I’m extremely disappointed with Senator Cory Booker. The man who ran and was elected on a supposedly pro-Israel platform, who received an unprecedented amount of donations from pro-Israel voters, seems to be missing no opportunity to vote with the growing anti-Israel faction of his party. Last week, he did just the same. His decisions seem transparently political, but for me it’s deeply personal.
As only one of four senators on the Foreign Affairs Committee to vote against the Taylor Force Act, Senator Booker and the others have a lot of explaining to do. The Taylor Force Act is legislation that would cut U.S. funding to the Palestinian Authority (PA) until it stops payments of salaries to terrorists and their families. The legislation also requires the PA to take “credible steps” against incitement to violence against Israelis and Americans.
It is named in memory of Taylor Force, an American West Point graduate and graduate student at Vanderbilt University who was murdered by a Palestinian terrorist in Israel in March 2016. Force was walking on a boardwalk when he was attacked by a Palestinian terrorist who stabbed him to death, one of more than 10 of the terrorist’s victims.
Growing up and educated in New Jersey, raising my own family and spending most of my life there until moving to Israel, I care about what happens there. New Jersey is where I still vote and pay taxes. While three others joined the “No” vote, Senator Booker represents me and my family of proud yet concerned Americans. It’s unthinkable that by voting “no,” Booker essentially voted to use my tax dollars, and those of all New Jerseyans, to fund a Palestinian Authority that incites, celebrates and supports terror.
Today, the family of Taylor Force’s murderer receives a hefty stipend from the Palestinian Authority. He is not the only one. The PA spends more than $300 million annually to reward terrorists and their families who kill people like Taylor Force, and seek out victims like me, my wife, my children and our neighbors.
Dozens of Americans have been murdered by terrorists in Israel, including children, students, rabbis and Christian pilgrims. New Jerseyans remember New Jersey native Alisa Flatow, a student who was murdered in a 1995 Palestinians terror attack. We remember Leon Klinghoffer, an elderly retired businessman who was shot and thrown overboard the Achille Lauro cruise ship, hijacked by Palestinian terrorists group in 1985. Klinghoffer’s body was recovered from the Mediterranean Sea and is buried in New Jersey.
New Jerseyans also remember 9/11, when millions of us watched live from dozens of miles away as the endless cloud of smoke billowed from lower Manhattan. We remember being worried about friends and relatives whose fate was unknown, and we memorialized many from New Jersey who were incinerated in the blaze and have no resting place.
I can’t help but wonder how Senator Booker would respond were Saudi Arabia, Turkey or Iran to pay generous annual stipends to the families of the terrorists who perpetrated the attacks 16 years ago. Would we allow, much less fund, the celebration of the terrorists and enriching of their families because of their evil murder?
Some are concerned that supporting the Taylor Force Act will undermine the viability of the PA, or that it might collapse economically, with consequences for Palestinian Arabs and Israelis.
Yet, providing financial rewards and incentives for terrorist is anti-American. If this is only a moral statement, it’s essential to make it clear to the PA that financing terrorism is unacceptable. Period. But hopefully, this will be a catalyst for the PA to rethink and change its support for and funding of terror. If not, Americans certainly don’t need to enable and fund it.
And while the PA is often referred to as Israel’s “peace partner,” it’s very hard to be serious with a partner that incites, celebrates and funds terror against Israel and others on a daily basis. It’s very hard to be serious about a “peace partner” whose president is now in his 12th year of a four-year term. Not very democratic, and also not very American.
On a related note, earlier this year, at the Senate confirmation hearings for then-ambassador designate to Israel, David Friedman, Senator Booker criticized Friedman over statements that the latter had made prior to his nomination. He called out Friedman for comments that Booker said were inflammatory and unacceptable. He basically said that not only actions, but words, matter.
So how then does Booker justify providing ongoing funding to the PA, a government that incites and celebrates terror through words, and which funds and enables it through actions? How is this excusable? How does Booker not call out and cut off the Palestinian Authority for its daily incitement, and vote to allow U.S. funding to flow to reward these terrorists?
Yes, Senator Booker, words do matter. And so do actions. Living in Israel with the daily threat of a Palestinian Arab ramming his car into a crowded bus stop, or taking a kitchen knife and stabbing Israelis on the street, this is very personal. It’s absurd that he’d vote to use hundreds of millions of U.S. tax dollars to underwrite Palestinian terror.
Last week, my entire neighborhood was on lockdown for hours because of the threat of a terrorist breaching the security and waiting to attack. Another terrorist stabbed an Israeli man near Tel Aviv as well.
This is not political; it’s personal. It’s not about right and left, it’s about right and wrong. It gives me no sense of pride to say it, but Senator Booker is wrong. In voting as you did against the Taylor Force Act, he and the three others who joined him are on the wrong side of the issue.
Lives are at stake, including mine and several other constituents of his living in my house alone. I pray he will redeem himself and vote to pass the legislation when it comes before the whole Senate.
By Jonathan Feldstein
Jonathan Feldstein, formerly of Teaneck, made aliyah in 2004 and now lives in Efrat.