2020 Election

Georgia Dem Senate Candidate Tied to Anti-Israel Letter Comparing West Bank to Apartheid

Democrats need Raphael Warnock to win for Senate majority

Senate candidate Raphael Warnock (D., Ga.) / Getty Images

Georgia Senate candidate Raphael Warnock (D.) signed a March 2019 letter criticizing Israel's actions in the West Bank and likening them to those of apartheid South Africa, Jewish Insider reported Thursday.

Warnock, who will run against incumbent Republican Kelly Loeffler in a January runoff that could potentially decide control of the Senate, attended a faith-group trip to Israel and Palestinian Authority territory in February and March 2019. The group released the letter shortly afterwards.

The letter claims that Israel's control of the West Bank has been "borrowed and perfected from other previous oppressive regimes," that the region's "ever-present physical walls" are "reminiscent of the Berlin Wall," and that the "heavy militarization of the West Bank" is reminiscent of "the military occupation of Namibia by apartheid South Africa."

South African apartheid was an almost-50-year system that segregated South Africans by race, denying human rights and basic utilities to the country's black majority.

Communist forces killed over 100 East Germans trying to escape the Soviet-backed regime over the Berlin Wall.

The group, which aims to "dismantle the new Jim Crow of mass incarceration and militarization of police in our communities," said it made the trip to "better understand the realities on the ground."

Prominent American liberal intellectuals jumped in to defend Warnock's signing of the letter.

Brookings Institution senior fellow Tamara Cofman Wittes applauded a defense of the letter in a Friday Facebook comment, claiming that "the letter did not explicitly compare Israel to apartheid S Africa."

Cofman Wittes did not respond to a request for comment.

Warnock campaign spokesman Terrence Clark defended the candidate's decision to sign the letter to Jewish Insider.

"Reverend Warnock has deep respect for the invaluable relationship the United States has with Israel and how Georgia continues to benefit from that friendship," Clark said. "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."

Loeffler's campaign, however, disagrees.

"Raphael Warnock has a history of anti-Israel positions, from embracing anti-Zionist Black Lives Matter and defending anti-Semitic comments made by Rev. Jeremiah Wright to calling Israel an ‘oppressive regime' for fighting back against terrorism," Loeffler spokesman Stephen Lawson said.

Warnock will challenge Loeffler, who beat fellow Republican Rep. Doug Collins in Tuesday's first round of voting, in the Senate runoff, which will take place January 5. Pundits anticipate unprecedented spending and national attention on the race, as it may decide which party takes the Senate majority.

Loeffler touts a strong record on Second Amendment issues and was a leading voice in the fight to confirm Supreme Court justice Amy Coney Barrett.