Arab Americans advancing in politics and polls: Jim Zogby

Short Url
Updated 28 July 2022

Arab Americans advancing in politics and polls: Jim Zogby

Arab Americans advancing in politics and polls: Jim Zogby
  • Top US government appointments real progress, says president and founder of the Arab American Institute
  • Exclusion from US Census, media stereotyping, support for Palestine, remain challenges

CHICAGO: Arab Americans have faced decades-long challenges to be recognized as a community, and while several hurdles continue to exist, they are making tangible progress on the political front and in elections, Jim Zogby, the president and founder of the Arab American Institute, said Wednesday.

During an interview on The Ray Hanania Radio Show, Zogby explained that although the advances may not seem so, they are certainly measurable, and have resulted in important changes that have strengthened the Arab American community.

Zogby noted that Arab Americans now have one national month, April, in which their culture is recognized and celebrated in most states. There is also progress in giving Arabs a presence in the next US Census, despite the continued slow pace on this issue over five decades of activism.

He said the appointment of Hady Amr — by President Joe Biden as the deputy assistant secretary of state for Israeli and Palestinian affairs at the department’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, one year after Biden became president — has opened significant doors that are moving the interests of Arab Americans forward.

“Having Hady Amr as deputy assistant of secretary of state (as) an envoy is a huge thing. That was inconceivable. That position was always Jewish. Always Jewish. And now it is an Arab American,” Zogby said.

“And sure, he hasn’t changed Biden’s policy. He hasn’t changed (Secretary of State Antony) Blinken’s policy. But if you looked under the surface and see what little things Hady has been able to do that wouldn’t have happened had he not been there, it’s big.”

Amr is one of several dozen Arab Americans who have been given important positions both in the White House and in the US State Department that puts the community “at the table” where decisions are made.

“There are things that happen there that would not have happened had he not been there,” Zogby said.

“I look at the stuff that Hady has been able to do. It’s not great. Not perfect. But if it hadn’t happened those hospitals in East Jerusalem wouldn’t have gotten the money. UNRWA wouldn’t have gotten the money. The partnership program wouldn’t have gotten the money. There are things that he has actually helped make happen. It’s always better to have someone sitting in the room at the table than not being in the room at the table.”

Zogby has held many top tier positions with the Democratic Party and with past Democrat presidents.

In September 2013, President Barack Obama appointed Zogby to the US Commission on International Religious Freedom. He was reappointed to a second term in 2015 and concluded his service in May 2017 having twice served as the agency’s chair.

Zogby has also been personally active in US politics serving in 1984 and 1988 as deputy campaign manager and senior advisor to the Jesse Jackson presidential campaign.

In 1988, Zogby led the first-ever debate on Palestinian statehood at that year’s National Democratic Convention which was held in Atlanta, Georgia. And, in 2000, 2008, and 2016 he served as a senior advisor to the campaigns of former Vice President Al Gore, Obama, and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

Arab Americans, Zogby said, are often restricted by being stereotyped or “narrowcast” in US society. When they get into positions of influence, they are often forced to speak only to “Arab” or “minority” issues rather than to the bigger, national issues of concern to the public.

“When you get narrowcast you get typed. Coupled with the fact that being of Arab descent means that if you do get a chance to weigh in on something other than that (the Middle East) you’ve got the fear of the ADL or some group coming after you saying: ‘Do you know who he is?’ One of the first breaks I got to do something beyond the narrow scope was (with) the National Italian American Foundation. And (former executive director) Fred Rotondaro, a great friend of mine, called back in the early 80s and asked me to co-chair a group that Jeno Paulucci, the guy who founded Jeno’s pizzas, was creating to deal with ethnic issues across the board, things that effected ethnic immigrant communities,” Zogby recalled.

“And one of them was media stereotyping. Because Italians have got issues with that. We have issues with that. Lots of people do. He asked me to chair the group. The ADL went ballistic (saying): ‘If you include them then we will have nothing to do with you.’ Fred stuck by me, but it always was an issue. If you were in that box, they had you cornered. If you got out of that box, they tried to push you back into that box. It was damaging to a lot of folks.”

Zogby said that despite many decades of trying to get Arabs counted in the US Census going back to the 1970s and 1980s, progress is being made. He defended the use of the term “MENA” which stands for Middle East and North Africa rather than “Arab” which is being pushed by Biden for Census inclusion.

MENA is a broad definition on the Census but it doesn’t exclude being identified as “Arab,” Zogby insisted.

“Now that doesn’t mean we’re MENA Americans. Some people have latched on to that. But that is nonsense. There is no such thing as a MENA American,” Zogby said.

“We decided to create the category on the Ancestry one (in the Census). You would put down Ancestry MENA. But then under it they would say, which country. We would still get an Arab category but it would allow the Turks, the Iranians, maybe the Armenians, too, to get counted. And the Israelis to get counted in that. But it would not say there was a MENA group. It would say there is a MENA, simply a rubric under which these unique ethnic groups get counted. So we can pull up still a Lebanese number, an Assyrian number. And a Libyan number. But we could also pull up an Arab number by lumping them all together, which gives us a sense of number.”

Not doing so, Zogby said, would reduce the Census count by more than 60 percent, Census officials have told him.

“Progress,” Zogby said, “often comes in small steps” and the Arab American community is inching towards bigger successes.

Also appearing during the radio show was Republican activist and former GOP candidate for the Michigan legislature Paul Sophiea who discussed the challenges Arabs face in the Republican Party.

Sophiea said that Arab Americans are traditionally conservative but the largest populations of Arabs thrive in Democratic Party dominated regions like in Dearborn and Detroit.

The Ray Hanania Show is broadcast live every Wednesday at 5 p.m. Eastern EST on WNZK AM 690 radio in Greater Detroit including parts of Ohio, and WDMV AM 700 radio in Washington D.C. including parts of Virginia and Maryland. The show is rebroadcast on Thursdays at 7 a.m. in Detroit on WNZK AM 690 and in Chicago at 12 noon on WNWI AM 1080.

You can listen to the radio show’s podcast by visiting ArabNews.com/rayradioshow.


155 lightly injured in train collision near Barcelona

155 lightly injured in train collision near Barcelona
Updated 07 December 2022

155 lightly injured in train collision near Barcelona

155 lightly injured in train collision near Barcelona

MADRID: More than 150 people were lightly injured Wednesday when a train ran into the back of another at a station near Barcelona, the emergency services and Spain’s Renfe rail operator said Wednesday.
A spokeswoman for the SEM regional emergency services said the vast majority of those hurt in the collision which occurred just before 8:00 am (0700 GMT) sustained light injuries, while five were in moderate condition.
“There was a collision between two trains at 7:50 am at the Montcada i Reixac-Manresa station, on the line heading to Barcelona, that’s to say one train ran into the back of another,” a spokesman for the state rail operator told AFP.
Rail traffic along the line was suspended in both directions and Renfe had opened an investigation into what happened, he said.
“There were 155 people affected of which 150 were lightly injured and five who were moderately hurt,” a spokeswoman told AFP.
She said 18 medical units had been deployed to the area, which lies some 10 kilometers (six miles) north of Barcelona.


Germany busts far-right terror cell planning parliament attack

Germany busts far-right terror cell planning parliament attack
Updated 07 December 2022

Germany busts far-right terror cell planning parliament attack

Germany busts far-right terror cell planning parliament attack
  • Raids targeted alleged members of “Citizens of the Reich” (Reichsbuerger) movement
  • Two of the 25 arrests were made abroad

FRANKFURT: German police staged nationwide raids on Wednesday and arrested 25 people suspected of belonging to a far-right “terror cell” plotting to overthrow the government and attack parliament.
Around 3,000 officers including elite anti-terror units took part in the early morning raids and searched more than 130 properties, in what German media described as one of the country’s largest police actions ever against extremists.
The raids targeted alleged members of the “Citizens of the Reich” (Reichsbuerger) movement suspected of “having made concrete preparations to violently force their way into the German parliament with a small armed group,” federal prosecutors said in a statement.
Those arrested are accused of having formed “a terrorist group by the end of November 2021 at the latest, which had set itself the goal of overcoming the existing state order in Germany and replacing it with their own kind of state,” they said.
Two of the 25 arrests were made abroad, in Austria and Italy.
The prosecutors in Karlsruhe said they had identified a further 27 people as suspected members or supporters of the terror network.
The Reichsbuerger movement includes neo-Nazis, conspiracy theorists and gun enthusiasts who reject the legitimacy of the modern German republic.
Long dismissed as malcontents and oddballs, the Reichsbuerger have become increasingly radicalized in recent years and are seen as a growing security threat.
Former soldiers are believed to be among the members of the recently established terror group, federal prosecutors said.
“The accused are united by a deep rejection of state institutions and the free, democratic basic order of the Federal Republic of Germany,” they said.
The suspects were aware that their plan “could only be realized by using military means and violence against state representatives,” they added.
Justice Minister Marco Buschmann praised the dismantling of the “suspected terror cell” on Twitter, saying it showed that Germany was able to defend its democracy.
Reichsbuerger followers generally believe in the continued existence of the pre-war German Reich, or empire, as it stood under the Nazis, and several groups have declared their own states.
They typically deny the authority of police and other state institutions.
According to prosecutors, the terror cell suspects believe in Reichsbuerger and QAnon conspiracy theories and are “strongly convinced” that Germany is run by a “deep state” that needs to be toppled.
They allegedly planned to appoint one of the arrested suspects, Heinrich XIII P.R., as Germany’s new leader after the coup.
He had already sought to make contact with Russian officials to discuss Germany’s “new state order” after the coup, prosecutors said.
There was however “no indication that the contact persons responded positively to his request.”
A Russian woman named as Vitalia B., who was among those arrested on Wednesday, is suspected of having facilitated those contacts, prosecutors added.
As part of the preparations for the coup, members of the alleged terror cell acquired weapons, organized shooting practice and tried to recruit new followers, particularly among the military and police, according to prosecutors.
Germany’s domestic intelligence service estimates that the Reichsbuerger scene consists of around 20,000 people.
Of those, more than 2,000 are deemed potentially violent.
Germany considers far-right terrorism the biggest threat to its security following a spate of attacks in recent years.
In April, police foiled a plot by a far-right group to kidnap the health minister.
The group was affiliated with the Reichsbuerger movement and the so-called “Querdenker” (Lateral Thinkers) group that opposed the government’s coronavirus-related shutdowns.


‘Humanity has become a weapon of mass extinction,’ warns UN chief

‘Humanity has become a weapon of mass extinction,’ warns UN chief
Updated 07 December 2022

‘Humanity has become a weapon of mass extinction,’ warns UN chief

‘Humanity has become a weapon of mass extinction,’ warns UN chief
  • “As you can also see Canada is a place of free expression, where individuals and communities are free to express themselves openly and strongly, and we thank them for sharing their perspectives,” said Trudeau in response

MONTREAL: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday slammed multinational corporations for turning the world’s ecosystems into “playthings of profit” and warned failure to correct course would lead to catastrophic results.
“With our bottomless appetite for unchecked and unequal economic growth, humanity has become a weapon of mass extinction,” he said, in a speech ahead of biodiversity talks in Montreal.
Since taking office in 2017, Guterres, a former Portuguese prime minister, has made climate change his signature issue.
His fiery denunciations at the ceremonial opening of the conference, known as COP15, revealed the plight of the planet’s endangered plants and animals — an interconnected crisis — are equally close to his heart.
Before he took the dais, a group of around half a dozen Indigenous protesters interrupted a speech by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who is co-hosting the event with China.
They waved a banner that read “Indigenous genocide = Ecocide” and “To save biodiversity stop invading our land,” and chanted for a few minutes before they were escorted out, to a smattering of applause.
“As you can also see Canada is a place of free expression, where individuals and communities are free to express themselves openly and strongly, and we thank them for sharing their perspectives,” said Trudeau in response.
The meeting is not to be confused with another set of UN talks earlier this month, which were on climate and called COP27.

Nearly 200 countries have gathered for the December 7-19 meeting in an effort to hammer out a “Paris moment” for nature.
The challenges are daunting: one million species are at risk of extinction; one-third of all land is severely degraded and fertile soil is being lost; while pollution and climate change are accelerating degradation of the oceans.
Chemicals, plastics and air pollution are choking land, water and air, while planetary heating brought about by burning fossil fuels are causing climate chaos — from heatwaves and forest fires to droughts and floods.
“We are treating nature like a toilet,” Guterres said bluntly.
“And ultimately, we are committing suicide by proxy” he added — with the impacts felt on jobs, hunger, disease and death.
Economic losses from ecosystem degradation, meanwhile, are estimated to stand at $3 trillion annually from 2030.
Ahead of the talks, AFP spoke to Elizabeth Mrema, the head of the UN’s Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), who said failure was not an option.
“For the Paris agreement to succeed, biodiversity also has to succeed. For climate to succeed, nature has to succeed, and that’s why we have to deal with them together,” she said.
Draft targets for the 10-year framework include a cornerstone pledge to protect 30 percent of the world’s land and seas by 2030, eliminating harmful fishing and agriculture subsidies, tackling invasive species and reducing pesticides.
The new goal will rely heavily on the involvement of Indigenous peoples, who steward land that is home to around 80 percent of Earth’s remaining biodiversity.
Divisions have already emerged on the key issue of financing, with wealthy countries under pressure to funnel more money to developing nations for conservation.
Hopes have already been tempered by the absence of world leaders: Canada’s Trudeau will be the only in attendance.
COP15 is currently chaired by China, but it is not hosting the meeting because of the Covid pandemic.

 


Trump Organization convicted of tax fraud in New York

Trump Organization convicted of tax fraud in New York
Updated 07 December 2022

Trump Organization convicted of tax fraud in New York

Trump Organization convicted of tax fraud in New York
  • Trump and his three eldest children face a trial late next year in a civil lawsuit by New York’s attorney general that accuses them of misstating the value of properties to enrich themselves

NEW YORK: Donald Trump’s family business was found guilty of tax fraud by a New York jury Tuesday, dealing a blow to the ex-president as he eyes the White House again.
The Trump Organization and separate entity the Trump Payroll Corp. were found guilty on all counts, marking the first time the companies had ever been convicted of crimes.
“This was a case about greed and cheating,” said Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who prosecuted the case.
Trump himself was not charged but the fact the sprawling real-estate, hotel and golf business that bears his name is now a convicted felon is likely to inflict damage to his reputation as he seeks the Republican nomination for the presidency in 2024.
The two entities were convicted of running a 13-year-scheme to defraud and evade taxes by falsifying business records. In all, they were found guilty on 17 counts.
Jurors agreed with prosecutors that the Trump Organization — currently run by Trump’s two adult sons, Donald Jr and Eric Trump — hid compensation it paid to top executives between 2005 and 2021.
Longtime CFO Allen Weisselberg, had already pleaded guilty to 15 counts of tax fraud, and testified against his former company as part of a plea bargain. He did not implicate Trump during the trial.
A close friend of the Trump family, the 75-year-old Weisselberg admitted he schemed with the company to receive undeclared benefits such as a rent-free apartment in a posh Manhattan neighborhood, luxury cars for him and his wife and private school tuition for his grandchildren.
According to his plea deal, Weisselberg agreed to pay nearly $2 million in fines and penalties and complete a five-month prison sentence in exchange for testimony during the trial, which started in October.
Trump, posting on his social media platform, said the Trump Organization bore no responsibility for “Weisselberg committing tax fraud on his personal tax returns.”
Under the headline “Manhattan Witch Hunt!” Trump said no benefit accrued to the company from Weisselberg’s actions, and that neither he nor any employees were “allowed to legally view” the CFO’s returns.
Trump said he was “disappointed with the verdict” and will appeal.

Trump’s company faces a fine of around $1.5 million, a paltry sum to the billionaire real estate developer.
It’s symbolic though as he battles a host of legal and congressional probes that will likely complicate his run for a second presidential term, announced in Florida last month.
Trump and his three eldest children face a trial late next year in a civil lawsuit by New York’s attorney general that accuses them of misstating the value of properties to enrich themselves.
Prosecutor Letitia James has requested that Trump pay at least $250 million in penalties — a sum she says he made from the fraud — and that his family be banned from running businesses in the state.
James, a Democrat, hailed Tuesday’s verdict.
“We can have no tolerance for individuals or organizations that violate our laws to line their pockets,” she said.
Trump has been ordered to testify in April 2023 as part of a defamation lawsuit brought by a woman who says he raped her in the 1990s.
He is also facing legal scrutiny for his efforts to overturn the results of the November 2020 election and over the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol by his supporters.
 

 


India, Central Asian countries discuss concerns over ‘terrorist acts’ in Afghanistan

Ajit Doval. (AFP)
Ajit Doval. (AFP)
Updated 06 December 2022

India, Central Asian countries discuss concerns over ‘terrorist acts’ in Afghanistan

Ajit Doval. (AFP)
  • Security chiefs say ‘collective response’ essential
  • Afghanistan an ‘important issue,’ India’s national security adviser says

NEW DELHI: India and four Central Asian nations said on Tuesday that Afghanistan should not be used for “any terrorist acts," following an inaugural security meeting focused on countering terrorism and maintaining stability in the region.

India’s National Security Adviser Ajit Doval hosted his counterparts from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan in New Delhi, which followed an India-Central Asia leadership summit led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in January.

Afghanistan was top of the agenda on Tuesday — similar to the summit focus earlier this year — as officials raised concerns about the developing situation in the crisis-torn nation.

“Afghanistan is an important issue concerning us all,” Doval said. “We meet at a time when great churns in international relations and uncertainty about the future.”

India has no diplomatic ties with Afghanistan and closed its embassy in Kabul in August last year after US-led forces left the country and the Taliban took over.

New Delhi had spent billions of dollars on infrastructure and humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan after the previous Taliban regime was toppled in a US-led invasion in 2001.

A joint declaration issued after Tuesday’s talks “emphasized that the territory of Afghanistan should not be used for sheltering, training, planning or financing any terrorist acts.”

India and the Central Asian countries, which in this meeting had not included Turkmenistan, also pointed to the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Afghanistan and called for action to provide humanitarian assistance for its people.

Their security chiefs also discussed connectivity to enhance trade and improve closer interaction. In addition, a “collective and coordinated response” to address the issue of “terrorist propaganda, recruitment and fundraising efforts” was essential, the statement reads.

The United Nations said last month that organized crime and terrorist organizations “are thriving once again” in Afghanistan. There have been several high-profile attacks in Kabul in recent months claimed by the regional branch of Daesh, including a suicide blast outside the Russian embassy in September and an attack on the Pakistan embassy last week.

The regional meeting was an opportunity for India to “work together and engage” with the Central Asian nations to ensure that “sources of financing groups are curtailed and that “the Taliban government in Kabul is under pressure to perform on this issue,” Harsh V. Pant, head of strategic studies at the New Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation, told Arab News.

“What is happening in Afghanistan and the persistence of terrorism, terror groups there pose a long-term challenge to the region and India therefore is trying to work out modus vivendi for Central Asian countries to see if a common policy response can be initiated.”