US REP. Keith Ellison speaks during the first session at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia last July..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Former US presidential candidate Ralph Nader has accused Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison of shifting his political stance on Israel as part of his campaign for Democratic National Convention chairman.
The New York Observer cited the former Green Party contender as charging Sunday that, compared to five years ago, Ellison was no longer one of the "top progressive legislators in the Congress."
Speaking at the Progressive Unity Summit in Washington, Nader lambasted Ellison for "toning down his opinions" when he began his run for DNC chair last year.
Nader charged that Ellison's alleged shift also included "not repeating progressive positions." He indicated that the entrance of former US labor secretary Tom Perez to the DNC race in part catalyzed the purported change in Ellison's stance.
Speaking to the Observer
about Ellison, Nader said: "because he was losing ground to the establishment who wanted former Secretary of Labor Perez to be the chair, he said, well he would quit his seat, won’t be a part-time chair, starts backing off on Israel-Palestine issue."
Pro-Israel activists have recently expressed concern that Ellison would distance the Democratic party further away from Israel if he wins the race for party chair. Earlier in January, he opposed a Republican-backed motion that slammed a UN resolution critical of Israeli settlements.
Though he says he supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and has visited Israel several times, Ellison has in the past been critical of Israeli government policy. He voted against additional funding for Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system in 2014. Ellison has otherwise consistently voted for defense assistance to Israel. Additionally, in 2009, he spearheaded a letter from 54 Democrats urging then-US President Barack Obama to press Israel to ease its blockade of the Gaza Strip.
Ellison made history in 2006 when he became the first Muslim elected to Congress. He has previously been involved with the Nation of Islam, but has since renounced the group.
In his rebuke on Sunday, Nader also asserted that he was not sure whether the "real Keith Ellison" or what he said was the "transformed, conditioned Keith Ellison" would emerge to lead the Democratic party if he wins the internal election at the end of February.
Ellison's office has not yet provided comment on the matter. JTA contributed to this report.