In 2018 sermon, Warnock blasted Israel. He now says, ‘I Stand with Israel’

georgia to gaza

Two years after calling out Israeli actions in Gaza, Raphael Warnock details his views on the Jewish state

AP Photo/Brynn Anderson

Raphael Warnock, a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, speaks to supporters and media before a rally on Nov. 3, 2020, in Atlanta.

Rev. Raphael Warnock, the Democratic nominee for Senate in Georgia’s special election, clarified his views on Israel after video of a 2018 sermon surfaced in which the pastor accused Israel of shooting non-violent Palestinian protesters. “We saw the government of Israel shoot down unarmed Palestinian sisters and brothers like birds of prey,” Warnock said in the sermon. 

In an editorial shared with Jewish Insider on Monday afternoon, titled “I Stand with Israel,” Warnock writes, “Without reservation, you can count on me to stand with the Jewish community and Israel in the U.S. Senate.” Warnock details his position on a number of issues, including his support for the 2016 Memorandum of Understanding, his rejection of conditioning financial aid to Israel and his hope that a two-state solution can be achieved.

Warnock’s 2018 sermon was delivered shortly after the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. “It’s been a tough week,” Warnock noted. “The administration opened up the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. Standing there [were] the president’s family and a few mealy-mouthed evangelical preachers who are responsible for the mess that we found ourselves in, both there and here — misquoting and misinterpreting the Scripture, talking about peace.” 

Warnock went on to compare the struggle for Palestinian rights with the Black Lives Matter movement. “Meanwhile, young Palestinian sisters and brothers, who are struggling for their very lives, 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.’ And yes, there may have been some folk who were violent, but we oughta know how that works out,” Warnock said. “We know what it’s like to stand up and have a peaceful demonstration and have the media focus on a few violent uprisings. But you have to look at those Palestinian sisters and brothers, who are struggling for their human dignity and they have a right to self-determination, they have a right to breathe free.”

“We need a two-state solution where all of God’s children can live together,” Warnock proclaimed in the 2018 video before proceeding to charge Israel with shooting innocent Palestinians. “We saw the government of Israel shoot down unarmed Palestinian sisters and brothers like birds of prey. And I don’t care who does it, it is wrong. It is wrong to shoot down God’s children like they don’t matter at all. And it’s no more antisemitic for me to say that than it is anti-white for me to say that Black lives matter. Palestinian lives matter.”

The video of the sermon, posted to Warnock’s YouTube page, includes clips from RT, state-controlled Russian television.

Warnock is senior pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., served as a co-pastor. 

When asked for a comment on the video, a Warnock campaign spokesperson told Jewish Insider, “It is clear that our opponent is going through thousands of hours of footage trying to find a way to misrepresent who Reverend Warnock is and scare Georgians. But that does not change the fact that Reverend Warnock is a staunch ally and supporter of Israel and the Jewish community in our state. Reverend Warnock agrees with Dr. King that ‘Israel’s right to exist as a state in security is incontestable,’ and believes a two-state solution is the path to enduring peace.”

In 2019, as reported last week by Jewish Insider, Warnock signed his name to a statement likening Israeli control of the West Bank to “previous oppressive regimes” and calling the “heavy militarization of the West Bank, reminiscent of the military occupation of Namibia by apartheid South Africa.” The statement also suggested the “ever-present physical walls that wall in Palestinians” are “reminiscent of the Berlin Wall.”

In the editorial provided to JI on Monday, Warnock commented on the 2019 statement. “Claims that I believe Israel is an apartheid state are patently false — I do not believe that,” he wrote. 

“I understand and recognize Israel’s unique historical importance as the greatest proponent of democracy in the Middle East and America’s most important partner in the region. I understand the many threats that face Israel and as a U.S. Senator I will work to ensure Iran does not obtain a nuclear weapon,” he wrote. “It is true that I am deeply concerned about continued settlement expansion – I believe it is a threat to the prospect of a two- state solution, which I believe is the only path to enduring peace. I will continue to advocate for self-determination for the Palestinian people because I want to see a Palestinian state living side by side with a safe and secure Israel.”

Addressing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel, Warnock wrote. “In the spirit of John Lewis and so many civil rights heroes I revere, I recognize the First Amendment right to protest is an American value we must protect. But ​I strongly oppose the BDS movement and its ​anti-Semitic underpinnings, including its supporters’ refusal to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist.”

Warnock, who received a plurality of votes in Tuesday’s special Senate election but fell short of the 50% threshold to avoid a runoff, will face off against Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) on January 5, to finish out the term of Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) who resigned in late 2019 due to health concerns. Loeffler was appointed to the seat in January 2020.

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