Several news and political organizations have been reviewing and publicizing Rep. Keith Ellison’s writings about Zionism, Nation of Islam founder Louis Farrakhan, and slavery reparations from more than two decades ago. CNN did an in-depth review which you can read here. They became an issue during his first congressional run ten years ago. He has since disavowed his involvement with the Nation of Islam and has been defended by Jewish organizations like the Anti-Defamation League and J Street. His past writings and views are drawing renewed scrutiny since Ellison announced his candidacy for the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee.
Ellison wrote this blog post on Medium explaining his background and the context for some of the issues at the time that are now being raised against him. It’s a start, but clearly he will have to address these issues from his past publicly and privately to convince DNC members to elect him as chairman.
UPDATE: Bad news for Ellison. The Anti-Defamation League has released a statement retracting its previous defense of Ellison, citing a recording of a 2010 speech – after he had been elected to Congress – which they describe as “deeply disturbing and disqualifying.” Here’s the relevant excerpt:
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. In a speech recorded in 2010 to a group of supporters, Rep. 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.”
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.”
UPDATE II: Here’s Ellison’s response to the ADL statement.