Ellison, ADL Spar Over 2010 Statements

Hours after the Anti-Defamation League’s statement questioning past statements by Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) in his quest to be chairman of the Democratic National Committee, the Congressman representing Minnesota’s 5th District responded.

On Thursday morning, ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt released a statement that said “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 cited a speech recorded in 2010 to a group of supporters where Ellison is ” heard suggesting that American foreign policy in the Middle East is driven by Israel, saying: ‘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.’”

In an open letter to Greenblatt that Ellison posted on Twitter, he said 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.”

Ellison continued: “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. 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. 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.”

Greenblatt said: ” 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.'”

Ellison wrote that his record speaks otherwise.

“My record proves my deep and long-lasting support for Israel, and I have always fought anti-Semitism, racism, sexism, and homophobia – the same values embodied by the Anti-Defamation League,” he wrote. “I believe that this is an attempt by right-wing interests to drive a wedge between long-standing allies in the fight for equal rights. We cannot allow that to happen.”

The ADL communications office said Friday that no response to Ellison’s letter is planned, nor has there been an acceptance of Ellison’s offer to meet with Greenblatt.