The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has reversed course and now opposes Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) as the next chair of the Democratic National Committee, after audio surfaced from 2010 in which the left-wing congressman and former Nation of Islam member said that Israel controlled the U.S. government.
But Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is sticking with Ellison, despite finding himself in the embarrassing position of having endorsed a candidate with virulently anti-Israel, and arguably antisemitic, views. Schumer, who is himself Jewish, is joined by several other left-wing Jews, such as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who also endorsed Ellison’s candidacy, in spite of his radical views.
On Thursday, ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt issued a statement in which he wrote, “Ellison’s remarks are both deeply disturbing and disqualifying” and that “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.” The ADL had previously praised Ellison as an “important ally in the fight against antisemitism” and “on record in support of Israel”:
Many asked us about Rep. Ellison. Here's our thoughts: pic.twitter.com/CuCcwiBTu3
— Jonathan Greenblatt (@JGreenblattADL) November 23, 2016
The ADL’s statement of reversal arrived two days after the Investigative Project on Terrorism published a troubling tape of Ellison speaking at a 2010 fundraiser where he suggested American foreign policy in the Middle East is driven by Israel.
Ellison said, “The United States foreign 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.”
Ellison converted to Islam while he was in college and is the first Muslim elected to Congress. He announced his candidacy to replace DNC interim chair Donna Brazile on November 14.
In the ADL’s statement opposing Ellison’s leadership bid, Greenblatt continued:
Rep. Ellison’s remarks are 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. 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. These comments sharply contrast with the Democratic National Committee platform position, 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 non-partisan organization and does not support any political party; however, we deeply believe in the importance of bipartisan support for Israel. 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. These shared values are the bedrock for the long-standing relationship between the U.S. and Israel.
Whoever it may be, we would hope that the next head of the Democratic Party would have fidelity to these timeless ideals at all times.
The ADL recently also backed away from claims that Breitbart’s former executive chairman and President-elect Donald Trump’s advisor Stephen K. Bannon is antisemitic, issuing a statement on its website: “We are not aware of any anti-Semitic statements from Bannon.” Later, it dropped the claim that Breitbart News is the “premier” site of the “alt-right.”
Tablet magazine, one of the leading “NeverTrump” websites, recently published an op-ed defending Trump, Bannon and Breitbart News, and denouncing Democrats for supporting Ellison to lead the Democratic Party.
In his article for Tablet, Jeff Ballabon wrote:
It is clear that Ellison trafficked with incredibly virulent, open anti-Semites and supported and defended them until it became politically inconvenient. Then he lied about it—and once in office, he decided to target the Jewish state.
Personally, I don’t care if Ellison ever did or still does hate Jews. He’s entitled to love and hate whomever he wants. What worries me is that a leading member of the extreme anti-Israel wing of the Democratic Party is poised to become the party’s chairman. What disturbs me is that the mainstreaming and elevating of this man—who, at the very least, is clearly more enthusiastic about Louis Farrakhan than he is about the State of Israel—is being done with the support of Sen. Chuck Schumer, and of organizations that claim to represent the interests of American Jewry.
Follow Adelle Nazarian on Twitter and Periscope @AdelleNaz