ADL: Ellison’s Remarks on Israel ‘Disqualifying’

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) on Thursday expressed its opposition to Rep. Keith Ellison’s candidacy for chair of the Democratic National Committee after the emergence of a recording of past anti-Israel remarks.

In a speech to a group of supporters in 2010, Ellison suggested that U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East is largely driven by Israel. “The United States foreign policy in the Middle East is governed by what is good or bad through a country of 7 million people,” Ellison is heard saying in the recording, published by the Investigative Project on Terrorism. “A region of 350 million all turns on a country of 7 million. Does that make sense? Is that logic? Right? When the Americans who trace their roots back to those 350 million get involved, everything changes.”

“Rep. Ellison’s remarks are both deeply disturbing and disqualifying,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a lengthy statement on Thursday. “His words raise the specter of age-old stereotypes about Jewish control of our government, a poisonous myth that may persist in parts of the world where intolerance thrives, but that has no place in open societies like the U.S. These comments sharply contrast with the Democratic National Committee platform position.”

The organization faced criticism over recent days for its muted criticism of Ellison’s candidacy while strongly condemning the appointment of Steve Bannon as White House chief strategist and special advisor to President-elect Donald Trump.

Ellison’s anti-Israel record and defense of Farrakhan is well documented and was widely reported. CNN’s KFile published on Thursday a sum of Ellison’s past writings and public statements during the late 1980s through the 1990s, while being involved in the Nation of Islam, and his repeated defense of Farrakhan and other radical black leaders against accusations of anti-Semitism in columns and statements to the press.

In an interview with the NY Times last week, Greenblatt called Ellison “an important ally in the fight against anti-Semitism” but said he had taken positions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict “on which we strongly differ and that concern us.”

Greenblatt defended his move, saying he didn’t want to “rush to judgment.”

“We took a hard look at the totality of his record on key issues on our agenda. We spoke to numerous leaders in the community and to Mr. Ellison himself,” he said about ADL’s initial support. “ADL’s subsequent statement on his candidacy appreciated his contrition on some matters, acknowledged areas of commonality but clearly expressed real concern where Rep. Ellison held divergent policy views, particularly related to Israel’s security.”

Ellison’s candidacy is supported by incoming Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. The Jewish senator from New York said he’s backing Ellison because he’s being supported by Senator Bernie Sanders, a key liberal voice who is now part of the Democratic Senate leadership team.

“I don’t know Ellison personally, but those praises from diverse members of the Jewish and pro-Israel community coupled with what I do know about his record in Congress convince me that Jews shouldn’t worry if he becomes the next DNC chair,” Democratic strategist and consultant, Steve Rabinowitz wrote in a recent Op-Ed.

Republican Jewish Coalition Executive Director Matt Brooks called the early support of Ellison “deeply troubling” since “none of these revelations about Ellison are new.”

“Ellison’s past statements, actions, and associations prove a long history of anti-Semitism that has no business in government,” Brooks said in a statement on Thursday. “Whether it’s his past defenses of a college speaker who stated that Zionists collaborated with Nazis in World War II, his long association and praise of known anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan, or his past involvement with the Nation of Islam, it’s clear Ellison has spent decades defending and associating with hateful groups and figures… It is the responsibility of every single Democrat to declare that these beliefs long held by Ellison are not what this country stands for, and demand that he withdraw his candidacy for DNC Chair.”

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