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Keith Ellison faces mounting criticism over attendance at Yitzhak Rabin memorial

Minnesota attorney general has been accused of 'ignoring Palestinian voices' by agreeing to attend event honouring the legacy of late Israeli prime minister
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison is slated to appear at a memorial service for former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison is slated to appear at a memorial service for former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (AFP/File photo)
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Washington

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison is facing mounting criticism from pro-Palestine activists over his decision to attend an event on Tuesday honouring the legacy of late Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.

The memorial made headlines last month when activists successfully pressured Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, known as AOC, into withdrawing from the event.

American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), a leading Palestinian advocacy organisation, said in a statement earlier this week that they met with Ellison, who was elected as the first Muslim in Congress in 2007, to discuss their concerns over the event.

"Despite a lengthy discussion in which AMP presented the facts, Attorney General Keith Ellison is moving forward with participating in the memorial event," AMP said.

'Rabin was a notorious war criminal who inflicted years of pain and oppression on the Palestinian people'

- Jinan Shbat, national organiser for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee

"We strongly disagree with his decision to participate and his reasoning behind doing so. There is no justification for honouring a man who has committed Yitzhak Rabin's atrocities. We still urge Attorney General Keith Ellison to consider withdrawing his participation in the event."

Ellison's office did not respond to MEE's request for comment by the time of publication.

Jinan Shbat, a national organiser for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, said she was disheartened by Ellison's decision to attend after multiple calls for him to withdraw.

"Rabin was a notorious war criminal who inflicted years of pain and oppression on the Palestinian people. Celebrating him in any way is an affront to human rights and dignity," Shbat told Middle East Eye.

Ellison is also scheduled to speak at the annual conference of the National Association of Muslim Lawyers (NAML) later this week.

NAML came under criticism in 2019 when it had Khurrum Wahid, the co-founder of Emgage, moderate a panel on the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement despite him having participated in an Israeli-sponsored programme called the Muslim Leadership Initiative (MLI).

The BDS movement has openly called for a boycott of MLI, saying it is an attempt at "faith washing" the Israeli government's human rights abuses against Palestinians.

'Chosen to ignore Palestinian voices'

Rabin has been praised by the international community for his role in the Oslo Accords, the first peace agreement signed between Israel and the Palestinian leadership. He was awarded the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize in 1994.

Less than two months after he signed the second peace accords in 1995, the premier was assassinated by Yigal Amir, an Israeli far-right activist opposed to the deal.

Yet for many Palestinians, Rabin is largely remembered for other reasons.

These include his role in the 1948 Lydda Death March, which saw the expulsion of as many as 70,000 Palestinian Arabs at the hands of Israeli troops.

He also ordered Israeli soldiers to kill Palestinians protesting against Israeli occupation during the First Intifada, which saw demonstrations from late 1987 to 1993.

'Many have reached out to Ellison, including survivors of Rabin's actions and policies, but it seems Ellison has chosen to ignore Palestinian voices. This is inexcusable'

- Huwaida Arraf, International Solidarity Movement

During the Intifada, Rabin served as Israel's defence minister and has been accused of ordering Israeli soldiers to "break the bones" of Palestinians involved in the demonstrations. 

Rabin had also publicly ordered that Israeli soldiers use ''force, might and beatings'' to quell the Palestinian uprising.

The New York Times reported in 1990 that despite Rabin claiming beatings were allowed only to make arrests, one commander testified that he was ordered by his superior "to arrest Arabs and then break their arms and legs".

"Attorney General Ellison is knowingly lending his name to an event honouring the life of a man responsible for the death, brutalisation, and dispossession of tens of thousands of Palestinians, and rewriting the legacy of a violent coloniser to one of a 'peacemaker'," said Huwaida Arraf, co-founder of the Palestinian-led International Solidarity Movement.

"Palestinians, who are still living the effects of the Nakba, who are still not free, do not consider Rabin a 'peacemaker', and these voices, which for too long have been ignored, are the ones that AG Ellison should be listening to.

"Many have reached out to Ellison, including survivors of Rabin's actions and policies, but it seems Ellison has chosen to ignore Palestinian voices. This is inexcusable."