The Minneapolis JCRC is trying to push the horse back in the barn after I reported (with the journalistic legwork of Mordecai Specktor) that its staff relayed negative information about Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim-American member of Congress, to Israel’s Chicago consulate. The Leibowitz transcripts revealed that the local JCRC brought the consulate up to date on Ellison’s travel schedule, including his leading a trade delegation to Saudi Arabia, which was viewed extremely negatively; and his participation in an upcoming post-Cast Lead tour of Gaza with Rep. Brian Baird. The speakers in the transcript viewed the Gaza trip as antagonistic to Israel and its interests. Clearly, the JCRC speaker viewed its proper role as monitoring the local Congressional delegation to detect any inkling of statements or activity that might harm Israel’s interests. And in this case, Ellison’s travel schedule was viewed as proof of his hostility towards Israel.
Here is how Steve Hunegs, JCRC director, tries to weasel out of responsibility:
We were perplexed to read The American Jewish World’s internet story from September 8th repeating a two-year recollection of a Seattle-based blogger about an unnamed Jewish activist heard on a FBI wiretap claiming an affiliation with the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (JCRC). To set the record straight, no one authorized to speak on behalf of the JCRC made the negative personal comments about Representative Keith Ellison attributed to the anonymous Jewish activist.
Hunegs isn’t quite accurate. While I had the transcripts two years ago, I wrote blog posts about them contemporaneously and have a record of what I wrote about this matter, which confirms what I’ve claimed. What Hunegs has is a two year-old recollection of a conversation with the Israeli consulate in Chicago. So while Hunegs would like now to take back what was said in the transcripts (who wouldn’t?), he can’t. Further, it may be that what was said to the Chicago consul was what the speaker thought the consul wanted to hear, and perhaps the speaker didn’t really share the extent of Israel’s negative views about Ellison. But again, that’s not what’s on the printed page. There was clear agreement on both sides that Ellison was bad news for Israel and American Jews.
This incident has forced Hunegs to eat humble pie and reaffirm his love and devotion to Keith Ellison which, unfortunately wasn’t as much in evidence in 2009. So perhaps the leopard can change his spots. But in the passage above he’s not really admitting the truth about those conversations, as I reported them based on those 2009 transcripts. So I’m not sure he’s turned over a new leaf. Earlier, when he released another statement in which he in effect conceded that his office did monitor Rep. Ellison on behalf of the consulate, he was speaking more honestly.
What Hunegs can do is start from here on and act and behave more fairly and carefully toward local political leaders with whom the Jewish community may have a complex relationship. And he may want to have future conversations with the Chicago consulate on a more secure phone line.