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Senate Candidate Warnock Signed Letter Accusing Israel of Apartheid

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November 6, 2020
Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Rev. Raphael Warnock speaks during an Election Night event on November 3, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Jessica McGowan/Getty Images)

In 2019, Georgia Democratic Senate candidate Reverend Raphael Warnock signed a letter comparing Israel to apartheid South Africa, Jewish Insider reported.

The letter, which was written by a group of various African American church leaders including Warnock, expressed the leaders’ observations about the Israel-Palestinian conflict after a trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories. The leaders had visited both Israeli and Palestinian communities and decried “the heavy militarization of the West Bank, reminiscent of the military occupation of Namibia by apartheid South Africa.” They also compared the Israeli security barriers in the West Bank to the Berlin Wall and alleged that there are “laws of segregation that allow one thing for the Jewish people and another for the Palestinians.” The letter does call for a two-state solution in which both Israel and the Palestinians are “safe and secure,” as well as for elections in the Palestinian territories.

The Institute for Black Israel criticized Warnock for signing the letter, tweeting: “When you sign a lengthy document on Israel-Palestine that never once mentions Palestinian leaders’ systematic oppression of their own people, you’ve been deceived.”

 

The conservative website Washington Free Beacon noted that Tamara Cofman Wittes, a senior fellow for the Brookings Institute, argued in a Facebook comment that “the letter did not explicitly compare Israel to apartheid [South] Africa.”

Warnock is also listed as a delegation member on a Progressive National Baptist resolution that called on the United States to cease all military aid to Israel and urged Israel to stop building “illegal Israeli settlements, checkpoints and apartheid roads in the occupied Palestinian territories,” Fox News reported.

Terrence Clark, spokesperson for the Warnock campaign, told Jewish Insider, “Reverend Warnock has deep respect for the invaluable relationship the United States has with Israel and how Georgia continues to benefit from that friendship. The reservations he has expressed about settlement activity do not change his strong support for Israel and belief in its security — which is exactly why he opposes ending direct military aid to such a strong ally.” According to the Jewish Democratic Council of America, which has endorsed Warnock, he is opposed to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

Stephen Lawson, communications director for incumbent Senator Kelly Loeffler’s (R-Ga.) campaign, told Fox News that “Warnock has a history of anti-Israel positions, from embracing anti-Zionist Black Lives Matter and defending anti-Semitic comments made by Rev. Jeremiah Wright, to calling Israel an ‘oppressive regime’ for fighting back against terrorism.” Lawson also argued that Loeffler’s staunch support for Israel is “unwavering.”

Jewish News Syndicate (JNS) reported that Warnock had previously defended Wright in 2008, saying “that we celebrate the truth-telling tradition of the black church, which when preachers tell the truth, very often it makes people uncomfortable.” Warnock defended Wright again in March. JNS also highlighted how Wright said shortly after Barack Obama was elected that “them Jews” were preventing Obama from stating “anti-Israel” remarks.

Clark told Fox News in October that Warnock “doesn’t agree with all of the positions other pastors support and has said such throughout this campaign. Rev. Warnock loves this country, and he supports honoring the dignity of all people, but also finding common ground to reform our broken systems.”

Loeffler and Warnock are set to face off in a runoff election for the Georgia Senate seat on January 5, as mandated by Georgia law should no candidate receive a majority of the vote. Warnock received 32.9% of the vote on November 3, whereas Loeffler received 26% of the vote. Representative Doug Collins (R-Ga.), who also ran in the race, received 20% of the vote.

UPDATE: Warnock wrote an op-ed for the JDCA’s website on November 10 stating, “Claims that I believe Israel is an apartheid state are patently false — I do not believe that.” He added that he’s opposed to the BDS movement its “anti-Semitic underpinnings, including its supporters’ refusal to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist” and pledged “to ensure Iran does not obtain a nuclear weapon.”
Warnock also decried the Israeli government’s “continued settlement expansion” as an impediment to a two-state solution. He concluded the op-ed by quoting Martin Luther King, Jr. and Dietrich Bonhoffer to demonstrate the need to fight against anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry.
“Without reservation, you can count on me to stand with the Jewish community and Israel in the U.S. Senate,” Warnock wrote.
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