Keith Ellison Questioning Israel Doesn't Make Him Anti-Semitic

DNC chair candidate Keith Ellison has been the victim of a smear campaign claiming he is anti-Semitic because of his 2010 comments on Israeli foreign policy.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), an organization dedicated to uprooting anti-Semitic hate speech, appears to be doing some defamation of its own after it attacked Democratic National Committee (DNC) chair hopeful Keith Ellison, the first Muslim-American Congressman, over comments that critiqued Israel's policies.

The false equivalency between questioning Israel and anti-Semitism is an extremely exhausting but pervasive one. Any criticism of Israel's foreign policy actions against Palestinians or the Unites States' funding of Israel are translated into hatred against Jews.

The ADL adopted this same line of attack against Ellison when they skewered him over his comments from six years ago, which — rather tamely — questioned the U.S. funding of Israel.

ADL's statement quoted CEO Jonathan A. Greenblatt, who claimed, "Rep. Ellison’s remarks are both deeply disturbing and disqualifying," alluding to "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."

The ADL makes it sound as though Ellison is a bigot who made an attack on Judaism, but nothing could be further from the truth. Ellison pointed out that despite the U.S. providing more funding to Israel than to any other foreign nation, Israel ignores the American government's requests when it comes to foreign policy.

Ellison questioned that dynamic, saying "Now you got Clinton, Biden, and the president who’s told them 'stop.' Bush 41 said 'stop,' and they said, 'We don’t want to stop, and by the way we want our money and we want it now.' We can’t allow another country to treat us like we’re their ATM. Right?"

Ellison also pointed out that Israel, a country with a population of 7 million, decides the fate of a region with a population amounting to 350 million. He urged Americans of Middle Eastern descent to "get involved" and make their voices heard on this imbalance of power.

Ellison is not some lone Muslim anti-Semite who is casting bigoted aspersions upon Israel. There are many Jewish organizations who are critical of Zionism and Jewish foreign policy, like Jewish Voice For Peace and Jews For Justice For Palestinians. Criticizing Israel does not automatically make someone anti-Semitic.

Ellison's career track record points to his being an inclusive and progressive nominee for the DNC chair position. He has been endorsed by Senator Bernie Sanders, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, Senate Minority Leaders Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer, Senator Elizabeth Warren, and many others.

The truth is that this is not the first time Ellison has been attacked. His Democratic opponents have claimed he would be an ineffectual leader due to his position in Congress. Ellison responded to this jab by promising to leave his position should he be appointed. There are some who believe his open endorsement of Bernie Sanders during the presidential primary may also be inspiring reticence among Dem insiders to see him in power at the DNC. But all of that has been put aside as people are now attacking Ellison for being an anti-Semite, even a Muslim extremist, all because he dared to question Israeli foreign policy.

Jesse Myerson of The Washington Post points out that the actual anti-Semitic climate created by Donald Trump and Stephen Bannon, and the neo-Nazi resurgence in our nation makes the smear against Ellison even more deplorable. The ADL is capitalizing on a growing national concern by crying "wolf" to protect a pro-Israel agenda.

Myerson writes, "In times like these, opponents of anti-Semitism (including myself) might thank our lucky stars for talented leaders like Ellison, who is capable of and committed to forging the kind of working-class coalition that could seriously challenge Trumpism."

Appointing a prominent Muslim leader to the DNC would also fly in the face of the rampant Islamophobia promoted by Trump and his cronies.

"The Democratic Party must be the party that delivers for working people," said Ellison in a recent statement. "We can do that by meeting folks where they are, looking them in the eye, treating them with respect, and working to solve their problems."

We can only hope that the ADL's unfounded attack on Ellison will not get in the way of him bringing his progressive vision to the Democratic Party.

Banner Image Credit: Twitter, @GGevirtz

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