The subject of Israel and Jews came up very early in last night’s debate on CNN of the eight candidates to be Democratic National Committee chairperson. The job is to be voted on by the DNC this weekend in Atlanta; and at minute 12 or so, Chris Cuomo asked Keith Ellison how he could lead on issues of Donald Trump’s alleged anti-Semitism given challenges that have “dogged” him on that score. Ellison said:
These are false allegations, and that’s why I have 300 rabbis and Jewish community leaders who’ve signed a letter supporting me…. We know Keith and he’s a good man and always has been. That’s why a week ago I was in New York City with HIAS, which is a Jewish organization which stands up for refugees. They say, we were once refugees… When I spoke at that I invoked the memory of the St. Louis where Jews fleeing the Third Reich were turned away in Cuba with the knowledge of our government and sent back, many of them perishing in the Holocaust.
I have a long strong history of interfaith dialogue, interfaith communication and that’s why in my own community, I have strong support from the Jewish community.
So these are smears. And we are fighting back every day. I just want to say, it is critical that we speak up against this anti-semitism, because right now you have Jewish cemeteries being defaced and desecrated. Right now you have Jewish institutions getting bomb threats. We have to stand with the Jewish community right here, right now, four square.
Cuomo then said that President Trump has made the relationship with Israel central; but Ellison was someone who said that Israel should not be the only lens by which foreign policy is shaped. What do you say to that, if you are head of the DNC facing critics who mention your record?
Here’s what I say. I voted for $27 billion in bilateral aid to Israel over the course of about six or seven votes. I have been to the region many times and sat down with members of the Knesset and worked with them.
I have been a stalwart champion of the two state solution, which means that we have got to have Israel and a Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security, and I have made that a very key cornerstone of my advocacy, and so look, I believe that the U.S.-Israel relationship is special and important. I have stood for that principle in service in my whole career, and you can trust when I’m the DNC chair that relationship will continue. We will maintain the bipartisan consensus of US support for Israel if I’m the DNC chair.
“Congressman Ellison, thank you for addressing the criticisms,” Cuomo said.
It’s amazing that the rest of the debate, one candidate after another denounced Trump on one issue after another, and put down the donor class of the Democratic Party too, in favor of the grassroots. On this issue: conservative bipartisanship is the only way, officially.
At minute 1:43:00, Ellison and former Labor Secretary Tom Perez were asked about their having gone out to dinner recently. Did they cut a deal? No, we’re committed to the Democratic team, to support whoever wins the job, Ellison said. Who paid? Perez said he did, Ellison made him pay.