Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., who had not commented on a controversial United Nations resolution that called Israel’s settlements in disputed territories “illegal,” voted Thursday night against a GOP resolution that condemned it. He did not give a floor speech explaining the vote, but a spokesman said that a statement was forthcoming.
Ellison was one of 77 Democrats and three Republicans who opposed the GOP resolution, which was non-binding, and criticized by some on the right for not going further in its critical language. The Republican “no” votes came from Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., and Rep. Jimmy Duncan, R-Tenn., two paleo-conservatives who usually break from the party on foreign policy, and Rep. Louie Gohmert, a Texas conservative, who said he opposed the resolution because it did not go far enough. The Democratic votes came largely from progressives, some of them Jewish, in politically safe seats. Ellison was the first Muslim elected to Congress; Rep. Andre Carson, D-Ind., who was the second, also voted “no.”
The vote could impact Ellison’s race for chairman of the Democratic National Committee, but up to now, criticism of his stance on Israel has mostly come from outside the DNC’s membership and the congressional party. Ellison has never shied from criticism of Israel’s policies toward Palestinians, and has been filmed encouraging Muslims to get more involved in politics so that “a country of seven million people” did not entirely determine American policy in the Middle East. Last summer, he tweeted a photo from Hebron, in the West Bank, in which a critic of Israel’s policies had put up a sign calling Israel’s domestic policy “apartheid.”
That, and Ellison’s (renounced) praise for the Nation of Islam, has inspired some prominent Jewish Democrats to say his election to the DNC would drive them away. Haim Saban, a major party donor, called Ellison an “anti-Semite,” while lawyer and commentator Alan Dershowitz said that he would quit the party if Ellison won.
Neither man, however, is a member of the 437-member clique that will choose the DNC’s next chairman next month. The search for Democratic critics of Ellison has stretched to include Dov Hikind, a legislator in New York who backed Trump for months last year before writing in House Speaker Paul Ryan for president. No Ellison rival, and no DNC member, has publicly criticized him over Israel; and Ellison’s early entry into the race was endorsed by Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., the most prominent Jewish politicians in America.
“I’m not worried about the Israel stuff even though he and I disagree,” Schumer told The Washington Post last month.
(c) 2017, The Washington Post · David Weigel