Arab Americans advancing in politics and polls: Jim Zogby

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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

Thailand’s constitutional court rules suspended PM Prayut can resume office

Thailand’s constitutional court rules suspended PM Prayut can resume office
Updated 11 sec ago

Thailand’s constitutional court rules suspended PM Prayut can resume office

Thailand’s constitutional court rules suspended PM Prayut can resume office
  • The former army chief came to power in a 2014 military coup
  • Prayut Chan-O-Cha was suspended last month after a legal challenge on his term limit
BANGKOK: Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha resumed office Friday after the country’s constitutional court ruled that he has not exceeded his eight-year term limit.
The former army chief, who came to power in a 2014 military coup, was suspended last month while the court examined a legal challenge mounted by opposition parties who argued he had reached his term limit in power.
Bangkok authorities were on alert for demonstrations after the ruling, as several protest groups had earlier said they would take to the streets if Prayut won the case.
“The constitutional court rules by a majority that the respondent’s premiership has not reached the eight-year limit,” said judge Punya Udchacon, reading the ruling.
“The cabinet under the premiership of the respondent is counted from April 6, 2017.”
Under the 2017 Thai constitution, a prime minister cannot serve more than eight years in office, but Prayut’s supporters and critics disagreed about when his term began.
The ruling counts Prayut’s term from when the new army-scripted constitution came into force and means he can stay in office until 2025 — depending on an upcoming national poll, which must be held within months.
Prayut welcomed the 6-3 majority ruling in a statement on his official Facebook page, saying he would use the government’s remaining time in office to push ahead with infrastructure projects.
“I will try my best and work with my full capacity to change the country,” he wrote.
Following Prayut’s suspension in August, his deputy Prawit Wongsuwan took over as caretaker prime minister, while Prayut continued to serve as defense minister.
The suspension had been hugely damaging to Prayut, Naresuan University political scientist Napisa Waitoolkiat said before the ruling, causing him to “lose face” in the eyes of voters.
Prayut and his Palang Pracharat Party are increasingly out of favor with voters, as an underperforming Thai economy hurts households.
A survey of 2,500 people earlier this month by the National Institute of Development Administration found that only 10.5 percent of respondents supported Prayut, who ranked a lowly fourth as a potential prime ministerial candidate.
Napisa said there could be angry reactions to the ruling going in Prayut’s favor.
“I think there will be protests in the street and demonstrations in Bangkok against the ruling.”
At least three protest groups — which came to prominence during 2020’s massive pro-democracy rallies — said Thursday they would demonstrate should Prayut carry the day.
Deputy national police spokesman Kissana Phathanacharoen said officers would be deployed to provide security near the court and in Bangkok’s shopping mall district, a popular location for previous protests.
Meanwhile, officials announced late Thursday there would be a restricted zone around the court.

Nobel Prize season arrives amid war, nuclear fears, hunger

Nobel Prize season arrives amid war, nuclear fears, hunger
Updated 47 min 5 sec ago

Nobel Prize season arrives amid war, nuclear fears, hunger

Nobel Prize season arrives amid war, nuclear fears, hunger

This year's Nobel Prize season approaches as Russia's invasion of Ukraine has shattered decades of almost uninterrupted peace in Europe and raised the risks of a nuclear disaster.
The secretive Nobel committees never hint who will win the prizes in medicine, physics, chemistry, literature, economics or peace. It's anyone's guess who might win the awards being announced starting Monday.
Yet there's no lack of urgent causes deserving the attention that comes with winning the world's most prestigious prize: Wars in Ukraine and Ethiopia, disruptions to supplies of energy and food, rising inequality, the climate crisis, the ongoing fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The science prizes reward complex achievements beyond the understanding of most. But the recipients of the prizes in peace and literature are often known by a global audience and the choices — or perceived omissions — have sometimes stirred emotional reactions.
Members of the European Parliament have called for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the people of Ukraine to be recognized this year by the Nobel Peace Prize committee for their resistance to the Russian invasion.
While that desire is understandable, that choice is unlikely because the Nobel committee has a history of honoring figures who end conflicts, not wartime leaders, said Dan Smith, director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
Smith believes more likely peace prize candidates would be groups or individuals fighting climate change or the International Atomic Energy Agency, a past recipient.
Honoring the IAEA again would recognize its efforts to prevent a radioactive catastrophe at the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia atomic power plant at the heart of fighting in Ukraine, and its work in fighting nuclear proliferation, Smith said.
“This is really difficult period in world history and there is not a lot of peace being made,” he said.
Promoting peace isn't always rewarded with a Nobel. India's Mohandas Gandhi, a prominent symbol of non-violence in the 20th century, was never so honored.
But former President Barack Obama was in 2009, sparking criticism from those who said he had not been president long enough to have an impact worthy of the Nobel.
In some cases, the winners have not lived out the values enshrined in the peace prize.
Just this week the Vatican acknowledged imposing disciplinary sanctions on Nobel Peace Prize-winning Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo following allegations he sexually abused boys in East Timor in the 1990s.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed won in 2019 for making peace with neighboring Eritrea. A year later a largely ethnic conflict erupted in the country's Tigray region. Some accuse Abiy of stoking the tensions, which have resulted in widespread atrocities. Critics have called for his Nobel to be revoked and the Nobel committee has issued a rare admonition to him.
The Myanmar activist Aung San Suu Kyi won the peace prize in 1991 while being under house arrest for her opposition to military rule. Decades later, she was seen as failing in a leadership role to stop atrocities committed by the military against the country's mostly Muslim Rohingya minority.
The Nobel committee has sometimes not awarded a peace prize at all. It paused them during World War I, except to honor the International Committee of the Red Cross in 1917. It didn't hand out any from 1939 to 1943 due to World War II. In 1948, the year Gandhi died, the Norwegian Nobel Committee made no award, citing a lack of a suitable living candidate.
The peace prize also does not always confer protection.
Last year journalists Maria Ressa of the Philippines and Dmitry Muratov of Russia were awarded “for their courageous fight for freedom of expression” in the face of authoritarian governments.
Following the invasion of Ukraine, the Kremlin has cracked down even harder on independent media, including Muratov's Novaya Gazeta, Russia’s most renowned independent newspaper. Muratov himself was attacked on a Russian train by an assailant who poured red paint over him, injuring his eyes.
The Philippines government this year ordered the shutdown of Ressa’s news organization, Rappler.
The literature prize, meanwhile, has been notoriously unpredictable.
Few had bet on last year’s winner, Zanzibar-born, U.K.-based writer Abdulrazak Gurnah, whose books explore the personal and societal impacts of colonialism and migration.
Gurnah was only the sixth Nobel literature laureate born in Africa, and the prize has long faced criticism that it is too focused on European and North American writers. It is also male-dominated, with just 16 women among its 118 laureates.
The list of possible winners includes literary giants from around the world: Kenyan writer Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, Japan’s Haruki Murakami, Norway’s Jon Fosse, Antigua-born Jamaica Kincaid and France’s Annie Ernaux.
A clear contender is Salman Rushdie, the India-born writer and free-speech advocate who spent years in hiding after Iran’s clerical rulers called for his death over his 1988 novel “The Satanic Verses.” Rushdie, 75, was stabbed and seriously injured at a festival in New York state on Aug. 12.
The prizes to Gurnah in 2021 and U.S. poet Louise Glück in 2020 have helped the literature prize move on from years of controversy and scandal.
In 2018, the award was postponed after sex abuse allegations rocked the Swedish Academy, which names the Nobel literature committee, and sparked an exodus of members. The academy revamped itself but faced more criticism for giving the 2019 literature award to Austria’s Peter Handke, who has been called an apologist for Serbian war crimes.
Some scientists hope the award for physiology or medicine honors colleagues instrumental in the development of the mRNA technology that went into COVID-19 vaccines, which saved millions of lives across the world.
“When we think of Nobel prizes, we think of things that are paradigm shifting, and in a way I see mRNA vaccines and their success with COVID-19 as a turning point for us,” said Deborah Fuller, a microbiology professor at the University of Washington.
The Nobel Prize announcements this year kick off Monday with the prize in physiology or medicine, followed by physics on Tuesday, chemistry on Wednesday and literature Thursday. The 2022 Nobel Peace Prize will be announced on Oct. 7 and the economics award on Oct. 10.
The prizes carry a cash award of 10 million Swedish kronor ($880,000) and will be handed out on Dec. 10.

Finnish border closed to Russians with tourist visas

Finnish border closed to Russians with tourist visas
Updated 58 min 32 sec ago

Finnish border closed to Russians with tourist visas

Finnish border closed to Russians with tourist visas
  • Russians have been trying to flee a military mobilization aimed at bolstering the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine

COPENHAGEN: Finland’s border with Russia was closed to Russians with tourist visas Friday, curtailing one of the last easily accessible routes to Europe for Russians trying to flee a military mobilization aimed at bolstering the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine.
Long queues were reported until midnight at the border crossings. Among the last to enter Finland were two cyclists who arrived a little before 11 p.m., Finnish broadcaster YLE reported from Vaalimaa, one of the main border crossings between the Nordic country and Russia. Finland has the longest border with Russia of all European Union member countries.
With the exception of the one border crossing between Russia and Norway, Finland had provided the last easily accessible land route to Europe for Russian holders of European Schengen-zone visas.
The government justified its decision by saying that continued arrivals of Russian tourists in Finland is endangering the country’s international relations, and cited security concerns related to Russia’s war in Ukraine, the “illegal” referendums arranged by Russia in parts of Ukraine and recent sabotage of the Nord Stream gas pipelines from Russia under the Baltic Sea.
Russian citizens can still enter Finland for family reasons, study or work. Also, Russian political dissidents may seek to enter for humanitarian purposes.
As of Sept. 1, Finland slashed the number of visas — including for tourism purposes — issued to Russian citizens to one-tenth of the typical number, in a show of solidarity with Ukraine.
Earlier this week, Finnish border guards said they want a fence along the border with Russia, deeming it “necessary due to the changing security environment” in the Nordic country. Such a fence requires the approval of the Finnish Parliament.
The fence would not run the entire 1,340-kilometer (830-mile) length of the border, but shoudl be in “riskier areas, such as border crossings and their nearby areas,” the border guards said.
Norway said Friday it was considering imposing an entry ban for Russians with Schengen visas. The Scandinavian country has a border in the Arctic with Russia which is 198 kilometers (123 miles) long. The sole crossing point is at Storskog.
“We will close the border quickly if necessary, and changes can come at short notice,” Justice Minister Emilie Enger Mehl said.

Gunfire heard in Burkina Faso, sparking mutiny fears

Gunfire heard in Burkina Faso, sparking mutiny fears
Updated 30 September 2022

Gunfire heard in Burkina Faso, sparking mutiny fears

Gunfire heard in Burkina Faso, sparking mutiny fears

OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso: Gunfire rang out early Friday in Burkina Faso’s capital and the state broadcaster went off the air, sparking fears of a mutiny nine months after a military coup d’etat overthrew the country’s president.
It was not immediately known where Lt. Col. Paul Henri Sandaogo Damiba was in the West African country. He had given a speech the day before in Djibo, in the north of Burkina Faso.
Last week, Damiba had traveled to New York where he addressed the UN General Assembly as the country’s coup leader-turned-president.

At least 19 killed, 27 injured in suicide bombing in Afghan capital

At least 19 killed, 27 injured in suicide bombing in Afghan capital
Updated 30 September 2022

At least 19 killed, 27 injured in suicide bombing in Afghan capital

At least 19 killed, 27 injured in suicide bombing in Afghan capital
  • Students were preparing for an exam when a suicide bomber struck an educational center

KABUL: A suicide bombing at a learning center in the Afghan capital Kabul killed at least 19 people on Friday morning, police spokesman Khalid Zadran said.
“Students were preparing for an exam when a suicide bomber struck at this educational center. Unfortunately, 19 people have been martyred and 27 others wounded,” Zadran said.
The blast happened in the Dasht-e-Barchi neighborhood, a predominantly Shiite Muslim area in western Kabul home to the minority Hazara community, the scene of some of Afghanistan’s most deadly attacks.
“An educational center called ‘Kaj’ has been attacked, which unfortunately has caused deaths and injuries,” interior ministry spokesman Abdul Nafy Takor tweeted.
“Attacking civilian targets proves the enemy’s inhuman cruelty and lack of moral standards.”
Videos posted online and photos published by local media showed bloodied victims being carried away from the scene.
The Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan last year brought an end of the two-decade war and a significant reduction in violence, but security has begun to deteriorate in recent months under the hard-line Islamists.
Afghanistan’s Shiite Hazaras have faced persecution for decades, with the Taliban accused of abuses against the group when they first ruled from 1996 to 2001 and picking up again after they swept to power last year.
They are also the frequent target of attacks by the Taliban’s enemy the Daesh group. Both consider them heretics.
Countless attacks have devastated the area, with many targeting children, women and schools.
Last year, before the return of the Taliban, at least 85 people — mainly girl students — were killed and about 300 wounded when three bombs exploded near their school in Dasht-e-Barchi.
No group claimed responsibility, but a year earlier Daesh claimed a suicide attack on an educational center in the same area that killed 24, including students.
In May 2020, the group was blamed for a bloody gun attack on a maternity ward of a hospital in the neighborhood that killed 25 people, including new mothers.
Just months ago in April two deadly bomb blasts at separate education centers in the area killed six people and wounded at least 20 others.
Education is a flashpoint issue in Afghanistan, with the Taliban blocking many girls from returning to secondary school education, while Daesh also stand against the education of women and girls.