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Row over Democrats' Muslim hopeful

    "Pro-Israel": Ellison

    As Republicans prepare to return to the White House, Democrats need to decide their next moves. If Keith Ellison is elected head of the Democratic National Committee, some Jewish leaders see trouble ahead.

    Leading the charge is the Zionist Organisation of America (ZOA), a right-leaning group that this week issued a strongly-worded statement calling Mr Ellison, a Democratic congressman from Minnesota and the first Muslim to be elected to the US Congress, an "Israel-basher". The statement noted Mr Ellison voted against funding for Israel's Iron Dome missile defence system; that he signed a 2010 letter to President Barack Obama calling for American pressure on Israel to lift the blockade on Gaza and to end "collective punishment" of its population; and that he was once associated with the antisemitic Nation of Islam and its leader, Louis Farrakhan.

    "If he becomes DNC leader, Ellison will likely be empowered to persuade even more Democratic Congresspeople to join him in actions hostile to Israel's security and Israeli civilians' lives - wreaking enormous damage on the prospects for future bi-partisan support for American's closest ally in the Middle East," said the statement.

    Morton Klein, president of the ZOA, went even further. "Why is no-one standing up to say that Keith Ellison is enormously hostile to Israel? He's one of the most hostile people to Israel in the Democratic caucus. This isn't about antisemitism, it's about narrow partisan politics," he said

    "I don't quite get the fury he's aroused on the Jewish right," said JJ Goldberg, former editor and now a columnist on the liberal weekly Forward.

    Jessica Rosenblum of J Street agreed, saying the organisation did not share Mr Klein's concerns and neither did the majority of American Jews. "Keith Ellison is a very strong supporter of Israel and is tremendously thoughtful, actively looking for opportunities to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and addressing wider regional issues.

    "He is also clear and unequivocal in opposing antisemitism, discrimination and bigotry and has acknowledged that it took him too long to disavow his involvement in the Nation of Islam as a college student."

    Ms Rosenblum also pointed to Mr Ellison's excellent relations with the Jewish community in his congressional district, which is centred on Minneapolis-Saint Paul. "He has worked together with the Jewish community on poverty and hunger, education and human rights campaigns. He has incredibly warm relations with the community," she said.

    Mr Ellison is the front-runner in DNC leadership campaign and has the support of both party establishment figures, as well as those who backed Bernie Sanders for the presidential nomination. He could, according to one observer, play a transformative role as a bridge-builder between the two camps, keeping the two-state solution on the party's manifesto and support for BDS off it, just one of the many points of fracture in a party that is only beginning to digest the loss of the presidency.

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