Warnock throws Palestinians under bus and steps aboard with Israel

A man frowns

Reverend Raphael Warnock, a Democratic candidate from Georgia for a US Senate seat, has spent recent weeks distancing himself from prior views upholding Palestinian rights.

Robin Rayne ZUMA Press

The political action committee of Democratic Majority for Israel has endorsed US Senate candidate Reverend Raphael Warnock.

Prior to this year’s Senate campaign against Republican incumbent Kelly Loeffler, Warnock was a staunch supporter of Palestinian rights.

The Georgia Democrat has, however, rapidly ditched those positions in the past few weeks as Loeffler and Israel lobby groups police Black anti-imperialist speech.

Warnock’s abandonment of his positions on Palestine presumably earned him the endorsement of DMFI PAC.

Loeffler, who opposes statehood for the near-majority Black District of Columbia – and thus favors the disenfranchisement of residents of the nation’s capital – faces Warnock in a 5 January runoff.

On the same day, Democrat Jon Ossoff will run against Republican Senator David Perdue.

Democrats need to win both seats to retake the US Senate.

It’s rare to see a credible Democratic candidate separate himself from previously held positions as quickly as Warnock has.

A 9 December video of Warnock denouncing the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement for Palestinian freedom and equal rights as well as voicing support for $38 billion in military aid to Israel was described by Philip Weiss at Mondoweiss as looking “a bit like a hostage video.”

It’s painful viewing. Warnock does not look at all enthusiastic. In fact, he looks very much like a man taking positions he knows fly in the face of important prior beliefs.

Nonetheless, willingness to abandon principles on Palestine in pursuit of political advancement is usually a reliable indicator that a politician will be quick to cave on other issues.

Netanyahu as segregationist

On the same day as the video and DMFI PAC endorsement, Warnock attempted to distance himself from a 2016 sermon in which he reportedly said that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s opposition to a two-state solution is “tantamount to saying occupation today, occupation tomorrow, occupation forever.”

Warnock received criticism for the line from the Republican Jewish Coalition, an extreme anti-Palestinian lobby group, for “hatemongering” for rightly comparing Netanyahu to segregationist George Wallace.

Wallace is notorious for vowing to uphold “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever,” during his 1963 inauguration as governor of Alabama.

I have no problem with the comparison of the anti-Palestinian Netanyahu to segregationist Wallace as I made precisely the same comparison in a 2008 letter to The New York Times.

The comparison is standard fare among those of Warnock’s generation who grew up in the remnants of the Jim Crow South and also personally witnessed Israeli apartheid practices, as Warnock did when he traveled to the region with faith leaders last year.

And, to my mind, Warnock’s 2019 testimony of the on-the-ground reality overrides how he shared his pulpit in 2015 with Israel’s hard-right ambassador to the US Ron Dermer – an event Democratic Majority for Israel is highlighting in order to retroactively paint Warnock as a longtime supporter of Israel.

What isn’t standard fare is to walk back an eyewitness awareness of Israeli apartheid.

Most people can’t unsee apartheid. But Warnock has found a way to set aside his prior willingness to speak in support of the dispossessed and subjugated – at least when it comes to Palestinians – in his shameless pursuit of a US Senate seat.

Meanwhile, DMFI has denied that Warnock ever compared Netanyahu to Wallace.

The group did not, however, explicitly deny the “occupation today, occupation tomorrow, occupation forever” comment which for most of Warnock’s listeners would have been a clear reminder of Wallace.

DMFI downplays ethnic cleansing

In reversing himself, Warnock is joining hands with an organization that recently sent a memo to members of Congress defending Israel’s mass demolition of the occupied West Bank community of Khirbet Humsa.

DMFI suggested Democrats were wrong to sign Congressman Mark Pocan’s letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo decrying the demolition.

The Israel lobby group argued that the Palestinians in the village, who included 41 children, “knowingly put themselves in danger.”

Democratic Majority for Israel’s position is disturbing and profoundly racist. An organization that too many Democrats listen to, including Warnock, is arguing that Palestinians living in their own territory brought destruction by an occupying army upon themselves.

Strikingly, DMFI includes a map in the memo from far-right settler organization Regavim, a group which claims most – if not all – of the occupied West Bank for Israel.

At least one of Regavim’s own videos shows an Israel encompassing the West Bank and occupied Golan Heights and only showing the Gaza Strip as a separate Palestinian territory.

Warnock has made a choice to join forces with Democratic Majority for Israel as it makes excuses for Israel’s ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and cites a settler group as a credible source.

Regavim’s co-founder and one-time director of operations Bezalel Smotrich is now a member of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament.

Smotrich has proposed forcing Palestinians out of the occupied West Bank, a plan a leading Israeli Holocaust scholar has called potentially genocidal and resembling the values of the German SS.

One wonders what shame Warnock feels when he looks himself in the mirror.

He has spent much of his life advocating for oppressed people, yet in his biggest moment to date on the national stage has decided to abandon Palestinians on the side of the road.

His opponent Loeffler, of course, is a racist and anti-Palestinian demagogue. But Warnock is now traversing his own dangerous road.

Is it worth running for office if you’re going to lose yourself and your guiding principles in the process?

Many Democrats over the years have answered that question in the affirmative.

Warnock could do considerable good in a Democratic Senate raising up the voices and rights of those rarely heard.

But if he’s willing to dispense with Palestinians and embrace racists, segregationists and ethnic cleansers on his way to Washington, it raises the question of what other groups he’ll find politically expedient to discard if he gets there.

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The dedication of Michael Brown to his craft is inspiring. Most journalists would have been satisfied with one negative review of Warnock and the rest would regard two as really intensive and incisive reporting but not Brown. No, he's going way out of his way to make sure this terribly flawed candidate doesn't prevent Mitch McConnell from blocking that other, even more flawed pol Joe Biden.
With Loeffler, Palestinians are guaranteed a friend in Georgia and the Senate.
Thank you so much Michael and hey! Have a Merry Christmas okay?

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"Warnock could do considerable good in a Democratic Senate raising up the voices and rights of those rarely heard. But if he’s willing to dispense with Palestinians and embrace racists, segregationists and ethnic cleansers on his way to Washington, it raises the question of what other groups he’ll find politically expedient to discard if he gets there".
Brown's summation echoes what I hear from other EI contributors and from many (dare I say it) 'privileged' progressives. And it is as equally blind to Warnock's motivations as are so many progressives to those of "mainstream politician's ambitions".
The 'assumption' is just that, that these people who often give up soft and lucrative private lives to go into politics, are little or nothing more that ambitious and selfishly so. Well in the case of Purdue and Loeffler, that appears to be the case but in the case of other conservatives the case is that they are committed to their beliefs and the country. In my opinion, there is little in their belief system that isn't misguided at best but assuming first that they're sincere, is a good beginning to battling them through their ideas.
I'm sure Michael is a brave and righteous individual, who will always stand up to power to further his ideals and preserve his integrity. But will he do that with his family at his side and at risk from reprisal?
To a man like Warnock, every time he stands up for his ideals, it is inherently with his family at his side and yes, how Michael F. Brown et. al, chooses to interpret the snapshots of his life, is an issue that might have to take a back seat sometimes. And on a personal note; it just might do Michael some good if he had to.

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What black candidate would have been expected to give his support to the Jim Crow system in the American South? Or the Apartheid regime in South Africa? Yet in the U.S. today we are presented with the spectacle of just such a candidate pledging his loyalty to a movement and a state which rivals those two, and perhaps even surpasses them in its thoroughgoing embrace of violent racist policies. The author's point that this man, if elected, may be expected to abandon any cause, any constituency he once espoused deserves emphasis. If he'll betray the weak on behalf of the strong, he'll cast aside just as readily the poor in the interests of the rich, and the cause of peace for the profits of war.

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Warnock is trying to join the Congress club, and his only chance is to get the approval of the Israel lobby. Loeffler or Warnock, either way the lobby can’t lose.

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These are american politics. He needs to focus all his energy on his opponent. Any mention about isreal will require more effort. The isreal lobby will come down on him.

Then , once he is elected, he can champion Palestinian causes.

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Rev. Warnock received $103,000,000 in donations over a two month period ending in mid December. Of course, any assurances given prior to his public defenestration of the Palestinians played no role in raising that revenue. Still, a large chunk could have gone to his opponent, a fanatical supporter of Israel. Instead, she received "only" $64,000,000 over the same period. This discrepancy must be regarded as entirely coincidental, even as the origin of a substantial portion of the candidates' funding may never be disclosed.

The LA Times reports:
"The sources of much of the outside spending remain unknown and will continue to be shrouded until long after the vote count. Because of the way campaign finance rules are written, most outside committees don’t have to report their fundraising until the end of January, although they are required to report spending. Some of the outside groups have legal structures that allow them to keep donors secret forever." https://www.latimes.com/politi...

So let's close the book- an accounts ledger, to be honest- on this annoying question of who's betraying whom and for what purpose. The Warnock campaign took a sober, clear-eyed look at the Reverend's electoral fortunes and decided on the only reasonable course available. After all, $103 million in funding and a seat in the US Senate ought to be reason enough for anybody.

By the way, thanks Michael for staying on this story.

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Between Warnock and the Republican Candidate, who should Georgia voters go for ?

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Between trapped, abandoned, besieged Palestinian civilians and the racist Israeli state engaged in their destruction, where do you stand? Because we know where Rev. Warnock stands. He stands with Israel.

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So the Republican woman is more sympathetic ?
I will vote for her, then.

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Interesting Andrew that our brother would be so irked by your cogent question that he would deign to reverse his own order; "So let's close the book on this annoying question". Yes, very interesting...

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If I'd debated tactics in electoral politics and the wisdom of single issue voting with regard to candidate positions on global warming and whether they'd signed onto the "Green New Deal", on a Greenpeace site, how far do you think I would have gotten? Not very far.
They would have rightly pointed out that even the "Deal" probably isn't enough and not at least supporting it, is tantamount to voting to "drill baby drill". And I understand that but I would appreciate and expect from an org, that pretends democracy, to at least hear me out; give me equal time. And that's because I truly believe that as long as we emphasize the upstream issue of global warming at the expense of the more primary issues of human folly; corruption and injustice in governance, relations between factions and classes and ultimately war, humanity cannot adequately address its negative impact on the planet.
I don't think something as existentially monumental as global warming can even be sanely approached, much less resolved, if we can't even come together over a relatively petty issue of primacy and justice, which has already been adjudicated in the very world court system we would rely on for guidelines for addressing global warming.
Sacrificing the good on the alter of the perfect has already cost the lives of perhaps millions of human beings, cost us trillions of dollars that ought to have been put toward human and environmental progress and most importantly, its wasted decades we couldn't afford to lose. If EI is going to close its mind to anything but one issue at the expense of progress toward addressing so many other critical issues, by censoring reasonable counterpoint to single issue (Green Party) voting strategies, then I cannot contribute to it and I regret having done so in the past.

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The oppression of the Palestinian people is not a single issue, it is the same as apartheid was to South Africa.
Free Palestine
End the Gaza blockade
No to annexation

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Happy new year. Reverend Warnock is a man without principles. He join the ranks of George Wallace, the pro apartheid politicians in this country, shameful. But I should not be surprise, in the words of Malcolm X, "You elect a democrat, you elect a Dixiecrat".

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Are you able to always adhere strictly to your principles Victor. Oh yes, well that's interesting.
You must live in a land of Victors then.
The Senator and his friends worked it out that his best shot was to keep the support of a majority of Georgia's Jewish communities and doing that required compromise.
In my ignorance, I don't know that he had to compromise. I will try to overcome that as I hope we all will. But in recognition of it, I thought it wise to simply judge whom I could trust and follow them in the darkness.
I hope the new Senator will find many opportunities to realize his principles in the future, now that we have one.

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3 words : Jeremy Corbyn Example.

Politicians throughout the Western world esp Britain, USA, Australia but also many others are now terrified of being painted as "anti-Semitic" for disagreeing with or criticising Israel at all. Anything other than supporting Israel & it's right wing govt seems like electoral poison. It is seen - rightly or wrongly - as a career killer & makes it very hard to speak up for Palestinians.

So I understand why Warnock has caved even if I find it disappointing.

How do we fight & change this? Dunno. That question is probly worth an article in itself.

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Michael F. Brown

Michael F. Brown is an independent journalist. His work and views have appeared in The International Herald Tribune, TheNation.com, The San Diego Union-Tribune, The News & Observer, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Washington Post and elsewhere.