Washington Watch: Sanders Is Right. Russell Vought's Nomination Should Be Rejected.

Posted on June 10, 2017 in Washington Watch

by James J. Zogby While most of Washington was eagerly awaiting former FBI Director James Comey's Thursday appearance before the Senate Intelligence Committee, they may have missed an important confirmation hearing that occurred a day earlier. On Wednesday, Russell Vought, President Trump's nominee for Deputy Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) appeared before the Senate Budget Committee where he was subjected to stiff questioning by Senator Bernie Sanders.  At issue were a number of statements Vought had made in support of Wheaton College's decision, last year, to suspend and then fire a...

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Washington Watch: Not the Way to Defend Christians

Posted on June 03, 2017 in Washington Watch

by James J. Zogby

The recent horrific massacre of 29 Egyptian Coptic Christian pilgrims served as a tragic reminder of the vulnerability of minority faith communities in many parts of the Middle East.

As a Maronite Catholic with family and friends in the Middle East, a PhD in Comparative Religion, and over 40 years of work experience throughout the Arab World, this issue is a deeply personal one for me. I know that in many parts of the world, there are religious communities that are facing threats to their very survival or dealing with serious problems of discrimination and dispossession....

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Washington Watch: Trump Returns

Posted on May 27, 2017 in Washington Watch

by James J. Zogby  If I were a movie critic writing reviews of audience reactions to US President Donald Trump's performances abroad, they would look something like this: "...a big hit in Riyadh"; "...a smash sensation across the Holy Land"; "...subdued, but a success in Vatican City"; and "...a disaster, a flop in Brussels". Those were the reactions abroad.     The White House must be feeling quite good about the trip, since the President played to script and appeared to accomplish multiple objectives. He reset frayed relations and restored confidence with Gulf Arab allies—to the tune...

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Washington Watch: Cloud Over Trump’s Trip

Posted on May 20, 2017 in Washington Watch

by James J. Zogby As I write, President Donald Trump is on his way to the Middle East where he has set a high stakes program addressing some of the United States' and the Arab World's most critical concerns: Gulf security, defeating extremism, reining in Iran, and resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict. It is a heady agenda, to be sure, but looming large will be the turmoil that is roiling the Washington the president left behind.   In Trump's mind, the crises he is facing are "fake" and manufactured by his enemies. He complained in a Tweet on the eve...

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Washington Watch: More Problems with the US Commission on International Religious Freedom

Posted on May 13, 2017 in Washington Watch

by James J. Zogby There is no question that in many parts of the world, including the Middle East, vulnerable religious communities are facing threats to their very survival or serious problems of discrimination. In situations such as these, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) should be able to play a constructive role making policy recommendations that would help protect vulnerable communities and support efforts to advance religious freedom. That's why Congress created it. But as I complete my four years as an Obama appointee to this Commission, I must acknowledge that we have not been...

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Washington Watch: I am Neither Confident, nor Optimistic

Posted on May 06, 2017 in Washington Watch

by James J. Zogby During a confusing and unsettling time, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas came to Washington to meet with US President Donald Trump. As has been the case with most issues, Trump has been remarkably unpredictable when addressing the Middle East. During his campaign for the White House, not only did his party's platform drop any mention of a "two state solution" to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he personally condemned President Obama for abandoning Israel at the United Nations and promised to be "the most pro-Israel President ever". He also pledged to immediately move the US...

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Washington Watch: Why I Dissent

Posted on April 29, 2017 in Washington Watch

by James J. Zogby This week, nearing the end of four years of service as an Obama Presidential appointee to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), I felt compelled to issue a public dissent to USCIRF's 2017 Annual Report. While the larger part of my dissent dealt with the way the Commission does its work (which I will discuss in a future column), what moved me to go public was the glaring refusal of some Commissioners to allow even a consideration of religious freedom in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.  I did not bring this matter before...

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Washington Watch: Palestinian Prisoners Hunger Strike

Posted on April 24, 2017 in Washington Watch

by James J. Zogby One thousand five hundred Palestinian prisoners have been on a hunger strike for almost a week now. They are refusing sustenance in an effort to improve the deplorable conditions faced by the nearly 6,500 Palestinians who are currently imprisoned in Israel.   On the day before the strike began, the action's leader, Marwan Barghouti, published an op-ed in the International New York Times. It was an elegantly written piece in which Barghouti laid out the conditions in Israel's prisons and the demands of the strikers. These demands include: more regular family visits, better...

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Washington Watch: The Trump Divide

Posted on April 08, 2017 in Washington Watch

by James J. Zogby Over the years, there have been many divides that have defined the American social, cultural, or political landscape. Some have been philosophical, regional, issue-based, racial, economic, gender or age-related. But none have been as deep or as disturbing as the divide that is currently fracturing the American people. This one is different because it crosses demographic lines (except for race) and isn't as much about ideas or issues as it is about the person of Donald Trump. I'm not sure if he is the source of this rupture or if he is a...

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Washington Watch: What “Land Day” Means

Posted on April 01, 2017 in Washington Watch

by James J. Zogby March 30, 1976 was a transformative moment in Palestinian history. On that day, Palestinian citizens of Israel organized and implemented a nation-wide strike to protest the Israeli government's plans to confiscate thousands of acres of Palestinian-owned land in the Galilee region. The confiscations were designed to provide for the expansion of the Jewish population in the Galilee—since Israeli leaders were concerned that the composition of the region had remained overwhelmingly Arab. Confiscations were nothing new. In the three decades between the founding of their state in 1948 and 1976, Israel had seized 1,500,000...

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