There are a number of reasons why Keith Ellison didn't win the vote on Saturday to become the new head of the Democratic National Committee. But one issue was certainly Ellison's perceived "problem" with Israel, and specifically with billionaire Democratic donor Haim Saban.
Saban made his money in the entertainment industry,and he's the founder of Saban Entertainment, producer and distributor of children's television programs in the US such as "Power Rangers." He also made a reported $1.3 billion when Fox Kids Worldwide sold the Family Channel to Disney (which then renamed it ABC Family). He was a major contributor to the Hillary Clinton campaign and in 2002 donated $7 million towards work on the DNC headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Haim Saban has long argued Ellison heading the DNC would be a "disaster" for the relationship between Jews and the party. And on the eve of Saturday's DNC chairman vote, the Israeli-American mogul delivered a scathing attack against Ellison from the floor of the annual Saban Forum. That event brings together U.S. and Israeli leaders and supporters and is organized by the Brookings Institution. This year's evening speaker was Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liebrman, and Saban had been given the chance to ask the first question. Instead, Saban attacked Ellison, based in part on the transcript of a 2010 speech Ellison gave to Muslim supporters, in which Ellison argued Israel sees the United States as its "ATM."
"If you listen to Keith Ellison today, and you see his statements, he’s more of a Zionist than Herzl, and Ben Gurion and Begin combined. It’s amazing, it’s a beautiful thing," argued Saban "If you go back to his positions, his statements, his speeches, the way’s he voted, he’s clearly an anti-Semite and anti-Israel individual."
"Words matter, actions matter more,” Saban continued, as a clearly confused Liebrman looked on. "Keith Ellison would be a disaster for the relationship between the Jewish community and the Democratic Party. Now, I’ve said what I’ve had to say."
Ellison has previously countered that his 2010 remarks had been taken out of context and noted that the transcript was released by Steven Emerson, who was featured in the Southern Poverty Law Center’s recently released guide to anti-Muslim extremists.
Ellison's DNC campaign had found a great deal of support from more liberal Jewish organizations. But right-wing groups like the Republican Jewish Coalition have said he was unfit for the post. The RJC even sent out a fundraising email in December, pitched subject-lined, "An anti-Semite running the Democrat Party?"