Washington Watch: Protecting Egypt and Its Coptic Christians

Posted on June 24, 2017 in Washington Watch

by James J. Zogby In many ways, the future of Egypt will be shaped by how the government and the majority of Egyptians treat the country's minority Christian community. Will Egypt be an open, tolerant, and creative society? Or will it be closed and intolerant, looking backward? This is choice that Egyptians must make. A few months back I accepted an invitation to speak at a mid-June conference organized by Coptic Solidarity, a US organization. I did so because I was eager to address the challenges facing Egypt, in general, and its Coptic community, in particular. A...

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Washington Watch: What We Didn't Know or Chose to Ignore About the '67 War

Posted on June 17, 2017 in Washington Watch

by James J. Zogby In June of 1967, I was in the midst of my final weeks in college when the war broke out. At the time, I knew little about the Middle East, since I was more engaged in the anti-war and civil rights movements. And so as I watched the UN Security Council debates that preceded and followed the war, I saw what was unfolding through the prism of those struggles with which I was more familiar—the one in opposition to the war in Vietnam and the other for civil rights and justice in America. As...

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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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