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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Washington Watch: Elevating Palestinians

Posted on March 25, 2017 in Washington Watch

by James J. Zogby It was 40 years ago that I co-founded the Palestine Human Rights Campaign (PHRC) and wrote "Palestinians, the Invisible Victims". I was concerned that in the American mind the Israeli-Palestinian conflict had been reduced to a simple equation: Israeli humanity versus the Palestinian problem. When most Americans thought of the conflict they were able imagine Israelis as people just like us. They were parents who loved their families. They wanted what we wanted—peace, prosperity, and a chance to watch their children grow and realize their dreams. They had names and faces. They experienced...

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Washington Watch: No "Great Deal" on the Horizon

Posted on March 18, 2017 in Washington Watch

by James J. Zogby It looks like the Trump Administration has come to agree with the conclusion reached by every US President and Central Command Chief since the Gulf War of 1991—that resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is necessary to promote regional security and US strategic interests in the Middle East.  When viewed this way, the struggle for justice for Palestinians becomes not an end in itself, rather it is the price to be paid so that the US can successfully consolidate its regional allies in order to confront threats to stability, whether from Saddam's Iraq, revolutionary Iran,...

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Washington Watch: Trump's Executive Order Is an Existential Threat to America

Posted on March 11, 2017 in Washington Watch

by James J. Zogby This week President Donald Trump issued a revised Executive Order (EO or Order) restricting immigration from six majority Muslim countries and more than halving the US refugee program. This version includes some significant changes: it is more carefully written; it removes Iraq from the list of countries falling under the ban; and it exempts those with green cards and valid visas. Nevertheless, it remains a false, dangerous, cruel, arbitrary, and bigoted assault on Muslims and the very idea of America as an open, welcoming society. The EO is based on the false premise...

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