The Anti-Defamation League, one of the top Jewish civil rights group in the U.S., says that Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison should be disqualified from taking over the Democratic National Committee because of his past remarks about Israel.
“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,” ADL CEO Jonathan A. Greenblatt said in a statement released on Thursday.
“Rep. Ellison’s remarks are both deeply disturbing and disqualifying,” he added.
Ellison, who is one of two Muslims in Congress, is considered a top candidate to take over the DNC. He has received the backing of numerous progressives in Congress, including Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
But Ellison has come under heavy fire for remarks he has made in the past and for his associations with controversial figures and groups, such as the Nation of Islam and members of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Outlets like The Daily Caller and the Washington Free Beacon have covered Ellison’s controversial past, such as an article he wrote under the name Keith E. Hakim in 1990 for the University of Minnesota school newspaper calling for a separate homeland for Black Americans. (RELATED: Keith Ellison Once Called For A Separate Country For Blacks)
As a member of Congress in 2009, Ellison headlined a fundraiser for a Libya-born activist running for the Virginia Assembly who was publicly known to have praised one of the founders of Hamas and to have called on Palestinians to embrace “the jihad way” in its battle against Israel. (RELATED: Ellison Headlined Fundraiser For Muslim Activist Who Called On Palestinians To Embrace ‘The Jihad Way’)
The final straw for the ADL appears to be a CNN report which laid out additional examples of Ellison’s anti-Israel bent.
CNN found one article written in 1990 in which Ellison defended Kwame Ture, the Black Power movement leader also known as Stokely Carmichael, after he said during a speech at the University of Minnesota that Zionist Israelis collaborated with the Nazis.
Ellison, still writing under the name Keith E. Hakim, responded to a critique from the school’s president, saying that he “denounced Ture’s comment without offering any factual refutation of it.”
Ellison has also defended Louis Farrakhan, the Nation of Islam leader who has been accused of anti-Semitism throughout his career.
In his statement, Greenblatt, the ADL executive, said that the civil rights group did not initially rush to judgement about Ellison’s qualifications to serve as DNC chair.
Ellison, 53, has distanced himself from his past remarks and associations. He says he is not anti-Semitic and that he does not support the Nation of Islam.
But Greenblatt says that “whether intentional or not,” Ellison’s 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.”
He said that Ellison’s remarks about Israel — such as a comment in 2010 that Israel directs the U.S.’s foreign policy in the Middle East — conflicts with the DNC’s platform position, “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.”