Keith Ellison

December 2, 2016 6:07 p.m.

I wanted to share a few thoughts about Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) who is running for DNC Chair and is now at the center of a growing storm of criticism in large part because the ADL put out a statement saying statements by Ellison recorded in 2010 are “disturbing and disqualifying.” The latter, categorical word “disqualifying” is the key one. We reported the ADL comments yesterday.

Here are my thoughts.

Here is the Ellison quote, apparently from a Q&A at some event …

“The United States foreign policy in the Middle East is governed by what is good or bad through a country of 7 million people,” the ADL’s statement quotes Ellison as saying at the time. “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.”

I find this whole development profoundly unfortunate.

The quote itself, dug up by one of the most scurrilous and tendentious Islamophobes in Washington, make me wince a bit. But the quote is also true to a significant degree. Do we really think US policy on Israel isn’t significantly impacted by the activism of American Jews and even more in recent years by that of Christian evangelicals? Do we also think the Cuban embargo has nothing to do with the power of the Cuban emigre community? Ellison says the recording is edited and taken out of context – here’s his reply to the ADL. (The guy who released it, Steve Emerson, is the dirtiest, most tendentious kind of player out there. He should release the entire recording.) But I’m talking about the quote as is. Ellison is not an anti-Semite. He’s not anti-Israel. I think the ADL is wrong to call the comments “disqualifying” and wrong about how it’s treating this entire issue.

I think this is profoundly unfortunate because truly the last thing the Democratic Party needs right now is a toxic internecine fight over Israel. And equally important, we are in an era when real anti-Semitism has been rearing its head in the United States in a way it has not done in 80s. That makes the ADL more important than it has been in a very long time. (Since the election, I’ve been reminding myself that I want to send checks to the SPLC and the ADL.) So it pains me in a very deep way to see a misfire like this.

I also say this because the ADL is recently under new management. Longtime executive director Abe Foxman retired and was replaced by Jonathan Greenblatt. I’ve been very heartened by this changing of the guard for many reasons but particularly, as I said, because I believe the ADL is critical in a way it hasn’t been for many years. Every aspect of this development is deeply negative.

I will put this another way. I like the ADL. I like Ellison. I like the Democratic party. From this point of view, this is F’d up in every direction.

I’m agnostic on who should be Chairman of the DNC.

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