Cory Booker Claims He Didn’t Know He Held A Pro-Palestine Sign. Are You Buying It?

Written by Dana Sanchez

 

Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., has a long history of advocating for Israel, and Jewish groups have donated to his campaigns, but a photo of him holding up a poster that says “From Palestine to Mexico, all the walls have got to go” is causing trouble for the New Jersey senator.

Booker made the keynote speech at a Netroots Nation conference in New Orleans last weekend that was branded as “a political convention for American progressive political activists.” There, the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights advocated ending the “occupation of Palestine” to secure a just future for both Israelis and Palestinians, according to The Intercept.

Booker posed for a photo with pro-Palestinian activists who support boycotting the Jewish state, holding a poster that he later said he hadn’t actually looked at. “Within hours, his campaign disavowed the whole thing,” The Intercept reported.

Booker spokesperson, Jeff Giertz, told the Jewish Telagraphic Agency that Booker was simply snapping photos with fans and that he had no idea what the sign actually read.

Booker is “as close to a bonafide Judeophile as you will ever find,” and “he matters to the Jews”, wrote Rabbi Jeffrey Salkin of Temple Solel in Hollywood, Fla, in a column for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, a wire service serving Jewish community newspapers and media around the world.

“I am convinced that this was a misunderstanding — even as I am convinced that politicians, in particular, must be very cautious about the optics that they create,” Salkin wrote. “Because, c’mon, folks: we are talking about Cory Booker.”

When he first ran for the U.S. Senate, Booker received more money from the pro-Israel community than any other candidate, NJ.com reported.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, which fights anti-Semitism and provides Holocaust education, asked Booker to clarify in a prepared statement Tuesday.

“Like so many other Americans, we were shocked to see Senator Booker in a photo holding a sign that equated the wall between the U.S. and Mexico to the barrier Israel constructed, which has successfully halted suicide bombers from wreaking more havoc on Israeli citizens.”

Many Jews perceive that the left-wing of the Democratic Party has become hyper-critical of Israeli policies, or is increasingly turning against Israel, Salkin wrote. He cited these high-profile examples:

  • Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democratic congressional candidate from New York, who linked Israel’s response in Gaza to Ferguson, and criticized Israeli “occupation of Palestine.” She subsequently admitted she needed to learn more on the subject.
  • Cynthia Nixon, actress and New York gubernatorial hopeful, who supported an artistic boycott of the West Bank settlement of Ariel.
  • Bernie Sanders, who he said believes that Israel overreacted in Gaza.

Booker has called the boycott Isreal movement “anti-Jewish,” according to NJ.com.

He received $434,126 from the pro-Israel community for his special election in 2013 and general election in 2014, more than any other federal lawmaker, according to the Washington-based research group, Center for Responsive Politics.

Booker fell out with many pro-Israel activists when he voted to relax sanctions against Iran over reduced nuclear activities. President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the multinational agreement and reimposed sanctions.

Booker spokesman Giertz defended the Israel-Palestine wall separation in the West Bank. “(Booker) hopes for a day when there will be no need for security barriers in the State of Israel, but while active terrorist organizations threaten the safety of the people living in Israel, security barriers are unfortunate but necessary to protect human lives,” he said.

“That reasoning ignores the fact that the barrier extends far into Palestinian territory, providing Israel an opportunity to continue to expand settlements,” Zaid Jilani wrote for The Intercept. “The international human rights community’s position on the wall reflects leftist critiques that are rooted in an objection to Israel’s choice to build on Palestinian land and displace Palestinian people — not an objection to Israel protecting itself. “

The U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights put out a statement that casts doubt on Booker’s claim, Jilani said. Here’s an excerpt from that statement, which describes Black activists taking the stage and asserting that “’if you’re not progressive on Palestine, you’re not progressive’ to deafening applause”:

We saw for ourselves how progressives are increasingly embracing the issue of Palestinian rights,” it reads. “Our elected officials are also increasingly embracing Palestinian rights, as demonstrated by the first-ever bill for Palestinian children’s rights, sponsored by Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) and 29 other Democrats. It was in this overwhelmingly supportive environment at Netroots Nation that our contingent had the opportunity to meet Sen. Cory Booker briefly and discuss our work for freedom, justice, and equality for the Palestinian people before posing for a photo with him.”

“The last sentence of that statement suggests that Booker had spoken to the USCPR members prior to the photo being taken, thus raising some skepticism about his claim that he did not know what the sign said,” Jilani wrote. “Also notable is the fact that one of the USCPR members in the photo wore a T-shirt that read: “Palestine is a queer, feminist, refugee, racial justice issue.”

 

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