Control of the United States Senate may turn on whether the Democratic candidate Reverend Raphael Warnock defeats the Republican incumbent Kelly Loeffler in the January 5 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.
Some have deliberately distorted Warnock's anti-Israel views in an attempt to garner Jewish support for Warnock. For example, here is the way The Forward described the content of the letter:
Warnock recently came under fire from some Atlanta Jews after Jewish Insider noted that he signed onto a 2019 statement from a group of Christian clergy that visited Israel and the West Bank that likened the "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 says "Jewish political observers disagree with the notion that Warnock is not a strong supporter of Israel."
In order to assess the accuracy of the foregoing description, let us look at the text of the letter itself.
The letter accuses Israel of "state-sanctioned violence in the form of detention, interrogation, teargassed [sic], 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 alleges "excessive use of force by Israel to subjugate the people in collective punishment of whole population [sic] 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 forgo armed solutions to the conflict." 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 also criticized the United States' decision to recognize Jerusalem as "Israel's official capital," without mentioning that every American administration since the 1990s pledged to do it.
The letter condemns "the increasing hardening of the hearts of the Israeli powers that be," without mentioning Israel's offers to end the occupation of the West Bank and establish a Palestinian state—all of which the Palestinian Authority rejected on numerous occasions.
The letter's authors pray for an end to "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 support for "utilizing economic pressure as a means of bringing recalcitrant dominant forces to the negotiating table." This remark 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 negotiate.
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 on to a group letter that may not have reflected his own views, please listen to his sermon, which accuses Israel of "shoot[ing] down unarmed Palestinians sisters and brothers like birds of prey." This is a mendacious blood libel, pure and simple. You wouldn't know that from reading the misleading description of the letter and sermon in The Forward. Nor would you know that Warnock is an admirer of Reverend Jeremiah Wright and a defender of the anti-American and anti-Semitic sermon that President Obama condemned.
So it is important for everyone who is considering voting for 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 characterized as "a strong supporter of Israel."
I am prepared to change my mind about 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 (see his recent op-ed, "I Stand With Israel") is not enough for me. I want to know what he really believes and, more importantly, how he will vote.
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 Reverend Warnock will reconsider his past mistakes and express views that allow liberal Democrats like me, who are also strong supporters of Israel, to support him in his bid 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 really does "stand with Israel."
Alan M. Dershowitz is the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law, Emeritus at Harvard Law School and author of the book, Guilt by Accusation: The Challenge of Proving Innocence in the Age of #MeToo, His new podcast, The Dershow, is accessible on Spotify, YouTube and iTunes.
The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.