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Ellison assures Dems he has made up with Haim Saban despite ‘anti-Semite’ accusation

on 23 Comments

Keith Ellison sure knows how to turn the other cheek!

Last December at the Saban Forum in Washington, probably the biggest Democratic Party donor, Haim Saban, rose to say that the Minnesota Congressman, who is running to be the next chair of the Democratic Party, is “clearly an anti-Semite” and a “disaster” for the party’s relationship to Jews:

[H]e is clearly an anti-Semite, an anti-Israel individual… Words matter, and actions matter more. Keith Ellison would be a disaster for the relationship between the Jewish community and the Democratic Party

Last Wednesday in Washington, Huffington Post held a debate among seven major candidates to be Democratic National Committee chair, and reporter Ryan Grim asked (minute 27 in the link), “Please raise your hand if you think that Saban should apologize for those remarks.” Reportedly (it’s not clear in the video) all those on stage except Ellison and Fox news commentator Jehmu Greene raised their hands. Ellison then rose to say:

“I just think everybody should know that Haim and I did have a phone call, I won’t disclose what we talked about, but it was amicable, and we’re going to get together and build on our relationship. So I don’t want everybody to think that that was the last word, it wasn’t. And I think we’re on the road to recovery in that regard. So I just wanted people to know that.”

Huffington Post later described the five hands-raised as “a rare rebuke from political aspirants directed toward a deep-pocketed supporter.”

Ellison’s wordy disclaimer must be understood in the context of money: he is assuring all the powers in the Democratic Party that he will not alienate the springs of support from powerful pro-Israel Jews.

In another Israel moment at the debate, former Labor Secretary Tom Perez condemned the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS), when Grim asked, what kind of nonviolent movement for Palestinian independence should Democrats support if not BDS (at minute 120). Perez:

I don’t support the BDS movement because I think you look at many of the things that have been said by that movement, and I think they have been very destructive. Rather than forging consensus they’ve torn us apart, and that’s not right. What we need to do whether it’s the vexing question of Israel and the need for a two state solution, the need to get both sides together so that we can have peace and longterm prosperity… We need to make sure that we have people who are organizing who are moving the ball forward. I don’t think the BDS movement is moving the ball forward, plainly and simply.

After the debate, Zaid Jilani of the Intercept asked Perez what he would do about the hundreds of Palestinian house demolitions. Perez ran away from the question, saying, “I understand it’s a complicated issue.”

Ali Abunimah has covered Perez’s disgraceful performance thoroughly at Electronic Intifada. He also noted the similarity to progressive favorite Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s duck and run performance on Gaza in 2014. “Senator, as you know, Israel invaded Gaza today and we just wanted to get your thoughts on that,” Joe Schoffstall of Capitol City Project asked. Warren said, “No,” and walked away.

I believe this is about the importance of Jews for the Democratic Party, politically, journalistically, and materially. Older Jews are largely devoted to Israel, and older Jews represent a “gigantic,” “shocking” proportion of the party’s donor base, experts agree, including even Jeffrey Goldberg. That’s the power of the Israel lobby.

Thanks to Ofer Neiman and Adam Horowitz.

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is senior editor of and founded the site in 2005-06.

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23 Responses

  1. John Douglas on January 23, 2017, 3:04 pm

    Tom Perez: “I don’t support the BDS movement because I think you look at many of the things that have been said by that movement, and I think they have been very destructive. Rather than forging consensus they’ve torn us apart. . . ”

    Who’s this “us” Tom? You mean they threaten to tear the Democratic Party apart from the money pot? Both Trump and Bernie showed that the monied influence-buying class is not essential when a campaign strikes a nerve.

    • annie on January 23, 2017, 5:16 pm

      bds didn’t tear the party apart, israel did. i can’t support that criminal state. the left, progressives, are supposed to support human rights. the party couldn’t even mention, can’t even take a stand against the occupation in their party platform! i don’t need a party like that, the party needs me.

      • JWalters on January 23, 2017, 8:58 pm

        John & Annie, yes and yes. Israel is also tearing apart the Middle East, America, and Europe. Israel resembles Himmler’s plan to create a “paradise for the German race” in Burgundy, for his Aryan breeding program.

      • lyn117 on January 23, 2017, 8:59 pm


        Even after selling out, they can’t win elections. Maybe in large part because they’ve sold out, and people know it?

        Of course, I don’t know that electing sell-outs is that much worse than electing the party of the people they’ve sold out to.

  2. JWalters on January 23, 2017, 8:47 pm

    Ellison turns the other cheek to get the other check.

    • Lillian Rosengarten on January 24, 2017, 12:38 pm

      What a cynical hopeless response.

      • JWalters on January 24, 2017, 9:09 pm

        Actually, I have a lot of hope. But it depends upon speaking truth about money.

  3. Kay24 on January 24, 2017, 2:24 am

    Most of them cave in and become another tool for Israel’s manipulations.

    Perez just does not have the spine to answer honestly, just like so many others of his ilk, seems very uncomfortable criticizing a leader and a nation, that is guilty of so many human rights violations. The UN recently condemn illegal settlements, and any leader around the world should take that as a sign to do so too. It is embarrassing that American leaders are like wimps to speak against criminal acts by another nation. That is doing the right thing any leader of a democracy should do.

    He is obviously in the pockets of AIPAC.

    • elian kteily on January 24, 2017, 1:08 pm

      justice and only justice will prevail .

      Palestine will always be no matter how much money is thrown out at the blind……

  4. Sibiriak on January 24, 2017, 2:35 am

    older Jews represent a “gigantic,” “shocking” proportion of the party’s donor base, experts agree,

    There’s a substantial group of non-older-Jewish millionaires/billionaire Democrats who could donate huge sums to the party, not to mention the sizeable Democratic middle-class and the now very highly energized party “base”.

    Why can’t THAT donor base be tapped?

    • Mooser on January 24, 2017, 12:20 pm

      “Why can’t THAT donor base be tapped?”

      They might lose the battle of wills if they act too precipitously. And with the geriatric care given the affluent in this day and age, a long stalemate is likely.

  5. AddictionMyth on January 24, 2017, 8:24 am

    Blind support for Israel is crumbling. I can’t find anyone who will defend it any more. Trumpkins most of all don’t want to keep sending billions to prop up their universal healthcare – even as their own is taken away. The move of the embassy to Jerusalem will backfire – it will accelerate progress to one-state. Too funny!

  6. captADKer on January 24, 2017, 8:39 am

    angela davis should be considered as dnc chair. her speech at the womens march was truly expressive of the democatic base. the response of the crowd many of which were liberal wealthy and professional jews made this undeniable to a casual viewer like myself.
    angela davis- the legitimate candidate for dnc chair no matter whether or not she’s even registered! but of course she is, isn’t she?

    • Keith on January 24, 2017, 11:40 am

      CAPTADKER- “angela davis should be considered as dnc chair.”

      Yes, the final nail in the coffin of the Democratic Party. She, like black Congressman John Lewis, have used their history of black radicalism as a vehicle for cozy accommodation with the social forces they once opposed. She represents the working class in similar fashion to Barack Obama the master illusionist and corporate defender. No doubt she too speaks well. For a different take on Ms. Davis, I quote and link Margaret Kimberley of the Black Agenda Report.

      “How low the icon has fallen. Angela Davis diminished herself and denounced her own history when she endorsed Barack Obama in 2008 and in 2012, claiming the corporate imperial Democrat was part of the “black radical tradition.” Davis now signals she’s in Clinton’s corner, and smears independent voters as “narcissists.” Who will “Free Angela” from her shameful servitude to the Democratic Party?
      She joined in castigating those who don’t follow the Democrats into an endless loop of betrayal and disappointment. She didn’t use the discredited words lesser evil, but she may as well have.”
      (Margaret Kimberley)

      • Mooser on January 24, 2017, 12:42 pm

        “Keith” you fell for that one, good and hard.

      • captADKer on January 24, 2017, 2:06 pm

        but she called for “free palestine” at least an half dozen times. that brazen plea deserves exceptional acknowledgement at a womens march- no? the hell with muslim misogynism- just free palestine! she got my ear and support.

      • MHughes976 on January 24, 2017, 3:52 pm

        Is the reason for wanting ‘free Palestine’, as Davis calls it, weakened or reduced, or weakened if you are a woman, by the existence of ‘Muslim misogynism’, as you call it?

  7. punterweger on January 24, 2017, 8:51 am

    This grovelling before the Zionist moneybags is disgusting. More evidence that unless the Democratic Party can be changed, it must be abandoned.

  8. Boo on January 24, 2017, 1:53 pm

    Cozying up to Saban is a lot like “making nice” with a pit bull. He might lick your face one time, and the next time you put out your hand to pet him, you draw back a bloody stump.

  9. Elizabeth Block on January 24, 2017, 3:57 pm

    I’d like to ask Perez, and other people who still talk about two states: What’s your Plan B?

    And yes, Annie’s right. It’s not BDS that’s tearing people apart, it’s Israel. I think there are Zionists who realize that Israel is the best propagandist for opposition to Zionism.

  10. pabelmont on January 24, 2017, 4:24 pm

    “”Disaster for relationship between Dems and Jewish Community [meaning small number of grotesquely large donors]” who have traditionally given big percent of Dems political money.

    Well, ,maybe, but some of us can remember back to the heady days (of yesteryear) of Bernie Sanders and the large number of “small donors”.

    Ellison’s choice (and Dems, too) is between trying to resurrect the oligarchic neoliberal party of Obama and both Clintons — and promise to commit subservience and corruption, as most politicians have been doing — or try something fresh hopefully appealing to the rebellions of the Sanders supporters and also of the Trump supporters, both of which groups wanted to be freed of the shackles of the oligarchs )although each group also had other possibly conflicting “druthers”).

  11. Mooser on January 24, 2017, 8:23 pm

    Maybe I am wrong, but an accusation of “antisemitism” doesn’t seem to pack the punch it used to. Ellison was able to smooth it over.

    • Maghlawatan on January 25, 2017, 12:39 am

      I think that’s dangerous. They flogged the horse to death. People like Bennett think the IDF will always be powerful. Jews could study the meaning of Jewish holidays. What happened to the Pharaohs and Nebuchadnezzar’s empire?

      I think Jews who are neither Zionist nor Wall St need some sort of rational space where they can hang out while the 2 tribal manias implode.

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