Anti-Defamation League: Ellison's past remarks about Israel 'disqualifying'

The Anti-Defamation League on Thursday voiced its opposition to Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison’s bid to run the Democratic Party, citing “deeply disturbing and disqualifying” past statements about Israel.

Pointing to a resurfaced 2010 speech, the CEO of the Jewish civil rights group, Jonathan Greenblatt, questioned whether "Ellison faithfully could represent the Democratic Party's traditional support for a strong and secure Israel.”

ADVERTISEMENT
In that speech, Ellison asked why “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?" Ellison said at the time, according to reports cited by the League.

The League's statement deals a blow to Ellison's bid to lead the Democratic National Committee. So far, he has emerged as the frontrunner with a large slate of endorsements from across the political spectrum, including incoming Senate Minority Leader Chuck SchumerCharles SchumerCongress urges Trump administration to release public transit funding Overnight Tech: FCC begins rolling back net neutrality | Sinclair deal puts heat on regulators | China blames US for 'Wanna Cry' attack Sasse dominates Twitter with Schumer photo, 'reefer' caption MORE (N.Y.) and populist darling and Vermont Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSenate votes to confirm US ambassador to China Overnight Finance: What to expect from Trump budget | Plan calls for 0M in Medicaid cuts | Senate confirms ambassador to China | Roadblocks ahead for infrastructure plan Want to identify as pro-life? Then support authentically pro-life policies MORE.

Greenblatt's statement goes on to accuse Ellison, "whether intentional or not" of raising "the specter of age-old stereotypes about Jewish control of our government." 

The statement was released just hours after a new report by CNN on Thursday detailed Ellison's defense of Louis Farrakhan, the Nation of Islam leader who has made anti-Semitic comments in the past. 

Ellison responded in an open letter to Greenblatt and the ADL.

In the letter, Ellison called himself "a strong supporter of the Jewish state, voting for more than $27 billion in aid to Israel" and adding he's committed to the safety and security of the Jewish State. 

"I wish we could have spoken once again before your most recent statement. If given the opportunity, I could have provided a full and proper explanation," Ellison wrote, adding that he is "saddened" by the ADL's statement but looks forward to working with them. 
 
His letter argues that the audio was "was selectively edited and taken out of context by an individual the Southern Poverty Law Center has called an “anti-Muslim extremist.'"

"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," he said.

"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."

Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, has been dogged by accusations of ties to anti-Semitism from the start of his bid, but the League originally came to his defense.

In a statement last week, Greenblatt said that while Ellison made statements and took positions the group didn’t agree with, he’s a “man of good character … an important ally in the fight against anti-Semitism and for civil rights.” 

Ellison is set to speak at Denver forum for DNC chairman candidates at a meeting of state party chairs Friday.