Georgias Senate runoffs: All the Jewish drama from a charged campaign – The Times of Israel

Posted By on January 6, 2021

JTA Tuesdays two runoff elections in Georgia wont just decide control of the US Senate. Theyll also be significant symbolic wins for one or both of the polarized sides of the American Jewish community.

Thanks to several dramatic developments, including an infamous campaign ad, a year-old letter about a trip to Israel and a controversial photo taken with a white supremacist, the races have become a microcosm of big national Jewish political narratives.

The Republicans in the races have cast the Democrats as part of the anti-Israel and socialist left. The Democrats have cast the Republicans as part of the white supremacist and anti-Semitic far right.

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Heres a recap of the Jewish drama in both races, which are going down to the wire.

Senator David Perdue, a Georgia Republican, speaks at a rally in Augusta, Georgia, December 10, 2020. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

In July, the campaign of the Republican incumbent, Senator David Perdue, ran a Facebook ad for five days before observers noticed that it featured an image of Jon Ossoff, his Jewish opponent, with his nose digitally enhanced to appear longer than it is.

The ad also featured Jewish Senator Chuck Schumer and the phrase Democrats are trying to buy Georgia! Jewish political donors such as George Soros and Michael Bloomberg have figured prominently in Republican attack ads that critics argue echo anti-Semitic tropes about Jews and money.

Ossoff quickly pounced on the opportunity to call his opponent anti-Semitic. He has made the ad a centerpiece of his campaigns attack against Perdue. In October, Ossoff brought the incident up at a debate with Perdue, accusing him of lengthening my nose in attack ads to remind everybody that Im Jewish.

Instead of leading and inspiring, he stoops to mocking the heritage of his political opponents, Ossoff added. A clip of his impassioned jab went viral, and Perdue dropped out of their final debate.

Perdue has since appeared in multiple online meetings with the Republican Jewish Coalition but has not mentioned the ad.

The Reverend Raphael Warnocks record on Israel came under scrutiny after Jewish Insider published an article about a visit the Democratic candidate made to the country with other Black clergy members in 2019. A pastor who helms the same Atlanta church that Martin Luther King, Jr. led for years, Warnock signed a letter that included among several conclusions, including a renewed commitment to a two-state solution a description of the heavy militarization of the West Bank, saying it was reminiscent of the way apartheid South Africa governed Namibia, its colony.

Jewish Insider also reported on a sermon Warnock gave in 2018, in which he criticized Israel: We saw the government of Israel shoot down unarmed Palestinian sisters and brothers like birds of prey, he said, referring to clashes at protests orchestrated by the Hamas terror group at the Gaza border. It is wrong to shoot down Gods children like they dont matter at all. And its no more anti-Semitic for me to say that than it is anti-white for me to say that Black lives matter. Palestinian lives matter.

Democratic US Senate candidate Reverend Raphael Warnock waves to supporters during a drive-in rally in Savannah, Georgia, January 3, 2021. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

The Republican incumbent, Senator Kelly Loeffler, amplified the narrative, tweeting that Warnock has a long history of anti-Israel extremism.

She also claimed that Warnock defended Jeremiah Wrights anti-Semitic comments, referring to the controversial Chicago pastor who counted Barack Obama as a congregant. But Warnock has only cited Wrights call for greater racial justice, not the pastors slight against them Jews who he claimed in 2009 were responsible for keeping him away from Obama.

Warnock has since publicly clarified his stances on Israel-related issues. He has come out against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) movement targeting Israel and stated his support for defense aid to Israel and a two-state solution.

Warnock, who is Black, also lauded the historical Black-Jewish alliance in a campaign ad with Ossoff. Ossoff has called him a beloved ally of the states Jewish community. The Democratic Majority for Israels political action committee, which reflects centrist pro-Israel views, gave him a noteworthy endorsement. And multiple local Jewish organizers came to Warnocks defense.

He has been a friend to Atlantas Jewish community throughout his tenure at the Ebenezer Baptist Church and a regular speaker and visitor to Atlantas synagogues, Valerie Habif and Joanie Shubin, who founded Jewish Democratic Womens Salon, Atlanta, an activist group that helps elect Democrats in Georgia, said in a statement. His support for Israel is unequivocal.

Warnock hasnt convinced everyone of his Israel support, including two prominent Orthodox rabbis in Georgia and Rabbi Avi Weiss, an Orthodox rabbi in New York who has been an outspoken pro-Israel activist for decades. But a group of over 200 rabbis and other faith leaders signed a statement in late November defending Warnocks Israel comments.

Senator Kelly Loeffler, a Georgia Republican, and then Republican congressional candidate Marjorie Taylor Greene speak during a news conference in Dallas, Georgia, October 15, 2020. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Loeffler, a former business executive, raised eyebrows on the campaign trail by supporting Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican candidate for the House who boosted the QAnon conspiracy theory and signed a post that accuses Jews such as George Soros of being involved in it. Greene is now a member of Congress.

Loeffler courted more controversy when she appeared smiling in a photo with Chester Doles, a white supremacist convicted of beating a Black man whom he saw accompanying a white woman. Bend the Arc, a liberal Jewish activist group, helped the image spread on Twitter.

Loefflers campaign quickly disavowed the photo and condemned Doles, saying she had no idea who that was.

Soon after, Bend the Arc surfaced another photo of Loeffler, this time posing with another member of Doles Georgia-based group, American Patriots USA (APUSA). The Southern Poverty Law Center calls APUSA a white nationalist group.

And Huff Post reported last month that Loeffler has also posed with members of the anti-government militia group Georgia III% Martyrs and gave an interview to Jack Posobiec, an OANN host who has past ties to white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups.

In a December debate, Loeffler brought up her criticisms of Warnocks Israel comments and Warnock hit back on her photo ops.

She says she is against racism and that racism has no place, but she welcomed the support of a QAnon conspiracy theorist and she sat down with a white supremacist for an interview, Warnock said. I dont think she can explain that.

Last month, the Atlanta Jewish Times asked all four candidates to submit statements making their cases to the states Jewish community. Ossoff, Perdue and Warnock published theirs in the Jewish newspaper but Loeffler decided to publish her essay on her campaign website instead.

Ossoff mentioned his familys Holocaust history. Perdue praised US President Donald Trumps Israel policy. Warnock mentioned the historic ties between his church and the Atlanta Jewish community. Loeffler said Warnock would add yet another voice to the anti-Israel cadre in Congress, mentioning Representatives Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, who unlike Warnock support the BDS movement.

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Georgias Senate runoffs: All the Jewish drama from a charged campaign - The Times of Israel

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