On December 2, I wrote about the changing stands of the Anti-Defamation League on the candidacy of Rep. Keith Ellison for the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee. Below is the ADL’s response to that piece followed by my comments:

Jonathan Tobin’s characterization of the Anti-Defamation League’s position on U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison’s fitness to lead the Democratic National Committee is completely off the mark.

We did not, as Mr. Tobin suggests, originally declare Rep. Ellison as “kosher” on his views toward Israel.  In fact, while we defended him from political attacks based on his Muslim faith, we also expressed concerns in our original statement on Twitter that the Congressman had taken positions regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and on the Iran deal, “on which we strongly differ and that concern us.”

Furthermore, the Anti-Defamation League’s subsequent decision to speak out about an audio recording featuring Rep. Keith Ellison discussing U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East hardly constitutes “an embarrassing retreat.”  Rather, it was an acknowledgment, after reviewing new evidence that came to light, that his words now raised very serious doubts that need to be addressed.

Many people, Mr. Tobin included, are wont to view the Ellison contretemps through a political and partisan lens. We are strictly non-partisan, and believe that strong U.S. support for Israel is a bipartisan imperative. Our only agenda is to ensure that the next leader of the DNC and any major American political party faithfully will maintain traditional support for Israel and continue to prioritize the U.S.-Israel bilateral relationship.

Marvin D. Nathan

National Chair

Anti-Defamation League

Jonathan Tobin responds:

Marvin D. Nathan’s defense of Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt’s initial defense of Keith Ellison attempts to obscure the truth about this controversy. When Greenblatt took to Twitter to speak up for Ellison, the congressman’s religion was not the issue. Rather, there was concern about his position on Israel and his background as a longtime supporter of Louis Farrakhan. For Greenblatt, speaking in the name of the ADL, to weigh in at that moment to vouch for Ellison’s character and his pro-Israel bona fides was nothing less than a seal of approval from the group the Jewish community looks to as its watchdog on anti-Semitism.

Doing so was yet another indication of Greenblatt’s distressing tendency to use the ADL’s credentials to promote policies and groups that are more identified with the liberal political agenda–such as Black Lives Matter and the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate–than a pro-Israel one. This is evidenced by his statement seeking to rationalize Jewish supporters of BDS rather than stoutly opposing them.

When confronted with the text of Ellison’s 2010 speech, in which he spouted classic anti-Semitic tropes about Israel and its supporters, Greenblatt reversed course. But there was nothing in that speech that was not consistent with Ellison’s record. If the ADL wishes to reclaim its reputation as a non-partisan bastion of support for Israel, it will have to ensure that the Clinton and Obama administration veteran who serves as its CEO resists the temptation to give in, as he did initially with Ellison, to the temptation of seeing no enemies on the left.

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