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 ArabNews.com/rayradioshow.


US vice president Kamala Harris caps Asia trip with stop at DMZ dividing Koreas

US vice president Kamala Harris caps Asia trip with stop at DMZ dividing Koreas
Updated 29 September 2022

US vice president Kamala Harris caps Asia trip with stop at DMZ dividing Koreas

US vice president Kamala Harris caps Asia trip with stop at DMZ dividing Koreas
  • The visit comes on the heels of North Korea’s latest missile launches
  • At the DMZ, Harris went to the top of a ridge, near guard towers and security cameras

PANMUNJOM, Korea: US Vice President Kamala Harris capped her four-day trip to Asia with a stop Thursday at the Demilitarized Zone dividing the Korean Peninsula as she emphasized US commitment to the security of its Asian allies in the face of an increasingly aggressive North Korea.
The visit comes on the heels of North Korea’s latest missile launches and amid fears that the country may conduct a nuclear test. Visiting the DMZ has become something of a ritual for American leaders hoping to show their resolve to stand firm against aggression.
North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles on Wednesday, while Harris was in Japan, and had fired one before she left Washington on Sunday. The launches contribute to a record level of missile testing this year that is intended to move Pyongyang closer to being acknowledged as a full-fledged nuclear power.
At the DMZ, Harris went to the top of a ridge, near guard towers and security cameras. She looked through bulky binoculars as a South Korean colonel pointed out military installations on the southern side. Then an American colonel pointed out some of the defenses along the military demarcation line, including fence topped with barbed wire and claymore mines. He said American soldiers regularly walk patrols along a path.
“It’s so close,” Harris said.
Her tour visit to the observation post came after she met US service members and some of their relatives at the Camp Bonifas Dining Facility, where she said she wanted them to know “how grateful and thankful we are.”
“I know it’s not always easy. Most of the time it’s not,” she said.
She asked a soldier from Florida on whether he checked in on his family after Hurricane Ian.
“Yeah, they’re up on a hill,” he said.
When another soldier stammered nervously while introducing himself, Harris said, “You know your name!”
“They’re going to give you such a hard time when this is over,” she joked.
Earlier, Harris met with South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol at his office in Seoul where they condemned North Korea’s intensifying weapons tests and reaffirmed the US commitment to defend the South with a full range of its military capabilities in the event of war, Yoon’s office said.
They expressed concern over North Korea’s threats of nuclear conflict and pledged an unspecified stronger response to major North Korean provocations, including a nuclear test, which South Korean officials say could possibly take place in coming months.
Harris and Yoon were also expected to discuss expanding economic and technology partnerships and repairing recently strained ties between Seoul and Tokyo to strengthen their trilateral cooperation with Washington in the region.
Harris’ trip was organized so she could attend the state funeral of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, but her itinerary was dominated by security concerns, a reflection of fears about China’s growing power and North Korea’s ramped-up testing activity.
In every meeting, Harris tried to lay to rest any fears that the United States was wavering in its commitment to protect its allies, describing American partnerships with South Korea and Japan as the “linchpin” and “cornerstone” of its defense strategy in Asia.
Yoon, who took office earlier this year, had anchored his election campaign with vows to deepen Seoul’s economic and security partnership with Washington to navigate challenges posed by the North Korean threat and address potential supply chain risks caused by the pandemic, the US-China rivalry and Russia’s war on Ukraine. But the alliance has been marked by tension recently.
South Koreans have expressed a sense of betrayal over a new law signed by President Joe Biden that prevents electric cars built outside of North America from being eligible for US government subsidies, undermining the competitiveness of automakers like Seoul-based Hyundai.
There are indications North Korea may up its weapons demonstrations soon as it refines its missiles and delivery systems and attempts to pressure Washington to accept the North as a nuclear power. South Korean officials said last week that they detected signs North Korea was preparing to test a ballistic missile system designed to be fired from submarines.
The US aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan was to train with South Korean and Japanese warships in waters near the Korean Peninsula on Friday in the countries’ first trilateral anti-submarine exercises since 2017 to counter North Korean submarine threats, South Korea’s navy said Thursday.
US and South Korean officials also say North Korea is possibly gearing up for its first nuclear test since 2017. That test could come after China holds its Communist Party convention the week of Oct. 16, but before the United States holds its midterm elections Nov. 8, according to South Korean lawmakers who attended a closed-door briefing from the National Intelligence Service.


Japanese chief cabinet secretary receives courtesy call from Egyptian transport minister

Japanese chief cabinet secretary receives courtesy call from Egyptian transport minister
Updated 29 September 2022

Japanese chief cabinet secretary receives courtesy call from Egyptian transport minister

Japanese chief cabinet secretary receives courtesy call from Egyptian transport minister
  • Both sides reaffirmed the partnership between the two countries

Chief Cabinet Secretary of Japan Hirokazu Matsuno received a courtesy call Tuesday from the Transport Minister of Egypt Kamel Elwazer, who is visiting Japan to attend former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s state funeral.

Elwazer handed Matsuno a letter from Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi addressed to Prime Minister Kishida and expressed his condolences over the death of Abe.

In response, Matsuno expressed his appreciation for Elwazer’s attendance of the state funeral and said that he would like Elwazer to convey deep gratitude of Japan to El-Sisi.

President El-Sisi’s letter addressed to the Prime Minister Kishida to Chief Cabinet Secretary Matsuno and expressed his heartfelt condolence for the passing of late former Prime Minister Abe.

In response, Chief Cabinet Secretary Matsuno expressed his appreciation for Minister Elwazer’s attendance at the state funeral for former Prime Minister Abe and stated that he would like Minister Elwazer to convey deep gratitude of Japan to President El-Sisi.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Matsuno appreciated the fact that Japan-Egypt relationship, which was enhanced by the strong trust between former Prime Minister Abe and President El-Sisi, has been bearing fruit such as corporation on Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM), Cairo Metro Line 4, Egypt-Japan University of Science and Technology (E-JUST) and Japanese education system in Egypt.

Elwazer showed his gratitude for Japan’s support to Egypt in various fields, both public and private, and expressed his expectation for further Japanese investment in Egypt.

He also expressed his expectation for increased investment by Japanese companies through improvement in the investment environment in Egypt. Elwazer showed his gratitude for Japan’s support to Egypt in various fields, both public and private, and reiterated Matsuno’s expectation for further Japanese investment in Egypt.

Both sides reaffirmed the partnership between the two countries and agreed on continued corporation to further enhance bilateral relationship.

This article originally appeared on Arab News Japan.


Taliban fire into air to disperse women’s rally backing Iran protests

Taliban fire into air to disperse women’s rally backing Iran protests
Updated 29 September 2022

Taliban fire into air to disperse women’s rally backing Iran protests

Taliban fire into air to disperse women’s rally backing Iran protests

KABUL:  Taliban forces fired shots into the air on Thursday to disperse a women’s rally supporting protests in Iran over the death of a woman in the custody of morality police.
Deadly protests have erupted in neighboring Iran for the past two weeks, following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while detained by the Islamic republic’s morality police.
Chanting the same “Women, life, freedom” mantra used in Iran, about 25 Afghan women protested in front of Kabul’s Iranian embassy before being dispersed by Taliban forces firing in the air, an AFP correspondent reported.
Women protesters carried banners that read: “Iran has risen, now it’s our turn!” and “From Kabul to Iran, say no to dictatorship!“
Taliban forces swiftly snatched the banners and tore them in front of the protesters.
Defiant Afghan women’s rights activists have staged sporadic protests in Kabul and some other cities since the Taliban stormed back to power last August.
The protests, banned by the Taliban, contravene a slew of harsh restrictions imposed by the hard-line extremists on Afghan women.
The Taliban have forcefully dispersed women’s rallies in the past, warned journalists against covering them and detained activists helming organization efforts.
An organizer of Thursday’s protest, speaking anonymously, told AFP it was staged “to show our support and solidarity with the people of Iran and the women victims of the Taliban in Afghanistan.”
Since returning to power, the Taliban have banned secondary school education for girls and barred women from many government jobs.
Women have also been ordered to fully cover themselves in public, preferably with the all-encompassing burqa.
So far the Taliban have dismissed international calls to remove the curbs on women, especially the ban on secondary school education.
On Tuesday, a United Nations report denounced the “severe restrictions” and called for them to be reversed.
The international community has insisted that lifting controls on women’s rights is a key condition for recognizing the Taliban government, which no country has so far done.


Fourth leak found on Nord Stream pipelines, Swedish coast guard says

Fourth leak found on Nord Stream pipelines, Swedish coast guard says
Updated 29 September 2022

Fourth leak found on Nord Stream pipelines, Swedish coast guard says

Fourth leak found on Nord Stream pipelines, Swedish coast guard says
  • The two other holes are in the Danish exclusive economic zone
  • The EU suspects sabotage behind the gas leaks on the subsea Russian pipelines

OSLO: Sweden’s coast guard earlier this week discovered a fourth gas leak on the damaged Nord Stream pipelines, a coast guard spokesperson told newspaper Svenska Dagbladet.
“Two of these four are in Sweden’s exclusive economic zone,” coast guard spokesperson Jenny Larsson told the newspaper.
The two other holes are in the Danish exclusive economic zone.
The European Union suspects sabotage was behind the gas leaks on the subsea Russian pipelines to Europe and has promised a “robust” response to any intentional disruption of its energy infrastructure.


Former Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi convicted again, Australian economist gets 3 years

Former Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi convicted again, Australian economist gets 3 years
Updated 29 September 2022

Former Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi convicted again, Australian economist gets 3 years

Former Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi convicted again, Australian economist gets 3 years
  • Suu Kyi received a three-year sentence after being tried and convicted under the secrets law
  • Australian economist Sean Turnell had served as an adviser to the former leader

BANGKOK: A court in military-ruled Myanmar convicted former leader Aung San Suu Kyi in another criminal case Thursday and sentenced Australian economist Sean Turnell to three years in prison for violating Myanmar’s official secrets act, a legal official said.
Suu Kyi received a three-year sentence after being tried and convicted with Turnell under the secrets law, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to release information about the case.
Three members of her Cabinet were also found guilty, each receiving sentences of three years.
Turnell, an associate professor in economics at Sydney’s Macquarie University, had served as an adviser to Suu Kyi, who was detained in the capital Naypyitaw when her elected government was ousted by the army on Feb. 1, 2021.
He has been in detention for almost 20 months. He was arrested five days after the military takeover by security forces at a hotel in Yangon, the country’s biggest city, while waiting for a car to take him to the city’s international airport.
He had arrived back in Myanmar from Australia to take up a new position as a special consultant to Suu Kyi less than a month before he was detained. As director of the Myanmar Development Institute, he already had lived in Naypyitaw for several years.
The day after the military’s takeover, he posted a message on Twitter that he was: “Safe for now but heartbroken for what all this means for the people of Myanmar. The bravest, kindest people I know. They deserve so much better.”
He was charged along with Suu Kyi and the three former Cabinet ministers on the basis of documents seized from him. The exact details of their offense have not been made public, though state television said last year that Turnell had access to “secret state financial information” and had tried to flee the country.
Turnell and Suu Kyi denied the allegations when they testified in their defense at the trial in August.
Turnell was also charged with violating immigration law, but it was not immediately clear what sentence he received for that.
Myanmar’s colonial-era official secrets act criminalizes the possession, collection, recording, publishing, or sharing of state information that is “directly or indirectly, useful to an enemy.” The charge carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.
All sessions of the trial, held in a purpose-built courtroom in Naypyitaw’s main prison, were closed to the media and the public. The defense lawyers were barred by a gag order from revealing details of the proceedings.
The same restrictions have applied to all of Suu Kyi’s trials.
The case that concluded Thursday is one of several faced by Suu Kyi and is widely seen as an effort to discredit her to prevent her return to politics.
She had already been sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment after being convicted of illegally importing and possessing walkie-talkies, violating coronavirus restrictions, sedition, election fraud and five corruption charges. The cases are widely seen as being concocted to keep the 77-year-old Suu Kyi from returning to active politics.
Suu Kyi is still being tried on seven counts under the country’s anti-corruption law, with each count punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a fine.
Defense lawyers are expected to file appeals in the secrets case in the coming days for Turnell, Suu Kyi and three former ministers: Soe Win and Kyaw Win, both former ministers for planning and finance, and Set Aung, a former deputy minister in the same ministry, the legal official said.
About half-a-dozen foreigners are known to have been arrested on political charges since the army takeover, and they generally have been deported after their convictions.
Australia has repeatedly demanded Turnell’s release. Last year, it suspended its defense cooperation with Myanmar and began redirecting humanitarian aid because of the military takeover and Turnell’s ongoing detention.
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, when he visited Myanmar in January this year, asked for Turnell’s release in a meeting with the leader of ruling military council. Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing replied that he “would consider it positively.”
The UN Special Envoy on Myanmar Noeleen Heyzer said she conveyed a specific request from Australia for Turnell’s release when she met with Min Aung Hlaing in August. Myanmar’s government said the general replied that, should the Australian government take positive steps, “we will not need to take stern actions.”
According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a rights monitoring organization, 15,683 people have been detained on political charges in Myanmar since the army takeover, with 12,540 of those remaining in detention. At least 2,324 civilians have been killed by security forces in the same period, the group says, though the number is thought to be far higher.
Myanmar has been in turmoil since the takeover, which led to nationwide protests that the military government quashed with deadly force, triggering armed resistance that some UN experts now characterize as civil war.