Examining Raphael Warnock’s Israel Sermon
We previously wrote about Rev. Raphael Warnock’s response to an anti-Israel letter that he signed before running for Senate. But 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 that the United States opened its embassy in Jerusalem. As 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 November 9 op-ed responding to the 2019 letter he signed, included no apology for those remarks or his support for anti-Israel statements. Instead, many in the media and the Democratic Party accepted at face value his woefully lacking explanations. For example, in his November 9 statement on Israel, he claimed his views on Israel had been “misrepresented” by his opponent. Really? How?
In an attempt to explain the sermons, he later said that, “As you might imagine, 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. … At the same time, I have an increasing recognition of Hamas and the danger that they pose to the Israeli people. And so it’s a complicated situation.”
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.
Warnock says he rejects the BDS movement’s refusal to recognize Israel’s right to exist, yet at a December 8 webinar with Warnock hosted by the Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA), he seemed to be 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.”
At the December 8 event, he insisted that, “I do not believe Israel is an apartheid state, as some have suggested” — but failed 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.”
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)
David M. Swindle has worked for the last decade as a freelance writer, editor, and investigative journalist.