A battle has begun inside the Democratic Party over Rep. Keith Ellison’s bid to be Democratic Party chair, and the Israel consensus is again the central question. Ellison is one of the few critics of Israel inside the party. The rightwing Israel lobby is quietly mounting opposition to Ellison; and Ellison has parried by telling his hometown Minneapolis Star and Tribune and other publications that he is against Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel:
“I have long supported a two-state solution and a democratic and secure state for the Jewish people, with a democratic and viable Palestinian state side-by-side in peace and dignity,” Ellison said, in an emailed statement. “I don’t believe boycotting, divesting and sanctioning Israel helps us achieve that goal.”
Opposing BDS was of course a big part of Hillary Clinton’s march to the Democratic Party nomination last year, and her cultivation of donors.
Josh Kraushaar of National Journal says Israel is the elephant in the room:
Dems really don’t want to talk about Ellison’s record on Israel. “No comment” said one [Chuck] Schumer ally. Many stories avoiding elephant in room.
The JTA yesterday quoted Abe Foxman formerly of the ADL opposing Ellison and warning that the party is splitting over Israel, at last:
That he is being seriously considered now — and with the backing of the party’s foremost pro-Israel stalwart, incoming Senate minority leader Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. — is a signal of how far the party is willing to go in challenging the most influential pro-Israel groups, a relationship that not so long ago was hard to disentangle.
“It sends the wrong symbol for someone with those views to take a leadership role in the Democratic Party, especially since the party has been struggling with Israel,” said Abraham Foxman, the retired national director of the Anti-Defamation League, giving voice to what many establishment pro-Israel figures are saying without attribution. “Israel has always been a bipartisan issue; this makes it less of one.”
Steven M. Cohen, a professor of Jewish social policy at Hebrew Union College — Jewish Institute of Religion, said Ellison’s ascent is emblematic of a party seeking to attract younger voters likelier to identify with the Palestinians than with Israel, or at least to see the conflict from both sides. …
“One can imagine that young Democrats would have no problem with Ellison as chairing their party,” Cohen said. “The pressure is on the pro-Israel community to broaden the definition of pro-Israel to include people who oppose settlement expansion and who favor a far more inclusive approach that takes into account Palestinian nationalism.”
So it’s the same battle we’ve seen over Chuck Hagel, Chas Freeman and Bernie Sanders, too. And the critics of Israel are building their base inside the party, thanks to young Dems, women, people of color. Though the old guard is still the old guard, and opposed to BDS. President Obama opposed BDS. So did Bernie Sanders. They had no choice, politically.
In another elephant in the room report, The New York Times leaves the Israel lobby angle to the end of its story on opposition to Ellison– which includes bringing up his comments in support of Louis Farrakhan in the 90’s. Note the opposition by the ADL to Ellison:
Jonathan Greenblatt, the head of the Anti-Defamation League, called Mr. Ellison “an important ally in the fight against anti-Semitism” but said he had taken positions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict “on which we strongly differ and that concern us.”
“We hope that all candidates for this post will make clear where they stand on these issues, and that the Democratic National Committee will make a choice that affirms the longstanding bipartisan consensus on a strong U.S.-Israel relationship,” he said.
Aides to Mr. Ellison were going to make him available for a telephone interview, but then declined when informed that he would be asked about his past comments on Mr. Farrakhan. They emailed a list of his links to the Jewish community and a statement that said, “Democrats need an organizer who will energize the grass-roots across this country to build the party from the bottom up.”
The Minneapolis Star and Tribune notes the sources of the Farrakhan report (pro-Israel publications) and says Ellison is fighting back.
Rep. Keith Ellison said Tuesday he has a long record of fighting anti-Semitism and strongly condemns the Nation of Islam in light of several op-eds published this week that accuse the Minneapolis congressman of secretly supporting Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan….
This week, op-eds in the Weekly Standard and Tablet, a Jewish news website, touted quiet ties Ellison had with the Nation of Islam — a black political movement dubbed a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Ellison’s camp sent out a list of clarifications with the op-eds, saying Ellison has condemned the Nation of Islam and other groups that promote anti-Semitic statements. In 2003, Ellison helped prosecute Holocaust deniers in the state legislature, his spokesman said….
“Keith forcefully rejects anti-Semitism and other forms of hate or discrimination – values that define the foundation of his public service and his vision for America,” an Ellison spokesman said.
Here’s some of that opposition: Scott Johnson, the “Trouble with Keith Ellison,” in The Weekly Standard
The case against Ellison that should concern all Americans is moral. To borrow a term, he is a bad hombre.
Ellison’s key backer is NY Senator Chuck Schumer, a pillar of the Israel lobby. In a signal of that establishment support, Steve Rabinowitz, longtime Democratic Party consultant on Jewish constituencies, touts Ellison in the Jerusalem Post and cites Alan Dershowitz, who has called Ellison “a decent, good person.” Along with a bunch of other rightwing Jewish supporters of Israel:
The next DNC chair needs to focus first on grassroots organizing and winning elections. And Jewish Democrats should put our efforts into ensuring that Democrats come out to vote in 2018 and in 2020.
Yes, of course the J Street Left supports Ellison, and well they should. And American Jewish World Service, Bend the Arc, Americans for Peace Now, Senators Sanders and Al Franken and others are all advocates and allies. But for me, it’s much more noteworthy – and no disrespect intended – what the Alan Dershowitzes and the Chuck Schumers, the Marshall Bregers and the Michael Latzes, the Marc Schneiers and the Religious Action Centers and the Jews of Minnesota all say.
Meantime, no worries about Donald Trump’s pick to be the US ambassador to the United Nations. South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley. Jewish Insider reports Sen. Lindsey Graham’s assessment:
“Governor Haley is a strong supporter of the State of Israel. Her presence as Ambassador will be reassuring to all those who are concerned about the increasing hostility of the United Nations toward Israel.”