In Private Fundraiser, Ellison
Blasted Israeli Influence Over Policy
By Steven Emerson
November 29, 2016
Keith Ellison's announcement earlier this month that he wants to be the
Democratic National Committee's next chairman drew
quick support from several key lawmakers, including Jewish senators Chuck
Schumer and Bernie Sanders.
backers also have defended
him against claims he may hold anti-Semitic views in addition to being
anti-Israel. A column
in Israel's liberal daily Haaretz quotes two rabbis praising Ellison, D-Minn.,
as "the best of our constitutional democracy and the best of America"
and "an extraordinary leader. Anyone who would associate him with any kind
of hatred hasn't met him and certainly hasn't worked with him."
A 2010 audio
of Ellison speaking at a private fundraiser obtained by the Investigative
Project on Terrorism calls such praise into question. In a fairly intimate
setting, Ellison lashed out at what he sees as Israel's disproportionate
influence in American foreign policy. That will change, he promised, as more
Muslims gained political influence:
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. Can I say that again?"
for Ellison's re-election campaign was hosted by Esam Omeish, a past president
of the Muslim American Society (MAS) who was forced
to resign from a Virginia state immigration panel in 2007 after an exclusive
IPT videotape showed him praising Palestinians for choosing the "the
jihad way ... to liberate your land." Omeish was
a candidate for Virginia's general assembly the previous year, and Ellison spoke
at a fundraiser for that losing effort.
In his 2010
remarks, he described Omeish as "my beloved brother and I love you and you
are the best and your family is so beautiful and again, you know, you put it out
there. You ran. And I hope you run again."
at the fundraiser was Nihad
Awad, a co-founder and executive director of the Council on American-Islamic
Relations (CAIR), and a
member of a Muslim Brotherhood-created Hamas support network in America
known as the Palestine Committee.
comments about Israeli political influence do not appear to be a poor choice of
words. A year earlier, as conflict raged between Israel and Hamas in Gaza,
Ellison told Al Jazeera that "the people who have a strong sympathy
for the Israeli position dominate the conversation. It is really not politically
safe to say there have been two sides to this."
A month later,
Ellison told the BBC that outreach to Hamas was not feasible for a member of
Congress – not because it is a terrorist organization with an anti-Semitic
charter demanding Israel's destruction – but because it is too politically
can tell you now is that the constellation of political forces in the United
States at this moment would make a member of Congress who has reached out
directly to Hamas spend all their time defending that decision and would not be
able to deal with other critical issues that need to be focused on. So for
example if I were to make a move like that I wouldn't be able to focus my
attention on the humanitarian issue. I'd have to defend myself to my colleagues
why I reached out to a terrorist organization. It would absorb all of my time. I
would spend a lot of time fighting off personal attack and would not be able to
achieve goals that I have."
Just after the
2009 Gaza war, Ellison was among 22 House members to
vote "present" rather than take a stand on a nonbinding House
resolution "recognizing Israel's right to defend itself against attacks
from Gaza, reaffirming the United States' strong support for Israel, and
supporting the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Ellison claimed
he was "torn" on the issue because it "barely mentions the human
suffering of the Palestinians in Gaza."
has demanded that Israel open its borders to Gaza, arguing that economic aid and
development would help ease tensions and resulting violence. In 2010, he authored
a letter signed by 53 House colleagues which called on President Obama to
pressure Israel into opening the border.
described the blockade as "collective punishment" on Gaza residents.
the argument in a 2014 Washington Post oped
which was written during new conflict between Israel and Hamas. Hamas terrorists
provoked the war by kidnapping
three teenagers and by launching thousands of rockets at
Israeli civilian areas.
argued that peace would come with economic relief in Gaza and said an end to the
blockade should be part of any ceasefire.
status quo for ordinary Gazans is a continuation of no jobs and no
freedom," he wrote. "This is not an attractive future. Gazans want and
deserve the dignity of economic opportunity and freedom to move."
restrictions on imports to Gaza were aimed at curbing the flow of materials sent
to Hamas to build rockets, bombs and other tools for terrorism. Israel allows
humanitarian aid into the territory. But Hamas continues
to divert millions of dollars in aid and supplies which could be used to
improve daily life in order to dig more attack tunnels and restock
its terrorist arsenal.
While he also
said that "Hamas must give up its rockets and other weapons" to
achieve peace, Ellison was one of only eight House members to vote against
increasing funding for Israel to provide added funding for Israel's Iron Dome
missile defense program. Even though it successfully intercepted dozens of Hamas
rockets, especially those aimed at population centers, Ellison said
the proposal was no good because "the US government needs to be
prioritizing a ceasefire between the two sides."
statements and countless others should concern DNC officials before choosing a
leader early next year. Any chairperson's job will include efforts to preserve
and maintain the party's support from American Jews. Exit polling indicates
an estimated 71 percent of Jewish voters supported Hillary Clinton's candidacy.
either don't know the extent of Ellison's relationship with Islamist groups like
CAIR, or of his consistent criticism of Israeli actions, especially in response
to Hamas terror, or they do not care. Jonathan Greenblatt, the Anti-Defamation
League's chief executive, issued
a statement last week saying Ellison "is a man of good character"
and "an important ally in the fight against anti-Semitism and for civil
As we have
shown, he's also a man who believes Jewish interests disproportionately
influence American foreign policy.
summer's national convention, Ellison and other delegates supporting Sanders
wanted the Democratic
Party platform to delete
a description of Jerusalem as Israel's "undivided capital" and
wanted to gut language opposing the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement
targeting the Jewish state.
were pushed back, but should have a far stronger position under an Ellison-run
for Terror Tied
In addition to
seeing Israel as controlling government policy, Ellison has supported prominent
Islamists targeted for their direct support for Palestinian terrorist
During a 2008 radio
interview, Ellison praised Sami Al-Arian. Years earlier, evidence admitted
into a federal court showed Al-Arian served on the Palestinian Islamic Jihad's Shura
council, in essence, its board of directors. Despite that fact, Ellison said he
wished "that Dr. Al-Arian and his family have peace, have justice, and are
able to secure a greater quality of justice for their case," saying he
found "some things about his case that I think raise legitimate
Ellison expressed frustration at the 2007 terrorist financing trial of the Holy
Land Foundation for Relief and Development and five former officials. The
charity, shut down by the U.S. Treasury Department in 2001, funneled millions of
dollars to Hamas through a network of Palestinian charities the terrorist group
But after a
trial ended with a hung jury on most counts, Ellison blasted
the case as "persecution" during remarks at a CAIR fundraising
banquet in Anaheim. CAIR was named an unindicted co-conspirator in the case, in
part due to internal Palestine Committee documents
showing CAIR was part of the Muslim Brotherhood's U.S. network from the
moment of its 1994 inception.
worst of it was not that these people's lives were disrupted, their reputations
were tarnished," Ellison said. "The worst of it was that  other
organizations were tossed in to the mix of it all as they were listed as
unindicted co-conspirators. No evidence to be found that they had done anything.
So here is what we have today. 300 reputable civil rights organizations,
including CAIR, put on a list they never should have been put on in a case where
they had been thoroughly exonerated. It's time to call an end to wasting
taxpayer money in this manner. There have been other prosecutions for Muslim
charities and we've come up with nothing at all when it comes to convictions in
these cases. It's time for us to call a stop to this selective prosecution. It's
time to say that our justice system and our prosecutors and our police officers
are here to investigate crime for the sake of public safety, not to pursue a
The Holy Land
defendants were retried in 2008, with jurors convicting
the defendants on all counts. Ellison did not comment.
Ellison made the pilgrimage to Mecca known as the Hajj. His travels
were financed by the Muslim American Society (MAS), which insiders
have acknowledged is the Muslim
Brotherhood's overt arm in the United States.
Tolerance For Dissenting Views
When it comes
to Muslims who may not share the Islamist ideology of MAS, CAIR and others,
Ellison is quick
tempered and hostile.
He walked out
of a 2009 Capitol Hill panel discussion with Zuhdi Jasser, founder of the American
Islamic Forum for Democracy, after falsely accusing Jasser of giving
"people license for bigotry," and "to engage in nothing less than
"sin" was to criticize the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and advocate
for "a separation between mosque and state."
lashed out during a 2011 House hearing on Islamic radicalization. Even
though the panel included a Muslim father of an American who became a terrorist,
Ellison fought back tears talking about a Muslim first responder killed at the
World Trade Center on 9/11.
the hearing was tantamount to assigning blame for a terrorist's "violent
actions to the entire community," he said, "you assign collective
blame to the entire group."
spoken at at least a dozen CAIR fundraising events since 2006, records show. In
addition, the IPT has learned that Ellison privately consults with CAIR for
talking points and suggestions about pending actions and hearings before the
wonder that, in 2014, CAIR honored
Ellison with its "Muslim of the Year" award.
his weekly podcast to Ellison's DNC candidacy. "A DNC run by a
Congressman Ellison, I think, will become very dangerous," Jasser said.
That's in part due to Ellison's support for Saudi Arabia, despite that country's
strict Wahhabi ideology and its prominent role financing the spread of a radical
interpretation of Islam globally. Ellison also is a frequent fundraiser for CAIR
and is supportive of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, an umbrella group
for 57 majority-Muslim nations which wants to see global blasphemy laws
outlawing criticism of religion.
Islam, Jasser said, as part of a broader reliance on identity politics.
"Islam is not a race. It's an idea. An idea, by the way, that includes
ideas loathe to the Democratic Party" such as severe restrictions on women
and the death penalty for homosexuality. But by making criticism of Islam, or of
those who want to apply it politically, critics can be dismissed as bigots.
his 2009 debate with Ellison and the 2011 radicalization hearing in which
Ellison engaged in "character assassination of us as witnesses. And the
fact that we were Muslim did not seem to matter to him."
That is one
point on which Jasser and Ellison agree. Two weeks after the hearing, Ellison
spoke at a University of Michigan-Dearborn event sponsored by the school's Muslim
Students Association (MSA) chapter. Like CAIR, MAS and the Islamic Society
of North America (ISNA), the MSA was founded by Muslim Brotherhood members in
the United States. Internal records show
the Brotherhood acknowledges the connection.
dismissed Jasser, who advocates reform and opposes mixing his faith with
government policy, and Abdirizak Bihi, the uncle of a radicalized Somali
American from the Minneapolis area who died
after joining the al-Shabaab terrorist group, as "some Muslim guys who,
you know, who basically are angry at their community to go say a bunch of
anecdotal things about ... how good they are and how bad we are."
record is clear. He raises money for some of the country's most deceptive
Islamist groups and works with them to advance their causes. He singles out
Israel for criticism and believes the Jewish state enjoys disproportionate
control over American foreign policy.
He wants to
lead one of America's two major political parties.