Israeli Lawmaker Defends Keith Ellison: 'A True Supporter of Israel'

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Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN)
Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN)Credit: Lior Mizrahi, Bloomberg

An Israeli lawmaker spoke out on Sunday in defense of Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn), the frontrunner in the race for the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, who has been accused of harboring anti-Semitic and anti-Israel views.

MK Tamar Zandberg of the left-wing Meretz party wrote in a Facebook post that she "can personally attest to the fact that Ellison’s positions on Israel are similar to his positions on every other issue: progressive stands that strive for peace, justice and equality, that oppose racism, anti-Semitism, chauvinism and homophobia of any kind from any source.”

Attacks against Ellison have intensified in recent days, with the Democratic congressman being accused of hostility to Israel based on statements and speeches he has made in the past and his voting record.

On Friday, billionaire businessman Haim Saban lashed out at Ellison, saying that Ellison is “clearly an anti-Semite and anti-Israel individual.” During the Saban Forum, which he funds annually for Israeli and American leaders, the mega-donor predicted that Ellison “would be a disaster for the relationship between the Jewish community and the Democratic Party” were he to win the leadership vote set for February.

In her statement, Zandberg said she was “saddened” by Saban's accusations. Ellison, she said, “embodies precisely what the global left needs to confront the populism of the right: a clear and unapologetic left, who joins together the struggles of minorities and doesn’t try to divide and conquer. Who doesn’t suck up to the right and doesn’t pivot to the center. A left that maintains a consistent position that doesn’t exempt Israel from its commitments to these values and doesn’t confuse supporting Israel with supporting the occupation.”

Such a leader, she said, understands that “a sustainable peace between Israel and the Palestinians is first and foremost in the interest of Israel, and so it is what every true supporter of Israel needs to support."

Ellison has also been the target of a wave of negative coverage from the conservative media and across social media platforms in the United States, which has sown doubts in his positions on Israel and the Middle East in the right-wing and mainstream Jewish community, though he is staunchly supported by Jewish progressives, and enjoys the support of both Senate Minority leader Charles Schumer and Senator Bernie Sanders.

Zandberg said that she found it “frightening and grotesque” that the charges of anti-Semitism against Ellison were originating among those who seemed to be willing to “forgive” Nazi-like hand salutes and the rebirth of the Ku Klux Klan. 

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