From The Nation
Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison proposes to change how the Democratic National Committee operates, and his campaign for the chairmanship has unsettled a number of political and media insiders. That's understandable. Democrats who disagree with Ellison have every right to dissect and dissent from the Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair's proposals to focus on grassroots organizing and recruitment of younger and more diverse candidates. They can even raise questions about whether a sitting member of Congress is the right choice to lead the party that has a lot of rebuilding to do.
But the suggestion that Ellison, a Muslim who has been in the forefront of efforts to promote international dialogue and understanding, is a divisive figure who would have trouble working with Jewish Democrats is as absurd as it is unsettling.
Ellison, who was an ally of the late Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone, has as a state legislator, congressional candidate, and member of the US House worked across lines of religion, ethnicity, and race with an agility so great that in 2007 then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and top State Department officials invited him to assist public diplomacy efforts in the Middle East. Yet The Washington Post is now suggesting that Ellison would be a "controversial" pick for DNC chair because of past statements and writings -- some from a quarter-century ago -- that critics suggest display insensitivity toward Israel or even anti-Semitism. After Ellison was criticized by the Anti-Defamation League, Politico wrote, "The ADL statement underscores the shadow of past controversial statements that have loomed over Ellison as he runs for DNC chair." And NBC's Chuck Todd asked, "Keith Ellison -- is his candidacy toast?"
Those who know Ellison reject the charges as political smears that are at dramatic odds with reality.
J Street, the "pro-Israel, pro-peace" group that has earned wide regard for its advocacy on behalf of diplomacy in the Middle East, joined the defense of Ellison.