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Rev. Raphael Warnock

Control of the United States Senate may turn on whether the Democrat Candidate Reverend Raphael Warnock defeats the Republican incumbent Kelly Loeffler in the January 5th Georgia runoff.

As a liberal Democrat I would rather see a Warnock victory that could create a 50-50 tie in the Senate capable of being broken by future Vice President Kamala Harris.  But as a strong supporter of Israel, I am deeply concerned about the fact that Reverend Warnock signed a statement in 2019 and gave a sermon in 2018 that demonstrated strong antagonism to the nation state of the Jewish people.

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A reader of The Jewish Daily Forward would not know of these anti-Israel views, because The Forward deliberately distorted them in an attempt to garner Jewish support for Warnock.  Here is the way The Forward described the content of the letter:

“Warnock recently came under fire from some Atlanta Jews after the Jewish Insider noted that he signed onto a 2019 statement from a group of Christian clergy that visited Israel and the West Bank that linked ‘heavily militarization of the West Bank’ to the ‘military occupation of Namibia by apartheid, South Africa.’ The statement specifies that its signatories ‘support a two state solution.’”

The Forward then quotes Jewish political observers “as suggesting that Warnock is a strong supporter of Israel.”

In order to assess the accuracy of the foregoing description by The Forward, let us look at the text of the letter itself.

The letter accuses Israel of “state sanctioned violence in the form of detention, interrogation, tear gassed, beatings, forced confessions and death.”  It characterizes the separation barrier that has saved so many lives as “ever present physical walls that wall in Palestinians in a political wall reminiscent of the Berlin wall.”

Never once does the letter mention why the separation barrier was necessary.  The word terrorism never once appears in the letter.  The letter goes on to talk about the Gaza Strip and accuses Israel of “excessive use of force by Israel to subjugate the people in collective punishment of whole population in the debilitating confinement that renders Gaza as one big densely populated prison.”

There is not a single mention of the thousands of rockets fired from Gaza that have killed, injured and traumatized Israelis living within the 1967 borders.  Not a word is said about the terror tunnels, dug from Gaza to the outskirts of Israel Kibbutzim to murder innocent Israeli men, women and children.

The letter purports to describe the “laws of segregation that allow one thing for the Jewish people and another for the Palestinians.”

That is entirely false.

There are different rules for Israelis and non-Israeli residents of the West Bank, but they are not based on religion.  Palestinians who live in Israel – whether Muslim or Christian — are full citizens with equal protection under Israeli laws.  There are no roads for “Jews only” as is often alleged.  Because of the threat of terrorism against Israelis, there are secure roads for Israeli citizens, but Muslim and Christian citizens of Israel have full access to those roads.

The letter applauds the Palestinian Authority for its “conscious decision to forego armed solutions to the conflict and pray that this will be responded to in kind.”

No mention is made of the “pay-to-slay” policy of the Palestinian Authority that encourages and rewards terrorism and that has been condemned by every American administration and by Congress.

The letter is critical of Jerusalem being recognized as “Israel’s official capital,” without mentioning that every American administration has pledged to do that.

The letter condemns “the increasing hardening of the hearts of the Israeli powers,” without mentioning that Israel has reportedly offered to end its occupation of the West Bank and establish a Palestinian state but that the Palestinian Authority rejected these offers on numerous occasions.

The letter prays for an end of “weapons sales,” which would mean a weakened Israel subject to attack by Iran and its surrogates, as well as by terrorists.

Finally, the letter expresses sympathy for “utilizing economic pressure as a means of bringing recalcitrant and dominant forces to the negotiation table.” This fails to recognize that Israel has extended an open offer to the Palestinian Authority leadership to sit down at the negotiation table and that it has been the Palestinians who have refused to do so.

I urge everyone to read the entire letter and listen to the entire sermon because not only are their words reflective of a strong anti-Israel bias and one sided criticism of Israel, but their tone is biased in the extreme.

For those who argue that Warnock merely signed onto a group letter that may not have reflected his own views, please access his sermon in which – in his own words – he accused Israel of “shoot[ing] down unarmed Palestinians sisters and brothers like birds of prey.”

This is a mendacious blood libel, pure and simple.

Again you wouldn’t know that from reading the false and misleading description of the letter and sermon in The Forward. Nor would you know that Warnock is an admirer of The Reverend Jeremiah Wright and a defender of the anti-American and anti-Semitic sermon that President Obama has condemned.

After being criticized for its misrepresentation of the content of the letter, The Forward doubled down, describing the statement as “nuanced.”  The Forward failed to point out the letter’s deliberate refusal to mention terrorism, rockets or tunnels.  It also sought to justify Warnock’s blood libel sermon by citing a one-sided “United Nations Investigation.” I understand the desire to support a candidate who may turn the senate Democrat. I share that desire. But it doesn’t justify distorting and erasing what that candidate has actually said.

So it is important for everyone who is considering voting for or supporting Reverend Warnock to read the letter and listen to the sermon in their entirety.  I have done so and I find it difficult to support anyone who has such animosity toward Israel.  Nor can I believe that anyone who holds such views can be characterizes as “a strong supporter of Israel.”

I am prepared to change my mind about the Reverend Warnock, but only if he changes his mind about Israel.  The mere fact that after announcing his candidacy, he renounced support for BDS and mouthed some talking points about Israel’s security, is not enough for me.  (See his recent op-ed https://jewishdems.org/raphael-warnock-i-stand-with-israel/) Nor is it enough that some of his best friends are Rabbis and Georgia Jews. I want to know what he really believes and, more importantly, how he will vote.

Accordingly, I have invited him to join me on my pod cast, “The Dershow,” to explore these issues.  I hope he will accept and say things that will allow me to change my mind.

The last thing the Democratic party needs is yet another prominent politician who harbors negative views about America’s most reliable ally, Israel.

I hope the Reverend Warnock will reconsider his mistake in signing that outrageous letter and giving that bigoted sermon and will express views that allow liberal Democrats like me, who are also strong supporters of Israel, to support him in his quest to become a United States Senator.  I genuinely want to be able to support Reverend Warnock and a Democratic Senate, and I truly hope he can convince me and the voters of Georgia that he has become “a strong supporter of Israel.”

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Alan M. Dershowitz is the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law Emeritus at Harvard Law School and author of over 30 books, including, most recently, “The Case Against the Democrats Impeaching Trump.” Follow him on Twitter @AlanDersh or Facebook @AlanMDershowitz.
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