“Meet the Newbie”

Mark Green: Supporting Israel, inspired in part by faith

“Anti-Semitism is horrific, like any form of racism. It should be called out. We should rail against it as much as we possibly can.”

Congressman-elect Mark Green (R-Tenn.) speaking at an event in 2015. Credit: Mark Green via Facebook.
Congressman-elect Mark Green (R-Tenn.) speaking at an event in 2015. Credit: Mark Green via Facebook.

Editor’s Note: A number of incoming members of Congress, including those in the upcoming Democratic House majority, will bring new faces to the Jewish and pro-Israel community. JNS will introduce some of these elected legislators as part of its “Meet the Newbie” series.

Republican Mark Green, 54, is a physician and state senator who won an open race in Tennessee’s 7th Congressional District to replace Rep. Marsha Blackburn, who defeated former Gov. Phil Bredesen.

JNS talked with Green by phone. The interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Q: On your campaign website, you talk about the overall importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship. What exact values do the United States and Israel share?  

A: I think the great thing about the relationship is we’re both democratic countries. We believe in freedom. Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East, and that’s why it’s so important for us to partner with them and help to protect them in a very hostile environment.

Q: What’s your reaction to Republicans, such as Sen. Rand Paul, and Democrats, such as Minnesota Rep. Betty McCollum, who want to decrease and halt funding, respectively, to Israel?

A: I think that’s incredibly foolish. I think it’s unwise. Whenever there is a weakened America on the global stage, there’s conflict, and in some place, chaos. A strong America is important to maintaining peace globally. That’s a basic principle I believe in. When it comes to the Middle East, obviously, Israel is critically important. They’re a functioning democracy, and we need to make sure they are as protected as we possibly can.

Q: Also on your campaign website, you wrote that we must “ensure that any aid to the Palestinians is contingent on a commitment to nonviolence.” Does this suggest you would be open to funding for the Palestinian Authority? 

A: The P.A. cannot support any form of terrorism—this “martyrdom funding.” But once they agree to peace and a peaceful coexistence, I’m more than willing to help them.

Q: What about taxpayer funding for humanitarian purposes in the Palestinian areas, in which there are a few exceptions in the Taylor Force Act?

A: I’d have to go back and look at what’s in the Taylor Force Act on that. I don’t know every single piece of the bill. I supported the overall gist of it.

Q: On Iran, you wrote on your campaign website, “We must also reinstate, and expand, sanctions on Iran, a country whose Supreme Leader has publicly called to annihilate Israel and bring ‘death to America.’ ” Is the president doing enough to combat the Iranian threat?

A: I think at this time, we just recently re-instated the sanctions and all the tiers. Once all the tiers are in effect, we should make sure they want to sit down and negotiate. They do not. And if they continue to support terrorism throughout the Middle East and continue to support nuclear capability, we may have to do more.

Q: And what more would entail?

A: I think that’s something the president and secretary of state need to come up with, and we in Congress will support it or not. Those contingencies aren’t something I’d want to talk about to the media.

Q: What is your reaction to the waivers issued for eight countries, such as Turkey, over importing Iranian oil?

A: I have a problem with the oil waivers. I think they weaken the sanctions, and I would not support those. Turkey is a unique country with it being a NATO member, being positioned where it is in the Middle East, and the leadership has some interesting positions on things. They have a different set of concerns. Their border with Syria and Iraq, so it’s sort of needs to be taken in unique consideration. Not saying that I support them, but overall, the waivers are a bad idea.

Q: You talk about combatting “movements to delegitimize Israel” such as BDS. How do we exactly combat anti-Israel sentiment?

A: I think there’s a combination of education, and right now, the media has this incredible anti-Israel bias. Over the past few years, other forms of getting the facts straight and getting the facts out there have evolved. Different news platforms. I think we need to keep educating people on the nature of Israel, how they behave.

[Look at] the scientific innovation coming out of Israel in their “Silicon Valley,” particularly in health care. What’s going on in that country is just fantastic. I think educating the world, taking on the liberal bias of the media against Israel. People become educated, they look at the facts, then they realize it’s Hamas and Hezbollah that are the problems over there, not Israel.

Q: Just a quick follow-up, how many times have you been to Israel?

A: I’ve never been. But I’ve wanted to go. I made some campaign promises that when Congress takes its first trip, I’ll go.

Q: What is your reaction to incoming Democrats like Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib, who have made anti-Israel statements? 

A: That’s just unfortunate. It’s a part of who they are. They don’t understand what’s going on there. I hope it’s ignorance. Israel is a strategic partner to the U.S. in helping us stabilize the Middle East. We must maintain our relationship with Israel, and anything short of that is foolhardy.

Q: What is your reaction to anti-Semitism in the United States and worldwide, especially in Great Britain with the rise of Jeremy Corbyn?

A: Anti-Semitism is horrific, like any form of racism. It should be called out. We should rail against it as much as we possibly can; it’s just wrong.

Q: Do you have any specific plans in Congress regarding the U.S.-Israel relationship? For example, the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act would require the Department of Education to adopt the State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism in evaluating such incidents on college campuses and at other educational institutions.

A: I’d have to dig into the details on that. I’ve never read the State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism, so I’d have to go look at that before I can have an opinion on it.

As I come to Congress with bills in mind, there aren’t any that impact Israel other than good inter-country commerce.

Q: What else should readers know about you?

I think your questions have been pretty good. I approach this relationship both from an intellectual standpoint and from a faith standpoint. For me, it’s good logic, as well as motivation from my faith. I’m glad to be a supporter.

I think most people who are Christian feel a responsibility to protect the nation of Israel. You can go into any church in America or most churches in America, and that’s sort of a part of a Christian faith experience, so that’s where it comes from for me. It not only makes good sense logically, it’s also something from faith—that protecting Israel is a part of what I’ve always been taught in church and through faith is the right thing to do.

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