How should pro-Israel Democrats vote in Georgia’s Senate runoff?

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Democrats may fail to gain control over the U.S. Senate because they nominated a radical candidate who has made statements against the American military, the police and Israel. The Rev. Raphael Warnock has also praised and defended the Rev. Jeremiah Wright for his anti-American, anti-white sentiments.

Why would Democrats run so divisive a candidate in so close an election, in so purple a state, with so much at stake? The answer may tell us a great deal about trends within the Democratic Party and which voters they now take for granted.

Polls show that younger Democratic voters tend to agree with much of Rev. Warnock’s radical agenda. They are more critical of America, the police, the military and Israel than older Democrats. Leaders of the Democratic Party are anxious to expand their reach among these young voters, not for fear that they will vote Republican but out of concern that they might not vote at all. So, although many Democratic leaders might wish that Warnock, and others who share his radical views, would not express them so divisively, they are prepared to tolerate these views for two reasons: First, if they didn’t, they would risk losing young voters; and, second, even though many older Democrats disapprove of Warnock’s views, they can be counted on to bite their tongues and vote as they have always voted.

This is especially true of older Jewish voters, many of whom cannot be happy with Warnock’s overtly anti-Israel views but whose votes are taken for granted by the Democratic Party. The best proof of this is that more than 70 percent of Jewish voters voted against President Trump despite his strong support for Israel and the steps he took to enhance Israel’s security.

But this time, Democrats may have gone too far, especially with Georgia’s not insignificant Jewish community. Warnock has provoked sharp opposition from many centrist Jews because of a letter he supported and a sermon he gave demonizing Israel in a one-sided manner.

The letter charges Israel with “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.” It doesn’t mention why the separation barrier was necessary. The word “terrorism” doesn’t appear in the letter. 

The letter 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 no reference to the thousands of rockets fired from Gaza that have killed, injured and traumatized Israelis living within the 1967 borders, or of the “terror tunnels” dug to facilitate the murder of innocent Israeli men, women and children.

The letter praises the Palestinian Authority for its “conscious decision to forgo armed solutions to the conflict,” without referring to the “pay-to-slay” policy of the Palestinian Authority that rewards terrorism.

And the letter criticizes “the increasing hardening of the hearts of the Israeli powers that be,” without documenting Israel’s rebuffed offers to end the occupation of the West Bank and to establish a Palestinian state.

Nor is the letter Warnock’s only foray into anti-Israel rhetoric. In a 2018 sermon, he accused Israel of “shoot[ing] down unarmed Palestinians sisters and brothers like birds of prey.” Warnock also has defended Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s “God damn America” sermon that President Obama roundly condemned.

Once he decided to run for the Senate, Warnock renounced support for the anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement and mouthed some talking points about Israel’s security.

So, how should a pro-Israel, anti-radical Democrat vote (or contribute) in the Jan. 5 Georgia Senate runoff election? It’s easy to decide, if you are a Democrat who doesn’t care about Israel, or a pro-Israel voter who doesn’t care whether Democrats control the Senate. But for pro-Israeli Democrats, the choice should be clear.

And this is only the beginning: Democrats will nominate more anti-Israel candidates in future races, especially if Warnock wins — so the political stakes are high on all sides.

Andrew Stein is the former Democratic president of the New York City Council and founder and chairman of “Democrats for Trump.” He is the brother of The Hill’s chairman.

Tags Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Democratic Party Donald Trump Georgia Georgia runoff elections Israel Israel policy Israeli West Bank barrier Jewish voters Raphael Warnock support for Israel

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