Who is Keith Ellison? (11)

Keith Ellison is the DFL-endorsed Fifth District (essentially Minneapolis) congressional candidate. The Minneapolis Star Tribune’s lame coverage of the question “Who is Keith Ellison?” is therefore particularly disappointing. In “Who is Keith Ellison? (2)” I wrote about Rochelle Olson’s June 3 Star Tribune story on Ellison’s letter to the Jewish Community Relations Council regarding his ties to the Nation of Islam. In that post, based on easily available information in the public record, I demonstrated the falsity of Ellison’s description of the limited nature of his ties to the Nation of Islam.

Rather than the 18-month period of time in the mid-1990’s to which Ellison admits, Ellison’s ties to the Nation of Islam extended at least from his days as a third-year law student (1989-90) to the time of his first candidacy for public office in 1998 (a fact the Star Tribune has failed to report) and probably extended to the time of his February 2000 speech at the National Lawyers Guild fundraiser for Kathleen Soliah/Sara Jane Olson. (They also probably predate Ellison’s days as a third-year law student.)

Bad as the Star Tribune’s coverage of Ellison has been, even worse is the deliberate blackout of information that belies Ellison’s line. Yesterday we published Jeff Goldenberg’s previoulsy unpublished June 5 letter to the editor of the Star Tribune:

Keith Ellison’s letter to Stephen Silberfarb, Executive Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (JCRC) allegedly addresses his past ties to the racist, anti-Semitic Nation of Islam and other questionable associations Mr. Ellison has made during his adulthood (Star Tribune June 3, 2006). However, the heart of Mr. Ellison’s letter, at least as it pertains to the Nation of Islam is somewhere between disingenuous and utterly dishonest.

Eleven years ago Mr. Silberfarb’s predecessor at the JCRC called me when former Nation of Islam spokesman Elijah Muhammed was invited to speak at the University of Minnesota. The JCRC was alarmed and concerned that the Nation of Islam, with its consistent history of bigotry, racism, anti-Semitism and hatred was provided such a prominent stage from which to spread its message.

Due in part to my involvement in the African-American community, I was asked to attend this meeting, make notes of what I heard and saw and report my findings back to the Executive Director. I accepted the assignment. It is a matter of public record that Mr. Ellison was a leading local participant in that meeting.

In the heart of his letter to Mr. Silberfarb, Mr. Ellison states “I did not adequately scrutinize the positions and statements of the Nation of Islam, Louis Farrakhan and Khalid Muhammed. I wrongly dismissed concerns that they were anti-Semitic.”

Let me explain a bit about the meeting where Mr. Ellison stood with former Nation of Islam spokesman Khalid Muhammed. After he was introduced, Mr. Muhammed let loose with a vitriolic rant attacking gays, Jews, whites and others. But that was just the warm-up.

Next, Mr. Muhammed intentionally embarrassed, intimidated and personally attacked members of the audience in the University of Minnesota lecture hall that evening.

First he came after me. Out of a crowd of perhaps a couple of hundred, I was among a small handful of Caucasian attendees. “Hey, cracker taking notes there, what’s your name?” Mr. Muhammed demanded as he pointed his finger at me where I sat in the middle of the hall. “What’s a cracker doing here taking notes?” I smiled to mask my fear, turned beet red and said nothing as Mr. Muhammed continued to aim his racial intimidation tactics at me for another minute or so.

Then things really turned ugly. Towards the front of the hall sat an African American man and a Caucasian woman. Mr. Muhammed turned his attack on them. Upon confirming they were boyfriend and girlfriend, he attacked the man for having a white girlfriend. He attacked the man for bringing his white girlfriend to this public event. He asked personal and inappropriate rhetorical questions about why this African American man would choose a white girlfriend. He brought the young woman to tears in front of hundreds of people. Mr. Muhammed relentlessly attacked, embarrassed and intimidated this innocent pair because they were a bi-racial couple.

From his place by Mr. Muhammed’s side in 1995 what exactly was there for Mr. Ellison to scrutinize? With the racism, hatred and anti-Semitism of the Nation of Islam laid bare for him that day, Mr. Ellison turned a blind eye in pursuit of his own personal objectives. Now he attempts to paper over his ugly past apparently for the same reason.

Jeffrey H. Goldenberg

We have also reported Ellison’s involvement in the sponsorship of the speech given by Kwame Ture at the University of Minnesota Law School, an incident that bears on Ellison’s ties to the Nation of Islam and Ellison’s accommodation of the vilest anti-Semitic ravings. In the winter of 1990, Ellison was an officer of the Black Law Student Association (BLSA) at the University of Minnesota Law School. BLSA served as the co-sponsor of a speech by Kwame Ture (former Black Panther “prime minister” Stokely Carmichael) to be delivered in the law school on February 2, 1990.

Ture had recently returned to the United States from a long exile in Africa. As David Horowitz recalled at the time of Ture’s death, upon his return to the United States Ture had taken to lecturing “as a racial hate-monger, attacking Jews, whites, and America to approving audiences on American university campuses. In the end he found a fitting refuge in the racial sewer of the Nation of Islam, as a protégé of its Jew-baiting, America-hating, racist leader Louis Farrakhan.”

The title of Ture’s forthcoming talk at the University of Minnesota Law School was “Zionism: White Supremacy, Imperialism or Both?” Ture was one of a succession of anti-Semitic speakers, including Steve Cokely and Farrakhan himself, who had been brought to campus by the Africana Student Cultural Center.

Members of the Jewish law student caucus met with Ellison and Garmez Parks, also of BLSA, imploring them not to add insult to injury by bringing Ture to speak on campus or, at the least, not to co-sponsor his lecture. I am told that Ellison was the principal BLSA spokesman at the meeting and that he showed no interest in addressing the substance of the concerns of the Jewish law student caucus members who met with him. He deflected criticism of Ture’s appearance by reference to free speech. Ture’s lecture took place as scheduled in Room 25 of the law school (the law school’s large lecture room) with BLSA’s co-sponsorship. About 300 students attended.

As had been anticipated by the Jewish law student caucus, Ture’s lecture was grievously offensive. “Zionism must be destroyed,” Ture said in his lecture, though he distinguished Judaism from Zionism. Ture further instructed the audience in the vile lie that “the Nazis joined with the Zionists in murdering Jews, in order to encourage Jews to flee to Palestine.”

The Minneapolis Star Tribune declined to publish Goldenberg’s highly illuminating letter, as it has declined to report on Ellison’s sponsorship of Ture’s 1990 lecture at the University of Minnesota Law School. Today the Star Tribune instead gives us the following letter to the editor:


Ellison, then and now

I was president of the Jewish Law Students Association at Minnesota Law School in 1988-89, when the Black Law Student Association, led by Keith Ellison, cosponsored speakers on campus who had previously made comments that were anti-Jewish, sexist and homophobic. I led a coalition that issued a petition of protest signed by law student organizations representing Jews, women, progressives, and gays and lesbians.

In response, Keith explained that he disagreed with these speakers’ views of Jews, gays, and women’s equality, but he believed that African-American students should have the opportunity to hear the messages of self-sufficiency and pride that these speakers brought. Keith challenged one of the invited speakers regarding past comments about Jews, and he constructively participated in dialogue between blacks and Jews on campus.

Keith understood that Jews, even in America, have faced discrimination, and he appreciated the contributions of Jews to the movement for civil rights. I recall Keith questioning Israeli policy, but not the necessity of Israel’s existence.

I disagreed sharply with Keith about whether the positive messages of the speakers he sponsored could be separated from their hateful statements. I am not surprised that he soon changed his views on that question, given the genuine humanism that animated his passion for activism.



The Star Tribune’s pitiful coverage of Ellison precludes its readers from evaluating Wirthschafter’s letter properly and seeing it for the misinformation it is.


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