President Obama has dropped the hammer on 16 Democratic senators who have joined a bold Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, and Mark Kirk, Republican of Illinois, in co-sponsoring new legislation that will increase sanctions against Iran should they fail to follow through on their pledges to halt uranium enrichment. The Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2013 has also attracted 43 Republican co-sponsors bringing the total to 59. If they get to 67, they will have a veto-proof majority, something the White House is doing everything to prevent.
One of those brave 16 is my close friend Senator Cory Booker, who has had a special relationship with the Jewish community since I met him as an undergraduate at Oxford University in 1992. As is well known, Cory served as president of my Oxford L’Chaim society, where he became possibly the first-ever African-American-Christian head of a major Jewish organization. Cory and I then began studying Torah on a regular basis and he has gone on to lecture more American Jewish communal venues than any other political figure in the United States. What Cory has seen, as have his other intrepid senate colleagues, is that Iran is an immense danger to the world in general, and Israel and the United States in particular.
Iran is a menace, a regime that exhibits brutality in every field. I just finished reading Days of God, by James Buchan, which is a phenomenal history of modern Iran, from Reza Shaw’s time, who ruled Iran from 1925-1941, to Muhammad Reza, who ruled as Shah until 1979, through Khomeini’s Iranian revolution to the regime currently run by the murderous and barbarous Ayatollah Ali Khameini.
This is a regime that recruited boys from the age of 12 to fight against Saddam’s armies in the ten-year Iran-Iraq war. This regime had even ruthless Iraqi soldiers crying as they mowed down Iranian boys attacking them across battlefields; Iran also used children in the Iran-Iraq war to clear minefields, as detailed in Ami Pedahzur’s Root Causes of Suicide Terrorism. It is the same regime that stones women to death for accusations of infidelity. It hangs homosexuals from cranes in the capital, Tehran. It is the regime that our state department lists as one of the foremost global exporters of terrorism. It funds Hezbollah, which blew up 241 American peacekeeping marines, soldiers, and sailors in 1983 Beirut. It is the regime that mowed down its own people in the streets of Tehran in the Green Revolution of 2009, when innocent Iranians protested a stolen election. And it is the regime that publicly shot 26-year-old protestor Nada Agha-Soltan in the heart.
That President Obama is placing pressure on 16 senators from his own party rather than squarely on the Iranians where it belongs is, sadly, true to form. Whatever debatable successes the President has had in domestic policies, what is indisputable is his catastrophic foreign policy. Iraq today has turned into one giant suicide explosion and large parts of the country, like Fallujah, where so many marines died, are falling to Al Qaida. Egypt is a mess and utterly distrusts the United States. John Kerry comes to Israel every week to make what he calls an urgent peace between Israel and the Palestinians yet ignores the 130,000 dead in the Syrian Civil War. And with all that, President Obama is insistent on pressuring brave Democratic Senators of his own party, who want to keep Iran in check, so that he can hand over to the murderous mullahs $10 billion so that they can prop up their regime without demanding that they dismantle their nuclear framework. A great deal of the President’s pressure is falling on our newly elected Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey.
Last month Birthright-cofounder Michael Steinhardt, who is also a former chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council, joined me in taking out full-page ads in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal promoting the message of my hero and friend, Nobel Peace Laureate Elie Wiesel, to whom I introduced Senator Booker, beseeching President Obama, as well as the United States Senate, to insist that Iran’s nuclear facilities be dismantled. Inspections, Mr. Wiesel said, are not enough, as we discovered when North Korea agreed to a similar deal in 1994 only to lie and detonate a bomb in 2006.
Contrasting Wiesel’s call in the Jewish community was Peter Beinart, a member of Cory’s Rhodes Scholar class and someone I hosted at Shabbat meals at Oxford. While Mr. Beinart and I remain friendly, that did not stop him from savaging Cory (do I detect a hint of envy?) for his close relationship with the Jewish community in general, and me in particular, in a column in which Mr. Beinart was forced to change the libelous subhead after he claimed it was written by an underling without his approval. Dubbed the “American Jewish community’s enfant terrible,” Mr. Beinart is best-known for calling for a boycott on Israeli products like Soda Stream because they are manufactured beyond the green line, the arbitrary armistice line of 1949 where the Arab armies, threatening Israel’s annihilation, were halted. Mr. Beinart’s column and forum, Open Zion, has ended at the Daily Beast, and he has been reduced to writing his screeds in Haaretz, where he has become yet another tiresome critic of Israel.
Mr. Beinart and his ilk scapegoat Israel’s settlers as principal obstacles to Middle East peace while Khomeini himself scapegoated the United Sates for the same. Khomeini’s followers coined the now familiar Iranian chant of America as the great Satan. Today, Iran is developing intercontinental missiles with a range that could reach targets in the United States. But even if that were not the case, imagine the courage it takes to oppose, as one of your first acts as a newly elected Senator, the President of the United States.
In 1955 President John F. Kennedy published his Pulitzer-Prize winning book, Profiles in Courage, which detailed gutsy actions on the part of United States Senators who followed their conscience on matters of principle even if it lost them votes or ran afoul of their own party. Since then the American people have significantly soured on Congress, which today has an approval rating of just 9 percent. But what Cory and his fifteen other Democratic colleagues have shown is that courage in the United States Senate is alive and well.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi” whom The Washington Post calls “the most famous rabbi in America,” will shortly publish Kosher Lust: Love Is Not the Answer. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.