CodePink Defends Georgia Senate Candidate Raphael Warnock After GOP Opponent's 'Anti-Semitism' Smear

Rev. Rafael Warnock will face Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) in a January 2021 runoff election that could prove decisive in determining control of the U.S. Senate. (Photo: Jessica McGowan/Getty Images)

CodePink Defends Georgia Senate Candidate Raphael Warnock After GOP Opponent's 'Anti-Semitism' Smear

"Denouncing Israeli occupation is NOT anti-Semitic," the women-led peace group stressed after Sen. Kelly Loeffler attacked her Democratic challenger over a 2019 letter. 

The antiwar group CodePink on Tuesday jumped into the fray over allegations of anti-Semitism leveled by Georgia Republican U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler against her Democratic runoff opponent, Rev. Raphael Warnock.

"Anyone who has traveled to the West Bank city of Hebron, as Rev. Warnock did... is immediately confronted by the visceral and appalling reality that Israel is imposing a system of apartheid on the Palestinian people."

On Monday, Loeffler accused Warnock of "a long history of anti-Semitism," including embracing "the anti-Zionist [Black Lives Matter] organization" and believing that "Israel is an 'oppressive regime' for fighting back against terrorism."

Noting that it is "an organization with a number of Jewish leaders" CodePink said in a statement Tuesday that it "strongly condemns these false accusations of anti-Semitism" against Warnock. The group added that it "finds it ironic that the senator making false accusations... against Rev. Warnock is herself a supporter of incoming [Republican] Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has made blatant Islamophobic and anti-Semitic statements and supports the conspiracy group QAnon."

Addressing the issue of whether the Israeli government perpetrates apartheid, CodePink wrote that its "military occupation of the West Bank is composed of separate roads for Israelis and Palestinians, checkpoints, and a military court system that subjects two different groups of people to two separate sets of laws."

"Anyone who has traveled to the West Bank city of Hebron, as Rev. Warnock did with the National Council of Churches, is immediately confronted by the visceral and appalling reality that Israel is imposing a system of apartheid on the Palestinian people," the group asserted.

Last week, Israeli and Jewish-American media published reports that Warnock signed a letter accusing Israel of perpetrating apartheid following a 2019 faith group trip to the Holy Land. Warnock and the delegation visited both Israel and the Palestinian territories it illegally occupies and colonizes with Jewish-only settlements.

The delegation, which included historically black denominations of the National Council of Churches (NCC) in the U.S. and and leaders of various denominations of the South African Council of Churches (SACC), wrote that it "came as representatives of African American communities; as descendants of those who survived slavery, Jim Crow, and who work now to dismantle the new Jim Crow of mass incarceration and militarization of police in our communities; and we came as representatives of the South African people who lived through the indignity of over 300 years of dehumanizing dispossession, colonialism, segregation, and apartheid."

"We came as people with a shared history of racial segregation, victims of injustice, people who have been dehumanized and marginalized," the group wrote. "We came as people who stand against racism, against anti-Semitism, against Islamophobia."

In Israel, the group visited the Yad Veshem World Holocaust Remembrance Center, "heard the Jewish perspective that proposes a continuum from the biblical lands of Israel taken from the Canaanites, and the present-day political State of Israel," and "shared a Bible study with a Jewish Rabbi and came to more deeply appreciate the hundreds of years of rabbinical scholarship that provide fresh insights for us into the scriptures and their bearing on the current issues in the Israeli religious communities."

The delegation, as its letter detailed, also "visited Palestinian communities and homes where people are not allowed to have freedom of movement or self-determination," toured a Palestinian refugee camp where they "met and heard stories of men, women, and children who have themselves or family members been victims of state-sanctioned violence in the form of detention, interrogation, teargassed, beatings, forced confessions, and death," and "met with families who are fighting to keep their homes from being taken for Jewish settlements and developments."

The faith leaders said they "saw the patterns that seem to have been borrowed and perfected [by the Israeli government] from other previous oppressive regimes" including "ever-present physical walls... reminiscent of the Berlin Wall," as well as "roads built through occupied Palestinian villages, on which Palestinians are not permitted to drive" and "the heavy militarization of the West Bank, reminiscent of the military occupation of Namibia by apartheid South Africa"

At no point does the letter directly accuse Israel of apartheid. However, other prominent South African and American leaders have made such allegations, including anti-apartheid activist and Nobel peace laureate Rev. Desmond Tutu and former President Jimmy Carter, who in 2006 said that Israel "perpetrates even worse instances of apartness, or apartheid, than we witnessed even in South Africa."

Prominent Israeli human rights advocates, legal experts, journalists, and even some Holocaust survivors around the world have also called Israel an apartheid state.

"The Palestinians are victims of ethnic cleansing and apartheid," the late Holocaust survivor Suzanne Weiss, whose mother was murdered at the Auschwitz death camp when she was two years old, said in 2010. "The Israeli government's actions toward the Palestinians awaken horrific memories of my family's experiences under Hitlerism: the inhuman walls, the checkpoints, the daily humiliations, killings, diseases, the systematic deprivation."

Accusing critics of Israel or Zionism of anti-Semitism--or in the case of Jewish detractors, of "self-loathing"--is a common tactic used by officials and supporters of the Israeli government to quash legitimate dissent.

The campaign of Warnock--who is the senior pastor at Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta--denied the allegations of anti-Semitism, noting in a statement to Jewish Insider that the candidate "has deep respect for the invaluable relationship the United States has with Israel."

"The reservations he has expressed about settlement activity do not change his strong support for Israel and belief in its security--which is exactly why he opposes ending direct military aid to such a strong ally," the statement said.

CodePink concluded that as "an organization committed to ending racism and militarism in the United States, as well as apartheid and injustice in Israel/Palestine, [it] encourages Rev. Warnock to continue to speak out for freedom and equality for all in Palestine and Israel and hopes to see more members of Congress, as well as candidates, join delegations like the one [he] participated in."

Warnock, who last week came in first with 32% of the vote in the first round of Georgia's special U.S. Senate election, will face Loeffler in a January 5, 2021 runoff election that may prove decisive in determining who controls the Senate.

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