The Smear is Here for Ellison
Ever since Representative Keith Ellison announced his candidacy for the next chair of the Democratic National Committee, the right has attempted to smear him as an anti-Semite. Unfortunately, some traditionally liberal backers have now joined in putting forth a misguided opposition. Haim Saban, who gave millions to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, described Ellison as “an anti-Semite and anti-Israel individual,” despite a defense from the American Jewish group J Street.
The Anti-Defamation League has said that Ellison’s “remarks are both deeply disturbing and disqualifying” and that they “raise the specter of age-old stereotypes about Jewish control of our government.” However, the ADL’s response came in reaction to a small clip, intentionally taken out of context and put forth by Steven Emerson of The Investigative Project on Terrorism. Steve Emerson, who claimed that the Obama administration “extensively collaborates” with the Muslim Brotherhood, is on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s list of anti-Muslim extremists.
It should be questioned why only a 36-second clip of a 22-minute speech was released. In the brief clip, Ellison says:
United States policy in the Middle East is governed by what is good or bad through a country of 7 million people. 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?
After listening to the full speech, it’s clear that what Ellison is saying is that Israel’s welfare is central to America’s Middle East policy because the Jewish community is actively engaged in politics and effectively advocates for its causes. Speaking at a 2010 campaign fundraising event for a fellow Muslim running for Virginia state legislature, he advised the American Muslim donors at the event that they should wield their own influence on American politics by getting involved: “The question is, with all of us here, we ought to be able to do at least as much. You understand what I am trying to say? That we got a lot of work to do.” Ellison continues, “This is not to say that I don’t want the U.S. to be friends with Israel. I just want the United States to have a lot of friends. And to be in a position with the friend to say — you are wrong and you must stop.”
Of course, you are free to interpret Ellison’s words as you see fit. However, the entire leadership of the Jewish community in Ellison’s hometown consistently describe him as a friend and ally of the community and a supporter of Israel. Minneapolis Rabbi Michael Latz has called him “ an exquisite mensch, brilliant, a terrific community organizer who represents his constituency with great integrity.”
Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of J Street, a Washington-based Jewish American organization that advocates for a diplomatic resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, wrote an article defending Ellison. He and Ellison traveled to Israel and the Middle East and met with officials, activists, and civilians on both sides. Jeremy states, “All those who’ve taken the time to get to know [Ellison] have always found him to be deeply thoughtful and well-informed.”
Ellison’s positions on Israel may not be entirely in line with his party’s elites, but they are in line with Democratic voters. According to a poll done by Brookings earlier this year, 60% of Democrats believe that the United States should impose some economic sanctions with regard to the new Israeli settlements and 51% of Democrats are for the establishment of a Palestinian State. Like Ellison, Jewish Americans oppose settlement expansion and the incitement of violence taken by both sides. Jewish Americans also agree with Ellison in their support of the Iran nuclear agreement.
At a time when the President-Elect has tweeted anti-Semitic imagery, when his campaign ads talked about a “global power structure” while displaying images of Jewish financiers, when the future White House counselor is an anti-Semite, and white supremacists are giving the Nazi salute here at home, it is unfortunate that some have decided to smear Keith Ellison and lump him into this same crowd. It is unfortunate because as a Muslim, Ellison understands the threat his community and other minority communities face due to Donald Trump’s Islamophobic rhetoric.
We need a DNC chair who understands the importance of uniting all Americans, no matter their race or creed. During a time when Republicans will have control of the White House, it is imperative for the Democrats to have a leader who can unify all working Americans against the many threats we will face. Neither white workers nor minority workers will be able to do it on their own.
Keith Ellison giving a speech to hundreds of workers in front of a Trump hotel in Washington DC
Attacks against minorities, attacks against the environment, and attacks against our civil liberties must be defended against from the bottom up. The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) has shown that when our politicians refuse to act, we can force their hand with activism and solidarity. We can force their hand by joining with all our brothers and sisters in their struggles because we know they will fight for us in our own. Right now, Keith Ellison is the only candidate for DNC chair that has shown that he truly understands that.
“Being in the street works. Stand up, raising your voice, works. Making sure you fight back works. And in this moment, when we’re dealing with Trump over there and we’re over there in the minority, in the House and Senate, the most important thing we can do is be out there fighting because fighting back works. That’s what we gotta do.” -Keith Ellison
Let your Democratic Party Leadership know that it’s time to join Senators Schumer and Sanders and hundreds of other Democrats in uniting the party behind Keith Ellison for DNC Chair. Today, call your Democrat Senators, your Representatives, and your State Party Chair to ask that they represent YOU by supporting Keith.
Author: Harpreet Chima