J Street Comes to the Defense of Rep. Keith Ellison Over Israel Remarks

'It is time to retire the playbook that aims to silence any American official seeking high office who has dared to criticize certain Israeli government policies,' the liberal Middle East policy group said in a statement.

In this July 25, 2016, file photo, Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., speaks during the first day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.
J. Scott Applewhite, AP

The liberal Middle East policy group J Street has come to the defense of Rep. Keith Ellison Friday, issuing a statement calling for an end to the attacks on his record of support for Israel.

Ellison has been the subject of attacks since a 36-second video recording of a talk he gave seemed to indicate he held views critical of U.S. support for Israel. He has dismissed the accusations, claiming that his remarks were taken out of context.

"The recent spate of attacks on Rep. Keith Ellison’s record of support for Israel and the Jewish community need to come to an end," J Street wrote in their press release. "It is time to retire the playbook that aims to silence any American official seeking high office who has dared to criticize certain Israeli government policies."

The group added that while it does not take positions on internal Democratic Party deliberations, they "believe he is one of a number of worthy candidates who warrants serious consideration for the position." The group went on to say Ellison "is and has long been a friend of Israel, a champion of pro-Israel, pro-peace policies and an admirable elected official whose thoughtful and considered leadership has shown deep respect for Jewish values and the Jewish people."

J Street's statement follows a statement issued by the Anti-Defamation League Thursday, saying Ellison’s remarks raised “serious doubts about his ability to faithfully represent the party’s traditional support for Israel.”

In the recording, Ellison said “The 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? When the Americans who trace their roots back to those 350 million get involved, everything changes.”

The 36-second audio recording of a snippet of Ellison’s speech was published by the Investigative Project on Terrorism on November 29. According to the IPT, the recording had been made at a fundraiser for Ellison's re-election campaign, hosted by Esam Omeish, past president of the Muslim American Society.

Ellison is considered the front-runner for the DNC leadership position, and has been endorsed both by Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer and former presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders. A five-term congressman, he is the first-ever Muslim member of the House of Representatives and the first African-American to represent Minnesota in Congress.