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KEITH ELLISON speaks to supporters as he runs for Congress in 2006. Ten years later he is seeking to chair the Democratic Party..(Photo by: REUTERS)
J Street defends Ellison, says attacks only serve to silence Israel debate
Meanwhile, the National Jewish Democratic Council on Friday called the attacks "false, reprehensible and shameful."
Dovish pro-peace advocacy group J Street on Friday said that a current barrage of criticism leveled at US Democratic Congressman Keith Ellison's record on Israel should immediately cease, claiming such tactics only serves to silence open debate on Israeli government policy.

"The recent spate of attacks on Rep. Keith Ellison’s record of support for Israel and the Jewish community need to come to an end," a statement from the organization begins. "It is time to retire the playbook that aims to silence any American official seeking high office who has dared to criticize certain Israeli government policies."

"J Street believes that this recurrent process undermines our ability to have open, honest and productive conversations about Israel and the Middle East in our national politics, and that it does deep and lasting damage to the American Jewish community."

The statement continues by adding, "J Street has always stood for open debate, and we welcome and respect disagreements over policy questions. But responsible leaders in the American Jewish community must take care not to charge that those who are critical of certain Israeli government policies are 'anti-Israel,' or worse, and thus not 'qualified' to hold high national office."

"It is time to put away the old playbook," J Street concluded.

Meanwhile, the National Jewish Democratic Council on Friday called the attacks "false, reprehensible and shameful."

"Rep. Ellison’s record, of course, is mixed when it comes to the some of the issues Jewish Democrats care most about," an NJDC statement noted.

The NJDC did note, however, that it was "troubled by fresh reports that Rep. Ellison was recorded in 2010 suggesting to a group of supporters that US Middle East policy 'is governed by what is good or bad through a country of 7 million people."'

One day earlier, the Anti-Defamation League had released a statement calling into question Ellison’s his ability to faithfully represent the democratic party’s traditional support for Israel, after coming across a speech recorded in 2010 in which Ellison is heard suggesting that American foreign policy in the Middle East is driven by Israel.

“The United States foreign policy in the Middle East is governed by what is good or bad for a country of seven million people,” Ellison said in the recording. “A region of 350 million all turns on a country of seven million. Does that make sense? Is that logic? Right? When the Americans who trace their roots back to those 350 million get involved, everything changes.”

The comments, ADL chairman Jonathan Greenblatt said, are “deeply disturbing and disqualifying.”

“His words imply that US foreign policy is based on religiously or national origin-based special interests rather than simply on America’s best interests,” the ADL CEO explained.

Shortly afterwards, Ellison fired back at the criticism, releasing a statement claiming to be a "strong supporter of the Jewish state."

Ellison added that he was committed to Israel's "safety and security, and believe in the importance of the US-Israel relationship and striving for a two-state solution.”

Danielle Ziri contributed to this article.

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