Over the last few weeks, Reverend Raphael Warnock, the Democratic candidate for one of Georgia’s US Senate seats, has abandoned his support for Palestinian rights.
But what do we know about those pressuring him?
So far, we know that following his rapid reversals, Warnock was endorsed by the political action committee of Democratic Majority for Israel.
DMFI recently wrote members of Congress excusing Israel’s ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.
The lobby group approvingly cited Regavim, a right-wing settler group connected to Bezalel Smotrich, a member of Israel’s parliament who supports segregation and expulsion for Palestinians – ideas that have been called potentially genocidal by Daniel Blatman, a prominent Israeli scholar of the Holocaust.
In 2015 Smotrich claimed God commanded Jews not to sell homes to Arabs.
“I believe in God’s words,” Smotrich stated. “I prefer that Jews make a living and wouldn’t sell a house to Arabs.”
And now, we know that Ilan Feldman, a rabbi for Atlanta’s Congregation Beth Jacob, is leading the charge against Warnock.
Feldman and three other rabbis criticized Warnock’s Israel-related views in a December letter the Coalition for Jewish Values sent to Warnock.
This is a right-wing organization that aims to combat the influence of “American liberal Jewish movements” and “left-wing ideologues.”
The Coalition for Jewish Values recently attacked Jewish Voice for Peace for hosting a panel of speakers who condemned anti-Semitism, but refused to equate activism for Palestinian rights with anti-Jewish bigotry.
Legal advocates say the law violates international prohibitions on apartheid.
Menken’s comments should lead Warnock to push back rather than continue to knuckle under on equal rights for Palestinians.
Instead, Warnock has rapidly been moving in Menken’s direction.
Rabbi Ilan Feldman
Warnock is also moving in the direction of Rabbi Ilan Feldman.
In a 2017 speech Feldman gave about the 1967 War, not once did he stop to consider the legal or moral implications of Israel’s 50 years of control since then over the lives of Palestinians and Syrians in the occupied West Bank, Gaza Strip and Golan Heights.
He argued that “millions of Jews were again threatened by annihilation while the world postured and did absolutely nothing.”
This rewriting of history ignores the basic fact that Israel started the war with a surprise attack on Egypt. Israeli defense minister Moshe Dayan later admitted that the taking of the Golan Heights was fueled by a lust for more land.
During the war, Israel forced out more Palestinians, as it had in 1948, and decades later Israel’s occupations continue to inflict horrific harm on Palestinians and neighboring countries and their populations.
Just days after Israel occupied East Jerusalem, Israel ethnically cleansed the ancient Moroccan Quarter – destroying within days over 100 houses, a centuries-old mosque and by 1969 other treasures – in order to create what is now the Western Wall Plaza.
But Feldman remembered entering occupied East Jerusalem as a child. He called it “unbelievably thrilling” and recalled without remorse “bulldozers bulldozing down all those old houses.”
In Feldman’s talk, Palestinians don’t even warrant naming.
Tendler is also a co-founder of Young Jewish Conservatives.
Rabbi Ben Packer, his co-founder, routinely incites unhinged bigotry against Palestinians and activists for Palestinian rights. Packer supports Meir Kahane, a racist who demanded the wholesale ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.
Congregation Beth Jacob’s website obscures Tendler’s connection to Young Jewish Conservatives and Packer by stating he “serves as executive director of a national grassroots pro-Israel organization.”
This is very likely Young Jewish Conservatives, where Tendler is listed as a co-founder and director.
Tendler and Packer, as documented by The Electronic Intifada, have cultivated right-wing politicians such as Congressman Dan Crenshaw in their work with Young Jewish Conservatives.
Packer is also supportive of anti-miscegenationist Bezalel Smotrich’s political ambitions, urging him in December “to man up and do what has to be done” in forming “a fair deal” with political parties Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) and Noam to “all run together” to clear the Knesset threshold to join the Israeli legislative body.
Congregation Beth Jacob faces more questions that must be answered.
A map on their website shows all of the West Bank and Gaza Strip as part of Israel – an indication that should surprise no one of its support for Israel’s aggressive plans to settle and annex occupied Palestinian territory.
Best defense is a good offense
For weeks, Raphael Warnock has been playing defense against Senator Kelly Loeffler ahead of their 5 January runoff.
This is despite Warnock being a pastor with a long history of anti-racism, while Loeffler is a Republican Trump supporter who recently gave an interview to Jack Posobiec – a pundit The Atlanta Journal-Constitution described as “associated with white supremacy and Nazism.”
Under pressure from Loeffler, Feldman and other anti-Palestinian advocates, Warnock has backtracked on his prior support for Palestinian rights.
He could have fought back against their anti-Palestinian bigotry, but is instead ceding ground to them.
It is past time for progressive Democrats to learn to play offense advocating for equal rights and freedom for Palestinians rather than conceding without a fight over the ethics of the oppression the US is funding each year.
The best defense is often a good offense. Democrats should try it the next time they’re inclined to discard Palestinians and their rights.
- Raphael Warnock
- DMFI PAC
- Democratic Majority for Israel
- Bezalel Smotrich
- Congregation Beth Jacob
- Coalition for Jewish Values
- Jewish Voice for Peace
- Yaakov Menken
- Ilan Feldman
- Moshe Dayan
- East Jerusalem
- Moroccan Quarter of Jerusalem
- Western Wall Plaza
- Yitzchok Tendler
- Ben Packer
- Meir Kahane
- Kahane Chai
- Young Jewish Conservatives
- Dan Crenshaw
- Otzma Yehudit
- Israeli Knesset
- The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
- Kelly Loeffler
- Jack Posobiec