Rev. Raphael Warnock preaches in 2018.
"Claims that I believe Israel is an apartheid state are patently false — I do not believe that," Warnock wrote. "...I strongly oppose the BDS movement and its anti-Semitic underpinnings..." He concluded that "you can count on me to stand with the Jewish community and Israel in the U.S. Senate."
Warnock was responding to a Nov. 5 report noting he had co-signed a March 2019 National Council of Churches (NCC) letter that compared Israel to "oppressive regimes." It also likened Israel's West Bank security fence to the "Berlin Wall," and waxed morally indignant against Israel's "heavy militarization of the West Bank, reminiscent of the military occupation of Namibia by apartheid South Africa."
Warnock has not directly addressed the letter and its content. His op-ed fails to explain how the views he signed onto are at all consistent with his claims of standing with Israel. At the same time, his campaign has welcomed support from three prominent anti-Israel figures with their own troubling records on anti-Semitism: U.S. Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, and activist Linda Sarsour. All three women are on record advocating for a "one state solution" to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The article didn't even mention 15 other one-sided, unfounded, anti-Israeli accusations in the NCC letter, some of them so viciously propagandistic that they could easily be categorized as anti-Semitic. Here are the six most noteworthy unreported assertions:
- Claiming Palestinian life in Gaza is akin to living in "one big densely populated prison."
From the Warnock-signed NCC letter: "We heard the stories of how Palestinians within the occupied territory of the Gaza Strip must contend with a perpetual blockade, the excessive use of force by Israel to subjugate the people in collective punishment of whole population and the debilitating confinement that renders Gaza as one big densely populated prison."
These allegations are straight out of propaganda pushed by Hamas, the murderous Islamist terrorist group that has militarily ruled over Gaza since 2007. What the letter Warnock endorsed fails to mention is that Hamas has vowed to kill every Jew living in Israel — or what it calls the "Zionist entity" — and that it has waged three wars against Israel, launched more than 40,000 rockets and missiles against civilian targets throughout Israel. It also has dug underground tunnels for the sole purpose of killing Israeli civilians.
- The letter advocates for the "Right of Return," a suicidal policy intended to destroy Israel.
From the Warnock-signed NCC letter: "We call for the return of refugees and exiles."
Warnock endorses a letter demanding the Palestinian "right of return," which is a death sentence for Israel. This is not a conclusion held only by Israelis on the right. In her book, The War of Return: How Western Indulgence of the Palestinian Dream Has Obstructed the Path to Peace, former Knesset Labor Member Einat Wilf argues that the continued Palestinian demands for the "right of return" actually reveal a grim truth: that the Palestinians have still never accepted the legitimacy of the existence of a Jewish state and as such, still seek its destruction.
"[W]hat we show in the book is that never ever have they [the Palestinians] given up the 'right of return,'" Wilf told Times of Israel. "When you want to have a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, but the 'right of return' is holy and non-negotiable, then the only two states you are rooting for are an Arab state in the West Bank and Gaza, and an Arab state to replace Israel."
"What we're showing is that the Palestinians have actually never, not for a single moment, accepted the two-state solution," she said. "There was never a moment where they said: We're done, we understand that the other state will never be Arab or Palestinian and that it will belong to the Jewish people."
- Claiming that children dying from "undrinkable water" in Gaza is a result of Israel's policies.
From the Warnock-signed NCC letter: "We heard of the acute shortage of fuel and electricity, seriously affecting daily life and the provision of especially health services in Gaza; and the heavily polluted and undrinkable water, aggravating child mortality rates."
In signing on to this allegation, Warnock blames Israel for all of Gaza's problems. The blood libel – the ancient belief that Jews poison non-Jewish children as part of secret evil rituals – has found a reinvention in recent years among anti-Zionist activists. Now the claim is that Israel is to blame for poisoning Gaza's water supply, causing the deaths of Muslim children. This claim has been investigated for years by independent non-profit organizations, which found Hamas responsible for the increasingly polluted waters and crumbling health facilities by diverting as much as 50 percent of its humanitarian aid to building up Hamas military facilities.
"The same Jews falsely accused of poisoning the water during the Black Plague are falsely accused of leaving Arabs 'struggling for water' today," Rabbi Pesach Lerner, president of the Coalition for Jewish Values, wrote Monday in a letter to the Warnock campaign. "The modern version is no more true, no less vile, and no less deadly."
- UNRWA is depicted such that it "supports Palestinian refugees." Its role spreading anti-Semitic dogma and inciting terrorism is not mentioned.
From the Warnock-signed NCC letter: "We heard of the impact of fateful cuts by the Trump Administration, on humanitarian aid to the Palestinian Authority, and to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) that supports Palestinian refugees."
Warnock endorsed a letter that fails to mention the fact that for years UNRWA has actively assisted Hamas terrorists carry out acts of terror against Israel. The UN agency also has indoctrinated Palestinian students with years of abject anti-Semitism and incitement to commit terrorist acts. After the 2014 Gaza War for example, Israel found that UNWRA allowed Hamas to place rocket launchers throughout UNWRA schools in Gaza. Moreover, UNWRA schools served as secret storage grounds for Hamas explosives and rockets.
UN Watch, a nonprofit oversight organization, found UNRWA teachers and staffers celebrating the terrorist kidnapping of Israeli teenagers, cheering rockets being fired at Israeli civilian centers, endorsing various forms of violence, erasing Israel from the map, praising Hitler and posting his photo, and posting overtly anti-Semitic videos, caricatures, and statements.
Palestinian human rights activist Bassem Eid said, "I worked in several UNRWA schools in the territories and in Jordan, and children aged 9-10 want to be killed and kill Jews and to release their people. 'Who taught you that?' I asked. They said that was what they were learning in schools, and I asked teachers at UNRWA schools in Jordan if children were taught to blow themselves up and be killed. They said 'of course. How else will they liberate the land from the Israeli occupation?' UNRWA is aware of this, and the international community knows that all UNRWA studies are full of hate and incitement. The international community continues to inject funds because it is against Israel."
- The Palestinian Authority is falsely praised for "a conscious decision to forgo armed solutions" which never happened.
From the Warnock-signed NCC letter: "We heard and appreciated how the leaders of the Palestinian Authority had made a conscious decision to forgo armed solutions to the conflict and pray that this will be responded to in kind."
This is one of the most laughable statements in the letter Warnock endorsed. Official investigations and private NGOs have concluded that the Palestinian Authority (PA) has never forsworn "armed conflict." In fact, the PA continues to pay and arm its own terrorist groups; it continues to glorify and incite terrorism and armed conflict with the "Zionists" at all levels of society — schools, the public, universities. "Pay for slay" – the PA policy of financially supporting the families of terrorists – remains in place.
- Comparing the Jews to the unspeakable evil practiced by slave-owners and Nazi Germany.
From the Warnock-signed NCC letter: "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 silenced."
First, comparing 21st century Israel's self-defense to the cruel treatment inflicted by slave masters throughout history is outrageous and should be self-evidently illogical. Palestinians are not slaves trying to escape to freedom from Israeli tyranny.
And anything remotely drawing moral equivalence between Israel and Nazi Germany is a blatant anti-Semitic slander. "Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis," is specifically included in the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of anti-Semitism.
Former UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn is an example of one who has utilized this hateful comparison.
Rabbi Lerner reiterated the point in the letter to Warnock's campaign: "The statement's reference to silence of Christians during apartheid, slavery and the Holocaust could easily be read to infer that the behavior of Jews in Israel is somehow comparable to that of South African whites, slave owners, or even Nazis. Such a dystopian vision can only be attributed to Antisemitism."
Palestinian Apologetics from the Pulpit
Warnock's signing of the 2019 letter was not his first set of flagrantly unfounded anti-Israel comments. In May 2018, he delivered a sermon bitterly condemning Israel for "shoot[ing] down unarmed Palestinian sisters and brothers like birds of prey." Warnock claimed that "young Palestinian sisters and brothers... struggling for water, and struggling for their human dignity, stood up in a non-violent protest, saying 'if we're going to die, we're going to die struggling.'"
But there was a problem with his description: it was totally fabricated. He was discussing the day the United States opened its embassy in Jerusalem. CBS reported: "The reality, today, was violence, especially in Gaza. However, Palestinians, who hope to make East Jerusalem their capital, staged mass demonstrations, setting fires and throwing firebombs and stones across the border into Israel... some started fires along the border fence with Israel. They've been demonstrating here for six weeks now, forty thousand of them today, according to Israel, encouraged by Hamas, the militant group that's controlled the Gaza Strip since 2007."
Curiously, Warnock's Nov. 9 op-ed included no apology for those remarks or for his support for anti-Israel statements. And no one in the Democratic Party or in the mainstream media asked him about these previous statements. Moreover, they accepted at face value his patently false explanations. For example, in his Nov. 9 statement on Israel, he claimed his views on Israel had been "misrepresented" by his opponent. Really? How?
Likewise, those questions never came up during a Dec. 8 webinar with Warnock hosted by the Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA). Rather than admit to saying anything derogatory, he claimed that he was the aggrieved party: "Now it is clear to me that my opponents are trying to use Israel as yet another wedge issue in this campaign. And I think that's quite unfortunate. I wish I were surprised; I'm not, given some of the other things that they're throwing at me."
Consider the irony: Here's a man who, like Corbyn – the anti-Semitic former leader of the Labour Party – has accused the Israelis of seemingly every conceivable crime in the world including acting like Nazis, and who is now complaining that his opponents are the ones who have made Israel a "wedge issue."
"I do not believe Israel is an apartheid state, as some have suggested," he insisted, failing to explain why he would sign onto a letter that decried "the heavy militarization of the West Bank, reminiscent of the military occupation of Namibia by apartheid South Africa."
And how did Warnock explain his anti-Israeli allegations of false war crimes in his 2018 sermon? "I'm a pastor. I preach every Sunday. I preach a lot of sermons. And I think that as I recall that sermon, I was speaking to the issue of activists and human rights and the ability of people to be heard..."
This response is evasive and irrelevant to Warnock's lie that Israelis "[shot] down unarmed Palestinian sisters and brothers like birds of prey." They didn't.
In Rabbi Lerner's letter to Warnock, cosigned by the rabbis of two of the largest orthodox synagogues in Georgia, about the silence:
And thus we must ask: when, and in what circumstance, did Rev. Warnock reject his aforementioned previous, hateful positions? Only a fool, or someone callously unconcerned for the safety of Israel and the Jewish community, would grant credence to what he says on the campaign trail today to Jewish audiences, over what he said just a year ago in front of his own, supportive congregation.
Did he, in an apolitical context, renounce the Antisemitic rhetoric found in the Group Pilgrimage Statement, and remove his signature? Did he retract his lie that Israeli soldiers shoot Arab children at will? Has he acknowledged openly that his statements regarding Israel were false and slanderous, and naturally incited hatred against Jews?
While Warnock may claim "I Stand With Israel" today, can you really trust he will tomorrow when, as recently as last year, he was comfortable signing his name to the claim that Israel was comparable to multiple racist, totalitarian states?
Steven Emerson is Executive Director of the Investigative Project on Terrorism (www.investigativeproject.org), the author of eight books on national security and terrorism, the producer of two documentaries, and the author of hundreds of articles in national and international publications.
David M. Swindle has worked for the last decade as a freelance writer, editor, and investigative journalist focused on national security and extremist movements.
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