Cory Booker Says He And The AIPAC President Text ‘Back And Forth Like Teenagers’

Written by Dana Sanchez
U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., speaks during the Iowa Democratic Party’s annual Fall Gala, Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., said last week in a closed-door meeting with activists from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee that Democrats need to show a unified front in support of Israel against the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement, or BDS. Booker said he’s not afraid to speak to his own party about this.

Thousands of activists gathered from around the country for AIPAC’s
annual policy conference in Washington, D.C. Booker spoke to AIPAC members from New Jersey.

The Intercept published a 35-minute audio recording of the session,
courtesy of a conference attendee. The session did not appear on a schedule of on-the-record events for journalists covering the conference, according to The Intercept.

Listen to GHOGH with Jamarlin Martin | Episode 51: Bärí A. Williams Jamarlin talks to tech attorney and diversity strategist Bärí Williams about her experience working at Facebook and whether Trump could be talking about Sen. Cory Booker when he claims he could blackmail a U.S. Senator. They also discuss some criticism of Sen. Kamala Harris that is “out of pocket.”

In the recording, Booker thanked AIPAC president Mort Fridman for his “leadership and his friendship,” adding that he and Fridman “talk often” and “text message back and forth like teenagers.”

Booker is the only 2020 Democratic candidate from the Senate who is a co-sponsor of Senate Bill 720, the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, which opposes international efforts to encourage BDS while protecting First Amendment rights.

Booker’s speech focused on opposing the rise in anti-Semitism and bigotry, citing FBI figures that hate crimes in New Jersey increased by 76 percent between 2016 and 2017.

AIPAC has successfully lobbied Congress and state and local legislatures to sanction the BDS movement. Booker talked about congressional legislation aimed at punishing BDS, which is pressuring Israel to end human rights violations and military occupation of the Palestinian territories, The Intercept reported. The disruption of BDS activism is an Israeli foreign policy priority.

In the past, AIPAC has positioned itself as bipartisan. As the progressive wing of the Democratic party shows an increasing willingness to criticize Israel, “Booker has tried to smooth over the widening rift,” the Intercept reported.

Booker has criticized Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., for playing politics with anti-BDS legislation.

Last week, progressive advocacy group MoveOn asked 2020 candidates to skip the conference. At least five Democrats did not attend, including Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., a vocal critic of the American-Israel relationship.

Booker condemned Omar’s recent tweets, seen by some as anti-Semitic. “Tweeting about AIPAC’s influence in Congress last month, Omar wrote: ‘It’s all about the Benjamins, baby’ – referencing pro-Israel political action committees and their ability to raise money for candidates. Critics argued that the tweet invoked anti-Semitic tropes, and Omar later apologized, and said her intention was not to offend Jewish constituents,” according to The Intercept.

“Even though Ilhan Omar was not there, she was absolutely omnipresent at the AIPAC Conference,” said Debra Shushan of Americans for Peace Now in an interview with Mehdi Hasan.

Hasan, host of The Intercept podcast “Deconstructed,” described AIPAC as “a truly disgraceful organization.” That’s because AIPAC is obsessed “with Rep. Ilhan Omar and its very explicit role in mainstreaming Islamophobia in the U.S.,” Hasan said. 

Trump has tweeted in support of a “Jexodus,” a so-called Jewish Exodus from the Democratic Party, but survey data does not suggest that Jewish voters — most of whom vote liberal and Democratic — are flocking to support him, Alex Emmons wrote for The Intercept.

Hasan begs to differ. He insists the Democratic base has been drifting away from Israel, especially younger Democrats. “That’s what the polls show,” Hasan said.