Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, who has publicly supported Israel over the years, appeared to have signaled a policy shift earlier this week when she told a pro-Palestinian organization that she would push the Israeli government to end the “occupation” of Palestinians.
On Monday, after a campaign appearance in Peterborough, N.H., Warren signaled her agreement that Israel was occupying the Palestinians during a brief exchange with Becca Lubow, a member of the pro-Palestinian organization IfNotNow. “We’d really love it if you really pushed the Israeli government to end [the] occupation,” said Lubow.
“Yes, yes,” Warren responded. “So, I’m there.”
In response to Warren’s comments on the “occupation,” Republican Jewish Coalition Executive Director Matt Brooks asserted that the Massachusetts senator had aligned herself with “the rapidly-growing left-wing, anti-Israel” base. He said her statement may have helped solidify her “progressive credentials for that base, but at the expense of our ally Israel and the prospects for a negotiated peace between Israel and the Palestinians.”
Said Brooks, “Her comments will not win her points with voters who support a strong and secure Israel and a stable Middle East.”
Warren, a two-term senator and former Harvard Law School professor, has accepted the endorsement of J Street. She has visited Israel in the past and has publicly supported Israel’s right to exist. Last month, Warren introduced a resolution that reaffirmed her support of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The resolution highlighted the U.S.-Israel relationship while acknowledging the Palestinian right to self-determination.
But she has also been one of the more vocal voices in the Senate to take aim at Israel’s public policies. In 2015, she was one of 60 Democrats who declined to attend Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to Congress on Iran. Warren was also one of the first senators to support the former U.S.-Iran nuclear deal, and last year she condemned President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the agreement.
On the campaign trail, Warren has also been highly critical of Netanyahu. On Feb. 28, she wrote on Twitter, “First embracing right-wing extremism. Now manipulating a free press, accepting bribes, and trading government favors. The allegations against Prime Minister Netanyahu are serious and cut to the heart of a functioning democracy.”
Last month, Warren and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders were the only presidential candidates to support a proposed Senate resolution against annexation of the West Bank. It warned that “unilateral annexation of portions of the West Bank would jeopardize prospects for a two-state solution, harm Israel’s relationship with its Arab neighbors, threaten Israel’s Jewish and democratic identity, and undermine Israel’s security.”
In a statement, IfNotNow quoted Lubow, a New Hampshire college student. “It is exciting to hear that Warren is willing to commit to putting pressure on Israel to end its 52 year-long military occupation of the Palestinian people. This is a clear break with AIPAC’s status quo where politicians pay lip service to the two-state solution but do nothing to actually pressure the Israeli government to end the daily nightmare for Palestinians. I eagerly await the specifics behind Warren’s new, bold commitment,” said Lubow.
Meanwhile, a staff member of Warren’s presidential campaign was thrust into the spotlight this week for past incendiary remarks about Israel and American Jews, and for deleting a Twitter post where he wrote that he would “totally be friends with Hamas.”
Max Berger, director for progressive partnerships for Warren’s presidential campaign, has long been critical of Israel and American Jewry, according to the website Canarymission.org. In 2013, Berger endorsed Hamas on Twitter – a post that has been deleted: “Confession: I would totally be friends with Hamas.”
Berger is co-founder of the IfNotNow organization, which has criticized Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, and demands that American Jewish institutions “end their support for the occupation.” Over the last several years, Berger has used social media to repeatedly condemn Israel. In 2014, he compared Israeli political parties to ISIS and Hamas. “If Hamas is ISIS, what is Jewish Home? Or Likud? Your coalition seems more analogous to Hamas than ISIS,” he wrote. Also in 2014, he suggested that Israel was an apartheid state. “I dare anyone to visit Hebron and tell me what’s happening there doesn’t look an awful lot like apartheid,” he wrote. In 2014, he also took aim at American Jews. “Sometimes I feel the biggest obstacle to peace in Israel-Palestine is the bigotry of American Jews. Case in point: @JeffreyGoldberg’s TL,” he wrote, adding a reference to Atlantic magazine editor Jeffrey Goldberg.
He has also been openly supportive of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement against Israel. “I support BDS because ultimately it’s the only way to stop the occupation. Personally, I care more about equal rights than a Jewish state,” Berger wrote on Twitter in 2017. Earlier, in 2014, he wrote on Twitter, “BDS disciplines a collective actor: the Israeli state. It is legitimate collective target because it’s a collective actor.”
In the past, Berger was arrested for refusing to leave the lobby of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations (Conference of Presidents) building in New York.
Warren campaign spokesperson Chris Hayden told JNS.org that the tweet by Berger about Hamas was taken out of context. Hayden referred to tweets by Washington Post politics reporter Dave Weigel, who tweeted that “Berger tweeted that the day that [Mother Jones reporter Dan Friedman] exposed a false claim that [former Nebraska senator and U.S. Secretary of Defense] Chuck Hagel spoke to ‘Friends of Hamas.’”
Hagel, who was a Republican senator from Nebraska, faced opposition by some in the pro-Israel community when he was nominated as secretary of defense under President Barack Obama in 2013 and confirmed by the Senate following a filibuster by Republicans.
Weigel added that, “Berger was obviously getting in on a Twitter joke; it’s ridiculous to claim he just was revealing his pro-terror sympathies.”
JNS.org contributed to this article.