The Anti-Defamation League declared today that Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) is “disqualified” from being chairman of the Democratic National Committee based on remarks the congressman made about Israel in a 2010 speech.
But Ellison shot back that an “anti-Muslim extremist” was trying to derail his candidacy.
The Investigative Project on Terrorism, run by Steven Emerson, released this week an audio clip of Ellison speaking at a 2010 fundraiser.
“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 says on the tape. “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. Can I say that again?”
ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said the group did not “rush to judgment” after Ellison announced his intention to run for the top DNC spot despite “real concern where Rep. Ellison held divergent policy views, particularly related to Israel’s security.”
“New information recently has come to light that raises serious concerns about whether Rep. Ellison faithfully could represent the Democratic Party’s traditional support for a strong and secure Israel,” Greenblatt said in a statement today, referencing Ellison’s past comments as “both deeply disturbing and disqualifying.”
“His words imply that U.S. foreign policy is based on religiously or national origin-based special interests rather than simply on America’s best interests,” he said. “Additionally, whether intentional or not, 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.”
Greenblatt said Ellison’s comments clash with the DNC platform, which states: “A strong and secure Israel is vital to the United States because we share overarching strategic interests and the common values of democracy, equality, tolerance, and pluralism.”
“ADL is a nonpartisan organization and does not support any political party; however, we deeply believe in the importance of bipartisan support for Israel,” he added, noting “such support is crucial to ensure continued engagement with our most important ally in the region, a democracy whose emphasis on equality and commitment to the rule of law stands in stark contrast to the anarchy and authoritarian regimes that prevail in much of the Middle East.”
Greenblatt said the ADL hopes the next leader of the Democratic Party “would have fidelity to these timeless ideals at all times.”
Ellison fired back in an open letter to Greenblatt that “the audio released was selectively edited and taken out of context by an individual the Southern Poverty Law Center has called an ‘anti-Muslim extremist.’” The SPLC did not include Emerson in its group of “core” anti-Islam advocates, saying he has offended Muslims but is “somewhat more moderate.”
“My memory is that I was responding to a question about how Americans with roots in the Middle East could engage in the political process in a more effective way. My advice was simply to get involved,” Ellison added.
The congressman, who is one of two Muslims in Congress, said his critics were trying to drive a “wedge” between him and ADL.
“I believe that Israel and the U.S.-Israel relationship are, and should be, key considerations in shaping U.S. policy in the Middle East,” Ellison said. “Americans with roots or interests in the region should be involved in advocacy and discussions of public policy concerning the region. My response was meant to encourage those in attendance to increase their level of involvement and effectiveness.”