The battle for the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee is getting interesting. Representative Keith Ellison seemed to be a lock to win the DNC vote in February since he provided a symbolic response to Donald Trump's proposed Muslim ban and because he appeals to the party's African-American base and its Bernie Sanders populist wing. But now, with increasing attention given to his attitude toward Israel, Democrats are looking for candidates who might give them some of the same energy Ellison possesses without his baggage, which includes connections to Louis Farrakhan.
Ellison isn't going down without a fight. And the Minnesota congressman is also not without allies on the Jewish left. As I wrote on Friday, the discovery of a tape of a 2010 speech in which he appeared to mimic the Walt-Mearsheimer "Israel Lobby" thesis was a game-changer. In the clip, uncovered by the Investigative Project on Terrorism, he spoke of how Israel was manipulating U.S. foreign policy and seemed to be appealing to age-old anti-Semitic stereotypes. But Ellison claimed the excerpt was taken out of context. This assertion was echoed by the Forward newspaper, which took the position that it would be damaging to Israeli interests if a Black Muslim candidate for an important post were derailed by Jewish activists. This, the article contended, would reinforce the same damaging stereotypes.
We heard these kinds of arguments many times in the last century. Jews are often counseled to keep quiet about those working against them lest anti-Semites be provided ammunition to back up their canards about the Jews running the world. Those arguments are always wrongheaded. Leaving aside such ill-considered attitudes, the claim that Ellison is being smeared doesn't stand up to scrutiny.
It needs to be stated clearly that no liberal Jew would be willing to give a former Ku Klux Klan member a pass. Indeed, the arguments being arrayed against Jeff Sessions's appointment as attorney general by liberals rests on the mere assertion that he made racist remarks even as he prosecuted Klan members. Yet liberals tell us to treat Ellison's long association with and defense of Louis Farrakhan and his hate group as a mere youthful indiscretion that nice people ought to ignore in the name of good community relations.
The "70 percent" with-us standard on Israel wouldn't be accepted if it were a Republican who had taken so many damaging stands against Israeli self-defense. Ellison is a slick politician who has worked hard to ingratiate himself with Jewish Democrats and has sometimes expressed support for a two-state solution. It speaks volumes about the effort to defend him, though, that the Forward cites a 2014 appearance on Meet the Press in which he restated his opposition to U.S. funding for the Iron Dome missile-defense system in a list of statements that provide evidence of his "support" for the Jewish state. At the time of that appearance, thousands of rockets were raining down on Israel.
Ellison's 2010 speech also deserves greater scrutiny. IPT's Steve Emerson has now published the complete transcript of Ellison's remarks. Taken as a whole, they are far more damning than the one excerpt that forced the ADL to condemn him. The point of the speech was to rally his listeners to oppose Israel.
But I want you to know there is a growing awareness in the U.S. Congress and in the executive branch that everything anyone does, including Israel, is not fine. Right?
Then he rejects the assumption–which even the Obama administration has conceded–that the hundreds of thousands of Jews who live in parts of Jerusalem illegally occupied by Jordan from 1949 to 1967 and in the settlement blocs along the border will remain in Israel in the event of a peace deal:
And you know East Jerusalem, everyone knows that you know it's going to be part of the final status agreement anyway, and there's going to be swaths. No, no, no, no, no.
In one passage, he speaks of Israel as defying President Obama and before him President George H.W. Bush:
They beat back a President before. Bush 41 said – stop, and they said – we don't want to stop, and by the way we want our money and we want it now. [Ellison laughs.] Right? You know, I mean we can't allow, we're Americans, right? We can't allow another country to treat us like we're their ATM. Right? ... But whether you're born here or whether you accepted America as your own voluntarily, this is our home. Right? All of our home equally, and we can't allow it to be disrespected because some, by a country that we're paying money to.
Ellison said that he didn't want the United States to end its friendship with Israel. But in the same section, he said America isn't able to stop Israel from doing anything because "that country has mobilized its Diaspora in America to do its bidding in America."
Ellison also boasted of his championing of the United Nation's Goldstone report, which libeled Israel's efforts to halt Hamas terrorism in Gaza in 2008 (and whose principal author recanted the report's content). While he mocked the idea that he and those present were supporters of Hamas, he declared that Israel's effort to stop Hamas from firing missiles at its cities or using tunnels to make raids into its territory was "morally wrong."
Taken as a whole, and remembering that this is a speech to his closest supporters, Ellison's remarks demonstrate conclusively just how much he buys into anti-Semitic stereotypes about Israel.
Democratic megadonor Haim Saban is right to claim that "Keith Ellison would be a disaster for the relationship between the Jewish community and the Democratic Party." That relationship is already in deep trouble as evidenced by a new Brookings Institution survey that shows Democrats believe Israel "has too much influence" in the United States, while most Americans disagree. If the Democrats ignore these warning signs and choose Ellison, the party will make an unfortunate shift to the left that ensures supporters of Israel will be increasingly marginalized in its ranks.