Featured Post

Friends don’t let friends enable genocide

On the decision by his soul-mate, Cory Booker, to support the Iran nuclear deal

Today, Tuesday, my close friend Senator Cory Booker will meet with Jewish leaders at his office in Newark to confront the shock of American Jewry at his announcement last Thursday that he will support the Iran deal. If it’s true, as reported in The New York Observer, that Cory didn’t invite me to the meeting because he’s upset about my comments denouncing the Iran deal, then I’m sorry he’s angry with me. We are, and always will be, soul-friends. But there’s nothing I can do. In face of the threat of Iran’s stated plans for the annihilation of Israel there is no way I can be silent. And nor should any Jew be silent as Iran proudly promises and plans a second holocaust. Win or lose, we have to fight the Iran deal to at least show that we are not, and never will be, Jews of silence.

But despite my public condemnation of Cory’s choice to support an agreement that will legitimize a genocidal regime, I made it clear, both in my statement and the column that followed, that I would never reject Cory as someone who for nearly 25 years has been as a brother. Cory served as president of my Jewish student organization at Oxford University. He bounced my children as babies on his knee. He cooked “kosher soul food” at my home with other students. We spent countless Shabbat dinners together. He danced up a storm at all our kids’ celebrations, most memorably at my daughter’s wedding. And we have studied thousands of hours of Torah together.

I could never cease to love him. My strong disagreement with him is strictly over policy. It was never personal. It just happens to be that this particular policy is arguably the most important of our time.

But my comments avowing my unending friendship with Cory drew sharp criticism from many who wrote to me that Cory had betrayed our friendship and the extremely close ties he forged with the Jewish community through me. Cory, they said, had spoken in hundreds of synagogues where he asked for Jewish support while pledging to always defend Israel. How could I write, they asked, that I would never allow it to affect our personal relationship?

I disagree. It’s imperative that the Jewish and Israel-loving community never succumb to battle-fatigue over the Iran deal and make things personal. Cory’s choice to vote for the Iran deal is not a personal betrayal or a display of disloyalty to the Jewish community. Rather, it is the embracing of a catastrophic policy that will give $150 billion to Iran to murder people throughout the world and legitimize their nuclear program with potentially unspeakable results to the world’s only Jewish state.

And glaring as our differences on Iran are, I remain firmly focused on those policy issues without allowing those differences with Cory to ever become personal.

Genocide prevention is larger than Cory, larger than me, larger even than the Jewish community. The Jews are not the only ones to have experienced genocide. In the last century it started with the Armenians, whose genocide is still not recognized by President Obama, and continued on with the Cambodians, Rwandans, Bosnians, Kosovars, and Darfurians. And those are the groups that have been officially classified as having experienced genocide. What’s happening to our innocent Arab brothers and sisters in Syria might qualify as well, with the Central African Republic being another genocide, God forbid, in waiting.

Cory’s vote to excuse Iran’s repeated promise to exterminate the six million Jews of Israel is not a personal affront to me but is, respectfully, an affront rather to victims of genocide the world over who have to live with murderers who stalk them, promising their annihilation. Cory is a man who has taught me much about the brotherhood of humankind. But overlooking Iran’s terrorism and their destruction of so many innocent lives, and voting to give them $150 billion more which they will use to murder the innocent, is inconsistent with Cory’s oft-repeated commitment to the Biblical teachings about the infinite value of each individual life.

Cory and I have had innumerable conversations about the holocaust and Rwanda. He is very familiar with my travels to Kigali and friendship with President Paul Kagame, who stopped the genocide in 1994. He is aware that regimes that threaten genocide must be taken seriously. Those governments that threaten mass-murder more often that not opt to carry it out. That Cory chose to issue a statement of support of the deal without at least demanding that Iran stop their genocidal threats against the Jewish people is mystifying and out of character.

Cory’s meeting with Jewish leaders will involve an address by Adam Szubin, a Treasury Undersecretary who has become something of a Jewish salesman of the deal for the Obama Administration. Here, yet again, is an attempt to persuade the Jewish community to embrace a deal that 80 percent of Israelis – from left to right – say threatens their very existence. I do not see what good can come of it, other than to weaken Jewish resolve in our opposition to the deal and minimize our legitimate pressure against those who have chosen to embrace it.

Real friends are those who are honest with you and don’t tell you what you want to hear. Sycophants are those who toady up to those in power, making a mockery of the democratic process which demands that our public servants be accountable.

I love Cory and always will. But rather than viewing elected officials as the powerful that we dare never professionally alienate, our community should see them in the way the founding fathers intended: as public servants who are elected to represent the will of the people.

Cory Booker is as special a man as I have met in my life. He is inspiring, warm, kind-hearted, and devoted. He can bring real, positive change to American politics. But that cannot happen if he abandons the moral convictions that have propelled him forward thus far and won over so many adherents.

Sometimes what politicians need most is real friends rather than those who, desperate for access and power, will tell them only what they want to hear.

About the Author
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is the founder of This World: The Values Network. He is the author of Judaism for Everyone and 30 other books, including his most recent, Kosher Lust. Follow him on Twitter@RabbiShmuley.