How James Zogby Seduced Liberal America

Dr. James Zogby participates in a panel discussion about the Muslim experience in America at the Washington National Cathedral October 23, 2012 in Washington, DC. Zogby is president of the Arab American Institute. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Chip Somodevilla/Getty

This column originally appeared at Forward.

While pro-Israel Democrats might feel relieved that their Party platform committee rejected language calling for “an end to occupation and illegal settlements” proposed by James Zogby, the committee did vote to express support for Palestinian rights.

This was welcomed by J Street’s Jeremy Ben Ami, who called it “an important step forward” and can be seen to mark yet another step in President Obama’s program to put “daylight” between America and Israel. Indeed, the inclusion of Palestinian rights language is a milestone in a decades-long campaign to steadily pry American liberals away from Israel. It is a campaign envisioned by James Zogby.

Zogby is head of the Arab-American Institute and his place on the platform committee was secured by Bernie Sanders, who also was able to install Cornell West, another virulent critic of Israel.

Recently discovered footage, recorded sometime in the 1990s, shows how stunningly prescient James Zogby has been. Several decades ago, few could imagine the Democratic Party becoming sympathetic to the Arab side of the conflict. Much less could it then be imagined that there would emerge a Jewish leader like Ben Ami, whose organization would lobby America to force Israeli concessions that its democratically elected government has expressly rejected.

In the video we see Zogby explaining to a Jordanian interviewer just how the Arabs in America can defeat the pro-Israel Jews by capitalizing on the growing influence of social justice movements within the American political scene. The interviewer scoffs at the notion that “powerful Jews” — who, he imagines, control American politics and its media — could be defeated by a small number of American Arabs.

In the first six minutes of the tape, Zogby carefully explains his strategy, which is to link the Palestinian cause to other causes that the left cares about. This way, the entire left – not just the media, but the “other struggling minorities” — would connect themselves to the Palestinian cause. This notion of Zogby’s seems a precursor to “intersectionality,” the notion that all peoples who are oppressed in some way, in any way, have a common enemy (capitalism, or the West, or “the establishment,” etc.) and therefore that all the struggles need to be seen as parts of a whole. Think “Ferguson to Palestine.”

Read the full column at Forward.


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