Raphael Warnock, Israel & Palestinians: Biased Comments

Democratic Senate candidate Rev. Raphael Warnock speaks during an Election Night event in Atlanta, Ga., November 3, 2020. (Jessica McGowan/Reuters)

What else to call claiming that the Jewish state goes around picking off God’s children as if ‘they don’t matter at all’?

Raphael Warnock, the Democratic Senate candidate seeking to unseat Republican Kelly Loeffler in Georgia’s runoff election in January, has had some interesting things to say about Israel in the past.

Here is Warnock during a 2018 sermon:

We need a two-state solution where all of God’s children can live together. We saw the government of Israel shoot down unarmed Palestinian sisters and brothers like birds of prey. . . . It is wrong to shoot down God’s children like they don’t matter at all. And it’s no more anti-Semitic for me to say that than it is anti-white for me to say that Black lives matter. Palestinian lives matter.

Warnock, senior pastor of the church once led by Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., isn’t merely being “critical” of Israel, as his defenders claim. Arguing that Israel hasn’t done enough to placate Fatah is a criticism. Arguing that Israel’s refusal to return to 1967 boundaries is misguided is a criticism. Claiming that the Jewish state goes around picking off God’s children as if “they don’t matter at all” is a blood libel. It’s the kind of rhetoric that generates the anti-Semitism unfortunately found in some corners of black communities. It is also a complete fiction.

Warnock gave his sermon in the wake of Hamas’s 2018 attacks on the Israeli border, ostensibly over the United States’ decision to move its Israeli embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. But we know that to identify this as an underlying reason is nonsense: Hamas doesn’t recognize any capital of Israel — or even the nation’s existence, for that matter. Hamas’s charter gives no indication that it aspires to a two-state solution in which Jews and Arabs blissfully coexist, though it does mention that “the Day of Judgment will not come about until Moslems fight Jews and kill them.”

Speaking of killing people as if “they don’t matter at all,” Hamas does its best. It launches rockets towards civilian centers. It floats balloons affixed with explosives over its border with Israel. It digs tunnels to sneak terrorists into Israel — paid for by appropriated international aid money that could be used to build schools. These efforts rarely work out. Hamas isn’t an existential threat to Israel; it’s responsible for a failed city-state run by jihadists.

So, frustrated by this constricting reality, Hamas decided to incite tens of thousands of its own people — many of them armed with guns, firebombs, and bricks — to try to overrun military installations and cross the border into Israel. Or, more likely, to generate Arab casualties for Western media consumption. Martyrdom, after all, is always the point. And Western apologists for Hamas, such as Warnock, either ignorantly, or perhaps maliciously, take the bait.

It is true Israel used the Hamas-instigated riots as cover to eliminate members of the organization. Senior Hamas officials themselves later bragged that 53 of 62 of the dead “martyred” at the Israel–Gaza border clash were members of Hamas. Israel identified 24 as either Hamas or Islamic Jihad terrorists. God’s children, all.

In a 2019 letter signed by Warnock, he also decries “the conditions in which Palestinian communities live,” claiming “the heavy militarization of the West Bank” was “reminiscent” of apartheid South Africa’s treatment of Namibia.

The propensity of liberal politicians to frame every policy issue or conflict as racially motivated is a sad reality of contemporary American politics. But if that is to be our metric, then it’s worth noting that Israel is home to a sizeable Arab minority, one afforded more rights than Arabs anywhere else in the Middle East. The economic destitution of Palestinians is self-perpetuated by corruption, rigidity, and radicalism. Even the Arab League is slowly abandoning their cause. The notion that a wealthy liberal nation such as Israel, which signs peace agreements with any Arab country that engages, has an interest in keeping its neighbors poor is a complete fiction. The only faction in this quarrel arguing for ethnic partition is the one demanding a Jew-free West Bank.

Yet I remain skeptical that the issue of Israel resonates in any serious way with liberal Jewish voters — in Atlanta, or anywhere else. Consider that no president in history was as antagonistic toward the Jewish state as Barack Obama. Not only did he persistently undercut the elected government of Israel, but he also worked to prop up the theocratic, Holocaust-denying terror regime in Iran — a policy opposed not only by the conservative Likud party but by center-left Israeli parties as well. Obama’s binary-choice framing regarding war and peace with Iran, since debunked by events, was only slightly less ugly than his intimation that those who opposed him harbored dual allegiances. Yet Obama’s Jewish support remained high. This is partly because American Jews aren’t single-issue voters. It’s also partly because of the glowing coverage of the echo chamber created by the mullahs’ stateside champion, Ben Rhodes. But the most important explaining factor is that progressivism is displacing traditional Jewish values. Progressive Jewish organizations are far likelier to defend Ilhan Omar than to defend Benjamin Netanyahu. This, too, is a sad reality. It is more likely that the criticism of Warnock is aimed at Georgia’s Evangelical Christians, who are often more concerned about the security and prosperity of the Jewish state than left-wing Jews.

If Warnock truly believed that “Palestinian lives matter,” he would be imploring his brothers and sisters to march on Gaza City or Ramallah and demand the end to needless conflicts that have destroyed generations of Palestinian lives, rather than regurgitating the ugly tropes of Israel haters.

David Harsanyi is a senior writer for National Review and the author of First Freedom: A Ride through America’s Enduring History with the Gun


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