Decades-long Democratic National Committee veteran James Zogby condemns the “genocidal implications of Zionism” in his recently republished 1981 book Palestinians: The Invisible Victims. This erroneous, rabid screed against Jewish self-determination raises disturbing questions about how anyone as radical as Zogby can become so prominent within the Democratic Party.
Zogby’s book is unsurprising, given that Zionists like Zionist Organization of America President Morton Klein and legal legend Alan Dershowitz have described Zogby in terms such as “professional Israel-hater.” He and his Arab American Institute (AAI), the book publisher, have been apologists for various jihadist terrorists, including Hezbollah. AAI has partnered with the radical, Saudi Arabia-based World Association of Muslim Youth (WAMY) to oppose the deportation of various Muslims and Arabs.
Zogby’s inflammatory rhetoric includes anti-Semitic phrases such as “Israel-Firster” and other statements condemned by the Anti-Defamation League. He has made the outrageous analogy that the “plight of Palestinians is to the Arabs, what the Holocaust is to Jews world-wide.” He has also written that in Jesus Christ’s time, “Palestine was subject to a harsh occupation, much as it is today,” even though the Roman Empire did not name the Holy Land “Palestine” until a century after Jesus’ death.
Zogby’s Israel-hatred clearly appeared in a 1990s Jordanian television interview after the Communist bloc’s collapse, when he stated that “it is Israel today that is the anti-democratic force in the Middle East.” He ludicrously claimed that the Palestinian Liberation Organization was “not a Soviet agent” in the Middle East, and argued that the 1987 first intifada “was a good story” for mobilizing against Israel. Meanwhile, Israel’s subsequent economic development has put to shame his contention that “Israel is an economic basket case.”
Zogby’s book defames Zionism as a “heartbreaking tale that has become more devastating with each passing decade,” as the 2018 preface states. His book’s thesis is the usual anti-Israel canard that Zionism “was a nineteenth century colonial movement” that “developed in Europe in the midst of the epoch of the imperialist conquest of Africa and Asia.” Therefore, the Jewish return to an ancestral homeland has “clear racialist and colonialist currents.”
Zogby egregiously distorts the historical record to write that Zionists “sought to replace” (his emphasis) Arabs with an “exclusive Jewish colony in Palestine.” Like many Israel-hating hacks, he selectively quotes a 1969 speech by Israeli military hero Moshe Dayan to create the false impression that he advocated ethnically cleansing Arabs. In a similar vein, Zogby quotes a 1940 diary entry from Jewish National Fund Land Development Director Yosef Weitz, a “secondary Zionist figure” according to leading Israeli historian Efraim Karsh, advocating such cleansing.
Zogby peddles common myths about the British Zionist writer Israel Zangwill, who wrote in 1901 that “Palestine is a country without a people; the Jews are a people without a country.” Like Zogby, many “erroneously attribute the first use of the phrase to” Zangwill, one analyst has noted, yet the “phrase was coined and propagated by nineteenth-century Christian writers.” Zogby’s analysis creates the impression that Zionists willfully ignored the Holy Land’s Arab population, yet for most Jewish and Christian Zionists the term “a people” in this context indicated not the absence of population, but of a ruling nation.
Zogby’s writing suggests that the rightwing Zionist leader Vladimir (Ze’ev) Jabotinsky was an ethnic cleanser, a complete distortion of this man’s heartfelt liberal convictions, as expressed in his saying, “Every man is a king.” Throughout his life, he envisioned full integration of Arabs into a Jewish state, and rejected any expulsion of Arabs even when he considered Arab hostility to Zionism inevitable. His famed 1923 Iron Wall article stated that the “expulsion of the Arabs from Palestine is absolutely impossible in any form. There will always be two nations in Palestine.”
Zogby’s book naturally claims that Zionists fulfilled their ethnic cleansing desires during Israel’s 1947-48 independence war by drawing upon “evidence” including Irish reporter Erskine Childers’ 1961 Spectator article. Yet Karsh has demolished such claims and shown how Jewish leaders in places such as Haifa sought coexistence with Arabs in the emerging Israeli state. As numerous statements from Arabs both during and after this conflict document, Arabs fled Jewish-held territory either to escape combat or because Arab leaders ordered the clearing of a free-fire zone for a supposedly quick Arab conquest. In a few instances, military necessity dictated that Jews expel Arab communities in self-defense.
Israel’s modern Arab communities have grown far larger than in 1948, but Zogby writes that “Zionist ideology and practice” is “at its core anti-Arab and racist,” something “transmitted in various forms on a daily basis to the Israel public.” He mentions without any disapproval the United Nations General Assembly’s infamous 1975 resolution equating Zionism with racism. With no evidence, he also claims that Israeli Arabs “are prohibited by law from forming any independent organization to work for their rights,” notwithstanding a plethora of such often foreign-funded and radically anti-Zionist groups.
Zogby’s tale of woe ignores that Arabs have received tremendous benefits from Zionism throughout history, although for various reasons societal gaps still separate Israeli Arabs and Jews in Israel’s modern, developed society. Israeli Arabs enjoy freedoms and living standards that are the envy of their brethren in the Arab world, facts noted by Israeli Arabs who volunteer for Israeli military service. Accordingly, Israeli Arabs show little desire to live under a Palestinian state, sentiments shared by the majority of Jerusalem’s Arab residents who have not taken up Israeli citizenship. Meanwhile, a 2015 poll revealed that 65 percent of Israeli Arabs are proud of their Israeli citizenship.
Zogby’s calumny of Zionism complements a whitewash of Zionism’s Arab enemies such as during the 1936-1939 Arab revolt, which targeted not just the British Palestine Mandate’s Jews, but also any Arabs favoring political compromise. Then the “major anti-Zionist and democratic forces in the country were the progressive Arab organizations,” which supposedly supported a “representative democratic government.” “In no way could they be portrayed as anti-Jewish,” he writes of these “progressive” terrorists headed by Jerusalem’s Jew-hating mufti, Hajj Amin al-Husseini, who later collaborated with Adolf Hitler.
Nonetheless, Zogby shows little understanding of his critics. His 2018 book preface dismisses valid concerns about bigotry with the brief statement that “[t]o challenge the narrative that denied Palestinian humanity is not anti-Semitic.” In the past, he has written that an “anti-Arab bias and a bizarre obsession” animate his opponents.
Yet Zogby’s heroes raise disturbing questions about his character. His 2018 book preface praises groups including Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), a radical group that “Jew-washes” antisemitism against Israel. Israel has barred entry to JVP members, given JVP’s support for Boycotts, Sanctions, and Divestment (BDS) against Israel.
Zogby’s original 1981 book preface dedicates the book to the German-Israeli lawyer Felicia Langer and the Israeli chemistry professor and Holocaust survivor Israel Shahak. The Communist Langer outraged Jews in Israel, Germany, and beyond with constant demonization of Israel. Meanwhile, the truly anti-Semitic Jew Shahak peddled deranged slanders of Judaism.
Notwithstanding past Jewish Republican condemnation of Zogby, he remains influential within the Democratic Party. Yet calls for the “Democrats to disown Zogby” came after an unhinged 2017 Zogby tweet condemned cooking show host Rachel Ray for “cultural genocide” when she described Middle Eastern dishes such as hummus as part of Israeli cuisine. His partisan affiliations are even more pertinent now that he has chosen to reaffirm his 1981 vitriol in public events promoting his new book edition. Zogby and his crank theories deserve continued observation, as a telling indicator of the Democratic Party’s increasingly strained relationship with Israel.