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May 20, 1988 - Image 27

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-05-20

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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He argues that Jews need to make a
similar reassessment of the PLO. "The
issue that ought to confront us is this: how
do we understand that a Jewish personali-
ty that calls itself Israel has come into
being-and a Palestinian identity that calls
itself PLO has come into being as well."
Zogby claims that he has moved beyond
the "Zionism as racism" formulation that
was part of his political package a few
years ago. The cause of this change, he
says, was years worth of meetings with
what he describes as "progressive
Zionists." "How can you be a progressive
Zionist, I thought, when Zionism meant
racism? When it meant the exclusion of
other people from the land? But then I
came to understand that there were
Zionists who called themselves Zionists,
but whose sense of being Zionist meant a
sense of relationship and connectedness
with their history."

h e early Jewish

immigrants were urban,
they brought with them
organizations and the
qualities of urban
people . . . Our people
didn't. They came from
peasant villages . . ."

Talking with Jim Zogby generates more
questions than answers. His messages are
all mixed ones — perhaps a natural result
of his total immersion in the political pro-
cess, perhaps a reflection of views that
have changed in their expression, but not
in substance.
Is he leading a movement to oppose
Israel and to bring U.S. aid to that coun-
try to an end? Or is he serious about in-
volving Arab-Americans in a variety of
close-to-home issues? Or is the reality a
complex mix of the two goals?
Zogby finesses the question with the
skill of a born politician. "If our grocers
can't do business, they can't survive," he
says. "If our children can't get quality
education, then what they came to
America for doesn't make sense. So the
daily concerns of our people are local —
and politics has to meet those needs.
"But at any time in their consciousness
is their sense that America is wrong in the
Middle East — that our people are suffer-
ing in the Middle East. Our consciousness
is not unlike that of American Jews or
American Poles, who live here and survive
here — but who have deep feelings about
what happens back home. We know the dif-

ference; we know how to separate them
out."
This last statement is Jim Zogby in a
nutshell — reaching out for parallels be-
tween Arab-Americans and Jews, and at
the same time, implying that his people
have somehow managed to transcend the
political narrowness he attributes to Jews
in this country.
In interviews, the media-wise Zogby por-
trays himself as almost too good to be true.
He dances around some of the contradic-
tions in the self-portrait he paints: the fact
that a recent policy conference of the ADC
was addressed by Louis Farrakhan, the
virulent anti-Semite; the fact that he
claims to be non-violent, but advocates the
PLO as the legitimate spokesman of the
Palestinian people; the question of exact-
ly what he and his supporters want the
final political geography of the Middle
EAst to look like.
He insists that he is not out to create an
Arab alternative to AIPAC. "I remember
making a pledge in the midst of the inva-
sion of Lebanon, when I was at the Anti-
Discrimination Committee. I said then
that I never want to play by the rules they
set up. I'll never keep files. There never will
be a 'Tom Dine file,' or a 'Morrie Amitay
file. "
Is he what he says he is — an advocate
of non-violence, the leader of a grass-roots
movement to bring power on the local level
to a disenfranchised segment of American
society? Or is this involvement a means to
a broader end, an end that involves the
traditional anti-Zionist goal of pushing the
Israelis into the sea?
And the most important question: Is
this someone who has enough political sav-
vy to help create an Arab-American
groundswell that will start with better gar-
bage collection in cities, and end with a
reversal in this country's strong pro-Israel
stance? The statistics and public opinion
polls suggest he has a long, long way to go;
the rise of Jesse Jackson, and the promi-
nent place of Arab-Americans in that
crusade, keep Jewish activists from rej oic-
ing in those numbers.
Israel's supporters in Washington tend
to believe that Zogby has never abandon-
ed his emphasis on the Palestinian cause.
"Zogby still seems to be motivated
primarily by a desire to weaken the pro-
Israel community in the United States,"
says Jess Hordes, the chief lobbyist for the
B'nai B'rith's Anti-Defamation League.
"He has just sought different mechanisms
to organize the Arab-American communi-
ty to do that."
Jewish lobbyists often dismiss the Arab-
American movement as too small, too torn
by internal differences and too focused on
"negative" issues.
"Basically, I don't think they have a
good product to sell," said one pro-Israel
lobbyist. "But if they had a few more Jim
Zogbys, I might be inclined to worry." Cl

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