us to do, to fight for justice, to give charity, to love our fellow man– those ideals are challenged now.
Thanks to Michael Arria.