Keith Ellison faces pressure to withdraw from Yitzhak Rabin memorial

Keith Ellison, Minnesota’s attorney general, is disregarding human rights concerns to speak at the Americans for Peace Now memorial for Yitzhak Rabin on 20 October.

Nikolas Liepins Flickr

Here we go again.

Nearly four years after denouncing the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions movement for Palestinian freedom and equal rights, Keith Ellison is once more disregarding voices calling for Palestinian rights and instead embracing the Israel lobby.

This time, he has chosen to speak at an Americans for Peace Now event on 20 October honoring Yitzhak Rabin, the former Israeli defense minister and prime minister who was assassinated nearly 25 years ago.

Ellison, a former member of Congress, faces pressure to withdraw from the event.

“We must continue to hold our elected officials accountable for their passive or active support for war criminals like Yitzhak Rabin,” American Muslims for Palestine stated in an action alert this week.

Rabin was an active military leader during the 1947-48 ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.

At the time, he issued a written order to the Yiftach Brigade, a Zionist militia, stating: “The inhabitants of Lydda must be expelled quickly, without regard to age.”

The Lydda Death March was one of the most violent episodes of the Nakba.

Forty years later, as defense minister during the first intifada, Rabin called for “force, might and beatings” to crush the Palestinian uprising against dispossession and the violent oppression of Israeli occupation.

All that means very little to Ellison, now Minnesota’s attorney general, who is instead willing to help whitewash the brutal reality of Rabin’s deeds with the myth that he was a martyred peacemaker.

It is particularly ironic that Ellison is willing to take part in such an erasure of Palestinian reality, while lauding the removal of Confederate monuments and symbols that glorify racists who fought for the right to enslave Black people in America.

Rabin is no more worthy of glorification as a peacemaker than any other racist from history.

Eight years ago, Israeli media revealed that in December 1994, Rabin’s bureau issued a formal letter stating that “The prime minister is of the opinion that there is no room for a Palestinian state.”

This was less than a year before Rabin was assassinated by Yigal Amir, a right-wing Israeli active in colonizing Palestinian land in the West Bank.

As Ali Abunimah wrote last month: “In his life, Rabin never expressed regret for his crimes, let alone faced justice.”

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, for her part, reversed course after the outcry regarding her planned participation in the Americans for Peace Now event.

She was late to understand the gravity of her initial decision, but in the end did listen to the concerns being raised about Rabin’s anti-Palestinian racism and violence.

Yet Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, who has been subjected to false accusations of anti-Semitism, decided after the Ocasio-Cortez controversy to participate and thereby defy the concerns of human rights and equal rights activists.

Déjà vu

As in 2016, however, when many activist groups stayed silent about Ellison’s rejection of BDS, there appears to be a hesitancy to criticize him this time as well.

At the time of his 2016 attack on BDS, Ellison noted his support for a Jewish ethnocratic state. He said, “I have long supported a two-state solution and a democratic and secure state for the Jewish people, with a democratic and viable Palestinian state side-by-side in peace and dignity.”

He simply ignored the reality of Palestinian citizens of Israel and the systematic denial of their rights within what he called a “state for the Jewish people.” His reference to “democratic” is simply insufficient in the face of overwhelming anti-Palestinian human rights abuses. Ellison also ignored the violence that perpetuating such an ethnostate does to the rights of Palestinian refugees, who are barred by Israel from returning home just because they are not Jewish.

He added, “I don’t believe boycotting, divesting and sanctioning Israel helps us achieve that goal.”

What is that goal? According to Ellison’s wording, it’s a Jewish ethnocratic state. That was unacceptable in apartheid South Africa and the Jim Crow American South. It should be unacceptable for Israel too.

Ellison, a progressive who has seen the reality in Gaza – and expressed his shock and dismay at Israeli violence there as recently as May 2018 – clearly knows better.

I’m reluctant to call him Progressive Except on Palestine, but he’s twice signaled that’s his direction – three times if his 2017 failure to stand up to CNN’s Chris Cuomo on behalf of Palestinian rights is included.

Time and again, when it counts, Ellison is just not there for Palestinians.

Pretty soon people are going to start to acknowledge he’s moving in a more right-wing direction out of step with grassroots Democrats.

Zioness – an astroturf pro-Israel “feminist” group created and funded by Brooke Goldstein’s Lawfare Project – praised Ellison’s anti-Palestinian position.

Goldstein believes “there’s no such thing as a Palestinian person.”

Winning plaudits from an anti-Palestinian group like Zioness may or may not be Ellison’s goal.

But their common opposition to BDS, their support for Israel as a racist ethnostate and their admiration for the war criminal Yitzhak Rabin means they are undeniably allies.

That makes Ellison no friend of Palestinian rights.




“Here we go again” is right. I thought AOC was really going out on a limb in cancelling on Peace Now and I think Ellison goes out even further on his. He is Muslim after all and therefore more spot lit on positions he takes on Jewish American issues. I don’t like this cancel culture crud at all. It’s just an easy way to express outrage symbolically when what’s called for is education and action for real change.
Statues of confederate soldiers should be about their real business, just collecting pigeon $#%! They wouldn’t be an issue if we’d made really substantial progress in racial equality and relations. And if we’d made real progress in Palestine, Rabin’s past wouldn’t be at issue either. It would simply be a regrettable PAST.
But that’s the problem, it isn’t the past, it’s still with us and it’s festered into something worse. That’s what people need to understand. Just getting haughty about Rabin’s distant past and ignoring that he is perceived as dying because he worked for progress with Palestinians doesn’t feel like progress.


It's one thing for Arab dictatorships (Saudi, Egypt, UAE, Bahrain and now Jordan, it seems)
to betray Palestine; another for supposed progressives to do so.


In anticipation of a deluge of self-righteous outrage over my argument, I'd only like to point out that there is more than one legitimate pertinent view on Ellison's position.
1.) He's a Muslim "moyser" (traitor) as some Zionist Jews label Jews who criticize Zionism.
2.) He's an amoral, venal politician securing his future in politics.
3.) He's an original thinker navigating his way through a minefield of instigations, accusations and expectations, to find a way to move forward.
My spin reveals my opinion. And I hope it will get some respect. Because I was alone in urging our little community to have patience with Peter Beinart; that he was a committed liberal thinker who could not forever ignore the contradictions between democracy and the Israeli state.
And today, Peter Beinart is a potentially powerful ally in the fight against the far-right Zionist project.


"Prolonged propaganda activities were required after the action ( ethnic cleansing).. to explain why we were obliged to undertake such a harsh and cruel action." Rabin. Simple explanation. Rabin was a brute.


We're all brutes in the eyes of God Frank but we're his/her brutes and he/she hopes for some improvement. We may have been too disappointing by now; but by God, I will still try not to be.
Rabin was robbed of the opportunity to further pursue redemption. He made a start and I respect that.
I have a book by Senator Robert Byrd called "Losing America". It's not a great book but it's the best he could do with what he had to work with. I respect that too Frank and I respect your efforts to educate me, and others but I think it wise to stick to the issues and place the passing actors in the context of an always limited direction.

Michael F. Brown

Michael F. Brown is an independent journalist. His work and views have appeared in The International Herald Tribune,, The San Diego Union-Tribune, The News & Observer, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Washington Post and elsewhere.