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.
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.
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.
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.
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.