(December 29, 2020 / JNS) While he’s now trying to hide it, the truth is, Georgia’s Democratic candidate for Senate, Rev. Raphael Warnock, has been known for vehemently anti-Israel rhetoric.
Last year, he was one of 18 leaders of African-American and South African churches to sign a carefully crafted document that manages to demonize Israel in one brief document in at least five ways, comparing Israel to numerous expressions of state evil drawn from human history: slavery-era America, apartheid South Africa, Nazi Germany, Communist East Berlin and even the biblical Pharaoh.
Given that this candidate is running neck-and-neck with his opponent—staunch Israel supporter Sen. Kelly Loeffler—and that Warnock’s history of harshly critical statements of Israel are getting glossed over, I thought it worthwhile to unpack the content of his “Pilgrimage Statement” and put it in context of his personal statements of the past few years.
In a 2016 sermon, Warnock both invoked the apartheid analogy and compared Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to segregationist Alabama Gov. George Wallace, saying Netanyahu’s stance was “tantamount to saying occupation today, occupation tomorrow, occupation forever” (a reference to Wallace’s famous call for “segregation now, segregation tomorrow and segregation forever”).
In a 2018 sermon criticizing the opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, Warnock accused Israel of indiscriminately killing Arabs protesting the move at the time. But he hid the context: that Israel was defending itself from armed militants using border protests as a smokescreen from which to launch terror attacks. He ignored the fact that Hamas officials publicly claimed that 50 of the 60 killed were their own operatives who had breached the Gaza border fence to infiltrate Israel. Warnock’s characterization of Israel’s successful defense against a massive attack was, “We saw the government of Israel shoot down unarmed Palestinian sisters and brothers like birds of prey!”
Warnock’s 2019 “Pilgrimage Statement” is in line with his earlier sermons. He characterized the Israel-Arab conflict as an Israeli offense against the Arabs, deliberately neglecting the context of Israel’s defense against perpetual terror attacks and jihad, and the thousands of Israelis who have been killed. It also characterizes Gaza as a prison, stripping the situation of all context, such as the perpetual state of war by Hamas against Israel, the 20,000 rockets that have been fired at Israel, kidnappings and terror tunnels, and kite and balloon incendiary devices.
Throughout his manifesto, Warnock fails to acknowledge the systemic discrimination against Jews spurred on by Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, nor does he acknowledge the anti-Semitic demonization of Jews by those bodies’ education materials, news agencies or official statements and policies.
Indeed, instead of economic cooperation between Jews and Arabs, Warnock himself even called for economic discrimination where he suggests that economic pressure might be used to bring Israel “in line,”: saying “… we are keenly aware of the need to preserve the option of utilizing economic pressure as a means of bringing recalcitrant dominant forces to the negotiating table.”
Warnock also branded the rebuilding of Jewish communities in their biblical ancestral homeland as land theft from the rightful Arab owners, despite the fact that Israeli communities are built on public and not privately owned land, saying “we are shocked at what appears to be an unstoppable gobbling up of Palestinian lands … .”
Character assassination of Israel stands at the heart of Warnock’s writings. Indeed, the statement’s conclusion manages to fit three demonizing analogies into one paragraph:
“In conclusion … silence in the face of injustice is complicity. Indeed, there were many Christians that were silent and closed their ears against the sound of the deadly apartheid jackboot in the lives of South African blacks. There were whole communities of Christians who not only condoned the untold dehumanization of people through slavery, but who thrived on that evil, and their slavery-sourced head-start has become the silent normal of today’s social and economic landscape of the world. Communities and neighborhoods in Europe were silent and complicit to the horror of the Holocaust. We shall not and cannot be silent … .”
However, in recent months, in an op-ed in the Atlanta Jewish Times and in his Israel Position Paper, Warnock has eschewed past characterization of Israel as an apartheid state and has acknowledged the threat that Hamas poses to Israel on its southwestern flank. In an online campaign event geared to the Jewish community this month, he said, “I do not believe Israel is an ‘apartheid state’ as some have suggested.” He also stated that he has an “increasing recognition of Hamas and the danger that they pose to the Israeli people.”
But is this “change of heart” simply a political calculation? The harsh reaction from Warnock fans, which characterize him as now abandoning the Palestinians, is eerily reminiscent of the reaction then-Sen. Barack Obama received from the same friends in 2007 when he started to parrot the AIPAC pro-Israel line in public. At the time, Obama reportedly told Electronic Intifada co-founder Ali Abunimah, “Hey, I’m sorry I haven’t said more about Palestine right now, but we are in a tough primary race. I’m hoping when things calm down I can be more upfront.”
We know how that turned out: Obama played the friendly-to-Israel game for a while. And then, in his second term, he foisted on the world the disastrous 2015 Iran nuclear deal that ignored the security concerns of Israel and our Sunni Arab allies. And then he betrayed Israel and all principles of liberalism with his 2016 U.N. Security Council Resolution 2334, orchestrated by his own team, that stated that Jews had no right to live anywhere beyond the 1949 armistice lines (Green Line or the 1967 lines), including the Old City of Jerusalem and the ancestral Jewish biblical heartland of Judea and Samaria.
Warnock’s ideological leanings are clear. The man who preached, “America, nobody can serve God and the military,” and who has defended Rev. Jeremiah Wright has clear negative feelings about America and its values.
An anti-Israel senator is an anti-America senator. Vilifying and demonizing America’s most reliable ally in the Middle East does not advance American interests. Creating a Palestinian terror state does not serve American interests. Warnock is presenting himself as a friend of Israel in order to get elected. Let’s hope that Georgia’s voters don’t fall for the ruse.
Dr. Alexander Bernath is a urologist in Sherman, Texas.
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