(April 1, 2019 / JNS) He has engaged in “crude anti-Semitism,” according to the Anti-Defamation League. He has “consistently impugned the loyalty of American Jews,” said the American Jewish Congress. And he has compared Israel to the Nazis, which according to the U.S. State Department, is anti-Semitic.
Yet, irony of ironies, longtime Democratic Party official James Zogby has emerged as one of the most prominent voices in the party defending Congresswoman Ilhan Omar and denying that her remarks about Jews being disloyal were anti-Semitic.
Zogby is a longtime leader of various anti-Israel groups—first the Palestine Human Rights Campaign, then the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and currently the Arab American Institute.
At the same time, he has also been prominent in Democratic Party leadership circles. He was deputy manager of Jesse Jackson’s 1984 and 1998 presidential campaigns. In 1995, he was appointed co-convener of the National Democratic Ethnic Coordinating Committee. He served as “Senior Advisor on Ethnic Outreach” for both Al Gore’s presidential campaign in 2000 and Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign, in 2008.
Since 2001, Zogby has been a member of the executive committee of the Democratic National Committee. In 2006, he was also named co-chair of the DNC’s Resolutions Committee. As a member of that committee, in 2012 he objected to the insertion of language affirming that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and helped draft the pro-Palestinian language that appeared in the 2016 party platform.
After Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar recently accused Jews of being disloyal to America and paying members of Congress to support Israel, Zogby leaped to her defense. In a series of articles, interviews and a recent conference call for the news media, together with J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami, Zogby has insisted that there was nothing anti-Semitic about Omar’s statements, and that the whole controversy is the fault of racist Zionists.
“Because [Omar] has dared to challenge the way supporters of Israel have worked to silence debate on U.S. policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, she has become a victim of incitement and hate crimes, and the target of legislation meant to shame her,” according to Zogby.
He says that Ms. Omar didn’t slander Jews; she merely “challenged the power of AIPAC to intimidate politicians and silence debate on Israel/Palestine.” As a consequence, the poor congresswoman has endured “shameful bigoted assaults on her as a Muslim woman.”
Zogby has actually gone so far as to implicitly praise Omar’s statements about Jews, characterizing her remarks as “the discussion Omar’s courage has helped to open.”
I wonder how much of this is related to Zogby’s own history of making anti-Semitic remarks. Perhaps he sees Omar as a kindred spirit.
During the 1982 Lebanon War, Zogby compared Israel to the Nazis and described Israeli military actions against terrorists in southern Lebanon as “a Holocaust,” according to the Anti-Defamation League. The official U.S. State Department definition of anti-Semitism includes “drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.”
In 1991, Henry Siegman, executive director of the American Jewish Congress, wrote that Zogby had “consistently impugned the loyalty of American Jews by suggesting that they put the interest of Israel ahead of the interests of the United States, and their lobbying activities in support of Israel subvert the democratic process. Such accusations are the standard fare of anti-Semitism.”
In 1999, Zogby publicly charged that there were too many Jewish employees in the State Department. The ADL characterized his statement as “crude anti-Semitism.”
All this is an addition to Zogby’s long list of other outrageous statements, including accusing then-Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres of carrying out “state-sponsored terrorism”; praising Hezbollah terrorists as “the Lebanese armed resistance”; and justifying Palestinian terrorist attacks against Israel as “desperate acts of striking out against the master.”
Not to mention such other lunatic statements by Zogby as his accusation that Israel “ethnically cleansed [the land] of Arabs” (when there are obviously still several million Arabs residing in Judea, Samaria and Gaza); and his recent declaration that celebrity chef Rachael Ray committed “cultural genocide” against the Palestinians because she referred to hummus as an Israeli food.
If the Democratic Party leadership wants to convince the public that it rejects Congresswoman Omar’s statements, it should start by disowning James Zogby and removing him from all positions in the party. Having an unrepentant anti-Semite publicly defending an anti-Semitic congresswoman, while continuing to hold positions in the party leadership, isn’t going to do the trick.
Stephen M. Flatow, an attorney in New Jersey, is the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995. His book, “A Father’s Story: My Fight for Justice Against Iranian Terror,” has just been published.