Media mogul Haim Saban, who was among Hillary Clinton’s largest campaign donors, made clear Friday that he doesn’t want to see Rep. Keith Ellison as the next chair of the Democratic National Committee.
“He is clearly an anti-Semite, anti-Israel individual,” Saban lashed out at Ellison, warning Democrats that choosing the Minnesota congressman, who is the first Muslim elected to Congress, would be “a disaster for the relationship between the Jewish community and the Democratic Party.”
Saban spoke during the opening session of the 2016 Saban Forum, which he sponsors and which carries his name. The three day gathering of top Israeli and American officials and public opinion leaders in Washington is focused on discussing the bilateral relations between the two countries.
Saban stood up for a short comment after a keynote address by Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s defense minister and offered his take on the debate over Ellison and his views on Israel.
“The fact that Keith Ellison is a Muslim is a non-issue,” Saban said before adding sarcastically: “if you listen to Keith Ellison today and you see his statements, he’s more of a Zionist than Herzl, Ben-Gurion, and Begin combined. It’s amazing. It’s a beautiful thing.” But then, presumably referring to comments made by Ellison in 2010, Saban added that “words matter and actions matter more” and therefore, “If you go back to his positions, his papers, his speeches, the way he has voted, he is clearly an anti-Semite, anti-Israel individual.”
Ellison’s positions on Israel and his past comments have split the Jewish community, with some, including the Anti Defamation League, claiming they should disqualify him from the post, while others, led by incoming Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, still back Ellison as their top choice to head the DNC.
Ellison himself, in an article he published Friday in the Washington Post rejected his past affiliation with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. “I have always lived a politics defined by respecting differences, rejecting all forms of racism and anti-Semitism,” Ellison wrote.
Hillary Clinton has not weighed in on the issue and it is not clear whether Saban’s attack on Ellison represents her positions on the next DNC chair.
Nathan Guttman staff writer, is the Forward’s Washington bureau chief. He joined the staff in 2006 after serving for five years as Washington correspondent for the Israeli dailies Ha’aretz and The Jerusalem Post. In Israel, he was the features editor for Ha’aretz and chief editor of Channel 1 TV evening news. He was born in Canada and grew up in Israel. He is a graduate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Contact Nathan at email@example.com, or follow him on Twitter @nathanguttman