- Founder and director of numerous Muslim rights groups
- President of the Arab American Institute
- Has referred to Israelis as “Nazis,” and calls Israel’s actions against the PLO “a Holocaust”
Democratic political consultant James Zogby is a leading figure in some of the most influential Arab American civil rights organizations in the United States. He is also a senior analyst with Zogby International, a market research and polling group.
Zogby was born in 1945 in Utica, New York to Lebanese Catholic parents. He earned his Ph.D. in Islamic Studies from Temple University in 1975. In 1976 he attended Princeton University, where he was a National Endowment for the Humanities post-doctoral fellow.
In 1977 Zogby co-founded the Palestine Human Rights Campaign, which served as the propaganda arm of Yasser Arafat's Palestine Liberation Organization.
Two years later, Zogby campaigned to prevent the extradition of Ziad Abu Eain, a Fatah member accused of taking part in a 1979 bombing which resulted in the deaths of two Israeli civilians and the wounding of thirty-six others.
In 1980 Zogby co-founded and served as the Executive Director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), created as a counterweight to the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish civil rights organization.
Two years after that, Zogby co-founded Save Lebanon, Inc., dedicated to funding health care for Palestinian and Lebanese victims of war.
In 1985 Zogby established the Washington, DC-based Arab American Institute (AAI), an organization that conducts voter-education and voter-registration initiatives aimed at increasing the political influence of Arab Americans. Zogby's brother John, who runs the aforementioned polling firm Zogby International, is an AAI board member.
James Zogby has played a major role in Democratic Party affairs since the early 1980s. In 1984 he served as an advisor to Jesse Jackson's failed presidential campaign. In 1988, while serving as a member of the Democratic Party's National Platform Committee, Zogby introduced a plank in support of Palestinian statehood -- an issue he would later address in front of the Democratic National Convention. In the 1990s Zogby gained political favor with the Clinton administration, which allowed him to promote the establishment of U.S. investments in Palestinian businesses in Gaza and the West Bank.
Zogby and Clinton did not always see eye-to-eye, however, and in January 1995 Zogby criticized the President's executive order designating a number of Islamic extremist organizations as terrorist groups. According to Zogby, such designations would have negative repercussions for Arab Americans.
When the U.S. government arrested the Hamas political leader Mousa Mohammed Abu Marzook in July 1995, Zogby warned that Marzook's capture would ultimately prove to be “destructive and not helpful to the peace process.”
While Israelis and Palestinians were at work on the Oslo II accords in 1995, Zogby penned the article “This Peace Is Not Yet Peace,” wherein he blamed Israeli intransigence for derailing any possibility of progress. Rationalizing Palestinian terrorism as nothing more sinister than “desperate acts of striking out against the master,” Zogby said:
“All that Israelis will talk about is ‘the terror.’ … [But] Palestinians remain powerless. Their land continues to be taken from them, the humiliation and control and terror of the occupation remain facts of life. And this powerlessness has produced deformities in the culture: anger, despair and cynicism. Israelis remain in control.... [T]he Israelis perpetuate acts of collective punishment (its own form of terror) designed to demonstrate their power and to remind the Palestinians of their powerlessness. It is lost on the Israelis that this simply produces more despair and anger, and creates more Palestinian victims who will support desperate acts of striking out against the master -- and so the cycle of violence is perpetuated.”
Throughout the 1990s, Zogby operated in conjunction with such U.S. agencies as the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency, all in an effort to promote Palestinian economic development. Meanwhile he urged Arab nations to refrain from stabilizing their relations with Israel, stating that it was time "for the Arab League to reinvigorate its stand on the boycott [against Israel]."
In 1999 Zogby was elected to be the co-convener of the National Democratic Ethnic Coordinating Committee, an umbrella organization comprised of U.S. Democratic Party leaders.
In October 2000, Abdurahman Alamoudi, founder and Executive Director of the American Muslim Council and an Islamic affairs advisor for the Clinton administration, spoke at a rally where he emphatically declared his support for the terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah. In response, a number of political candidates who had received campaign contributions from Alamoudi quickly sought to distance themselves from any controversy by returning those funds. Zogby decried their actions as capitulation to "a shameful hysteria campaign of McCarthyism."
Characterizing Hamas-perpetrated terrorism against Israelis as an understandable part of "a cycle" of violence, Zogby has stressed the importance of trying "to understand why the [Hamas] perpetrators acted as they did or why there are people whose anger and despair bring them to support this or that crime."
Zogby also has respectfully described the Hezbollah terrorists of southern Lebanon as "the Lebanese armed resistance."
By contrast, he has referred to Israelis as "Nazis," and has portrayed Israel's actions against a PLO insurgency during the 1982 War in Lebanon as "a Holocaust."
Zogby scoffs at the notion that fundraising efforts by Muslims living in America may be in any way connected to overseas terrorist groups:
"Wire transfers of funds from other countries are one thing, but to allege that Arab-Americans and American Muslim groups are involved in fundraising terrorism is something else entirely ... There is virtually no measurable support for ‘terrorism’ among Arab Americans and American Muslims."
Zogby also condemns what he perceives to be widespread civil liberties violations directed against Arab Americans in the post-9/11 period. “The USA Patriot Act and initiatives launched by the Attorney General in the aftermath of September 11,” says Zogby, “have endangered basic constitutionally protected rights of due process and judicial review.”
According to Zogby, the George W. Bush administration "learned all the wrong lessons from Ronald Reagan and the Cold War.... [T]he old Cold Warriors were convinced that their confrontation and hostility alone brought down the Soviet Union."
On July 29, 2004, Zogby was a speaker at a gathering of approximately 1,000 leftists at Roxbury Community College in Massachusetts. Titled "Building the Progressive Wing of the Democratic Party," this conference also featured guest appearances by Tom Andrews, Medea Benjamin, John Conyers, Howard Dean, Tom Hayden, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Jesse Jackson, Jr., Dennis Kucinich, and Barbara Lee. The organization Muslims for Kucinich described the gathering as "the first-ever Progressive Democratic Convention."
Also in 2004, Zogby joined the Alliance for Diversity in Programming, a coalition of more than 200 activists who demanded that Congress and the Federal Communications Commission compel television networks to increase their on-camera representation of blacks and Hispanics. Other members of this Alliance included Rev. Michael Pfleger as well as officials from such organizations as the the League of United Latin American Citizens, NAACP, the National Council of La Raza, the National Urban League, and the Rainbow / PUSH Coalition.
At a 2007 Arab American Institute forum, Zogby was cited by then-U.S. Senator Barack Obama as his "good friend," whose support it was "an honor to have."
In a February 2008 article appearing in the online journal Legal Times, Zogby was identified as an “official supporter” of Obama's presidential candidacy.
Zogby has been writing blogs for the Huffington Post since 2006. In an August 1, 2008 post titled “My Message to the Democrats,” Zogby stated, "we believe that the election of Barack Obama will send [to the world] the much needed message that America is back."
In 2016, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders used his influence to secure, for Zogby, a major role in formulating the Democratic Party’s platform for the election campaign.
Zogby is a board member of the National Immigration Forum, an open-borders group that seeks to legalize all illegal aliens currently residing in the U.S. He also has served as a board member of the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Human Rights Watch Middle East Advisory Committee.
Zogby is the author of Washington Watch, a weekly column for the Arab World and the Arab American press. In addition, he hosts Viewpoint, a weekly policy program that airs on Abu Dhabi TV and Link TV.
Over the years, Zogby has made campaign contributions to a number of political candidates, mostly Democrats. Beneficiaries of his funding have included Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, John Conyers, Howard Dean, Russell Feingold, Al Gore, Jesse Jackson (Sr.), Jesse Jackson Jr., John Kerry, Dennis Kucinich, Cynthia McKinney, Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Bernie Sanders.
Zogby also has made contributions to the Progressive Patriots Fund, the Arab American Leadership Council PAC, and the Democratic National Committee.