Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison rebuffed accusations of anti-Semitism and forcefully denounced hate crimes against Jews Wednesday as he attempted to shore up support ahead of a vote that may see him take over the Democratic Party.
Ellison, the leading contender in this weekend’s elections for a new Democratic National Committee chair, stressed “a long history of interfaith dialogue” during an interview on CNN.
“It is critical that we speak up against this anti-Semitism…
We have to stand up for the Jewish community right here, right now, foursquare, and that’s what the Democratic Party is all about,” Ellison said, referring to the current wave of bomb threats to Jewish institutions in the US along with a Jewish cemetery desecration.
He also dismissed accusation of anti-Semitism as “smears.”
“I have 300 rabbis and Jewish community leaders who have signed a letter supporting me,” he said. “I have a long, strong history of interfaith dialogue and that’s why, in my own community, I have support from the Jewish community, so these are smears and we’re fighting back every day.”
In November, a 2010 speech by Ellison emerged in which — alluding to Israel — he asked why US foreign policy in the Middle East was “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?”
Reports have also circulated about his past support for organizations such as The Nation of Islam and its anti-Semitic leader Louis Farrakhan, both of whom Ellison — the first Muslim elected to Congress — has subsequently denounced.