James Zogby on Syria

In a recent Huffington Post article titled “Support Syria’s People”, James Zogby declared the Syrian regime has lost its legitimacy and called on the league of Arab states to “suspend” Syria’s membership in the organization.

“The Arab League should make it clear that the Assad regime has lost whatever legitimacy it once claimed in the Arab World and promptly suspend its membership in the organization, declaring that the regime has forfeited the right to play a role in Syria’s and the region’s future.”

That the self-appointed spokesperson of the Arab-American community is continuing his decades-long pattern of self-serving pandering to U.S. officials comes as no surprise to anyone.  Zogby’s shameless behavior is so well known and established by now that Arab-Americans have been mostly ignoring the omnipresent careerist and his hijacking of the collective community name. As long as Zogby is organizing galas and promoting ignorant, oil-sheiks Arab-Americans can continue ignoring his social calendar, but the community must not ignore his self-promoting activities when they include the cynical manipulation of the 2011 Arab uprising and the political and human rights of the Arab people.

When Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire igniting a mass uprising against the Western-sponsored regime in Tunisia Zogby ignored the Tunisian democracy protesters while his website continued to promote his favorite Sheikdoms in the United Arab Emirates.  During that initial period Hillary Clinton said “we are not taking sides” between the security forces of the dictator and the unarmed protesters shot and killed in cities and towns across Tunisia. At that time the extent of the unfolding events was still not clear, and the US was still hoping one of their favored “moderate Arab” rulers would survive.  With events developing rapidly, and the US appearing unsure about its ability to save Zein al-Abideen bin-Ali, Zogby maintained his silence. When the Tunisian dictator was forced to flee the country in the dark of night Clinton called the Tunisian Foreign Minister to “express support for the people of Tunisia.”  It was at that point that Zogby decided it was safe to chime in.  After the U.S. government grudgingly accepted and publicly recognized the ouster of bin Ali, and with the former Tunisian dictator relaxing in a villa in Jeddah, Zogby came out to tell usTunisia has been on my mind.

As the Arab uprising spread from Tunisia to Egypt Zogby kept his Washington political antenna finely tuned.  In the early days of the Egyptian uprising when the US was determined to save their favorite Arab tyrant Zogby warned we should not support the Egyptian people’s uprising.  Just as he did in Tunisia, it was only after the US was forced to concede another American-backed dictator could not be saved, and Hillary Clinton went to Tahrir Square hoping to meet with the revolutionaries (they refused) that Zogby, who spent decades hobnobbing with officials from Mubarak’s embassy, decided it was time to jump on the bandwagon and congratulate the Egyptian people on their revolution.

When it came to the American oil-colonies Zogby, who enjoys generous support, financial and otherwise, from the Arab oil-Sheiks took a more proactive position and felt compelled to assure everyone that a wave of democracy and freedom uprisings across the Arab world will not reach the Gulf States. He not only touted the stability of the regimes in that region, but claimed that democracy is not a priority in those societies, and people can live without it.

As a mass uprising threatened the autocratic rule of the Khalifa family in Bahrain, a country Zogby once described as a “beacon of democratic reform”, he came out in support of the American-approved Saudi military assault on peaceful protesters.  Less than two months after Saudi forces entered Bahrain and with the military assault ongoing Zogby held his annual “Gibran Gala.” The event was underwritten by the Saudi Arabian embassy in Washington and Saudi Aramco with each contributing $100, 000 according to the AAI website.

Among those in attendance at the “Gibran Gala” in early May was the Ambassador of Syria, the same member state of the Arab league Zogby now wants suspended from the organization. Since then the American administration’s bellicose rhetoric intensified.  With colonial, supremacist language Clinton arrogantly declared the Syrian regime lost its legitimacy, as if the legitimacy of any regime is bestowed by a foreign power, and Barack Obama followed by openly calling for Assad’s removal from power. Once again Zogby’s political antenna honed in on the new American posture towards Damascus and he recalibrated his own position to the official American line.

Parroting the obligatory, stale rhetoric about the global U.S. role as defender and promoter of democracy and human rights, Zogby called on America to “speak out in defense of freedom and political rights” in Syria. The America Zogby wants to speak out in defense of freedom and political rights in Syria is the same America that supported Bin Ali in Tunisia and Mubarak in Egypt.  It’s also the same America that approved the Saudi military assault on peaceful Bahraini protesters and continues to support Arab tyrants in Yemen (whose thugs are currently shooting peaceful protesters in the cities of Sana’a and Taiz), Jordan, the Gulf states including the horrific Saudi regime, and the Egyptian military junta.

As Zogby calls on America to support “freedom and political rights” in Syria, he’s also calling on an organization made up of states with abysmal human rights records and does not include a single democracy to single out a regime for suspension based on its lack of democratic credentials and human rights violations. Zogby is not only asking the Arab dictators to suspend a regime that enjoys relatively more popular legitimacy in the Arab world than the others, and in many ways is far less repressive than, for example, the horrific Saudi regime, but also appears to imply the thugs, puppets, political midgets and semi-literate oil-sheiks of the Arab league possess the political influence and moral authority to help usher in a new Syria.

“The Arab League could join with Turkey in convening a conference of Syrian stakeholders to help prepare them for transition, offering to provide the resources and hands-on support for this transition.”

In other words Zogby wants the medieval Saudi regime, the military junta in Egypt, and the other Arab dictators to preside over a transition to what is presumably a more open and pluralistic regime in Syria. Zogby’s absurdity and hypocrisy is a reflection of the official American policies to which he must conform in order to maintain a full social calendar and the false prestige of a lifestyle on the margins of Washington officialdom.

Zogby has made a comfortable, air-conditioned career out of maintaining a well tuned political antenna capable of honing in on official US policies and attitude towards the Middle East at any given moment.  Nobody is more adept than Zogby at calibrating his political position on any issue to the official US line, quickly detecting any subtle change of nuance, and making the necessary adjustments required to maintain his opinions within the official parameters of “respectable” public discourse.  His new attitude towards Syria, therefore, comes as no surprise. In the future Zogby will continue to speak approvingly of American-approved dictators in the region while feigning concern for the “political rights” of those who happen to live under regimes Washington considers unfriendly to US interests.

The people of the Arab world have always rejected an American policy that throws its weight behind friendly, pliant dictators while employing the rhetoric of human rights and democracy against regimes it considers a threat to its political, economic, and security interests. With the exception of US support for the usurping Zionist entity no other American policy has fueled as much anti-American (government) sentiments as support for Arab dictators.  Recognizing a clear nexus between US foreign policy, and the Washington-backed autocracies and dictatorships which underpin American imperialism in the Arab world, the Arab 2011 uprising has clearly demonstrated that the oppressed Arab masses reject both the illegitimate, oppressive Arab regimes and American imperial hegemony.

Arab-Americans can help advance the cause of the 2011 Arab uprising by speaking honestly to their fellow Americans about US foreign policy and challenging the prevailing narratives and assumptions about the Arab world and the US role in the region. The American people and the Arab revolutionaries share, in their common humanity, the same aspirations for freedom, dignity, and justice. We must insist on the universality of human rights by rejecting the cynical manipulation of these ideals by American government spokespersons pursuing public diplomacy and propaganda campaigns and the odious hypocrites within the Arab-American community that pander to them.


  8 comments for “James Zogby on Syria

  1. August 13, 2014 at 10:54 PM

    Life is all about simplicity and hhletay eating. What a nice story. I have bookmarked your blog. Thank you for following mine and I look forward to hhletay and simple recipes from your blog. Have a great weekend!

  2. Anonymous
    October 8, 2011 at 3:40 PM

    I think Zogby has clearly earned a “Lifetime Shoe Award” for all of his efforts and that you should consider naming the award partially in his honor.

  3. Julietteharkin
    October 7, 2011 at 11:46 AM

    hhmm, I think the point I was making was missed.  I agree with Ikhras on his critique of Zogby and it is very welcome.  I think it is soooo obvious that the West has vested interests, puppet regimes and dodgy ethics that it hardly bares repeating again and again. They are starting to fall but there are a lot of them out there.  My point was that this is a long article and you are mentioning the abuses of regimes and it seems odd to talk about this topic at length with no reference to the abuses of the Syrian regime.  If we assume that even 50% of what is being said about the regime is true, then that is pretty grim, is it not?  Thus you are in danger of sounding like a regime apologist because to do otherwise would put you in the uncomfortable place of partly aligning with the unethical and unprincipled West/US re positions on Syria, so it is tough.  But, as you say, we need to insist on the universality of human rights. I know SC doesn’t care what I think, which makes me wonder why he bothers to contribute to blogs, but I myself have been impressed with Syria in the past – taking in hundreds of thousands of refugees from Iraq and opening its borders to Lebanon during the 2006 war puts Europeans to shame.  The Palestinian refugee case is unique as they are the only people suffering complete and direct colonial occupation of their land. . .but their position in Syria is not ideal and their treatment during the protests, in Lattakia and surrounds, didn’t seem to make the PLO very happy.

  4. Dianeshammas
    October 6, 2011 at 12:57 PM

    After reading this piece, I encourage you to read an article published in antiwar.com by Joe V. Walsh, not to be confused with the musician. Despite the article is directed towards Juan Cole and his position as a CIA shill, in between the lines it discusses that the U.S. has always supported favorites and Syria is not one of our favorites like Egypt, Bahrain, Jordan, etc.


    On another point I was present at Zogby’s last conference where he held court. I took a different tack by bringing in how students have taken the lead in Egypt and Gaza having witnessed the first week of the Egyptian Revolution and spending months during Spring 2010 and 2011 and teaching students who a few were the organizers in the student unity to the WB and Gaza govts. in hopes of a new leadership. In the farewell session of the conference, where do we go now as Arab Americans, I stood up and praised the students, the GYOB from Gaza as well as the Student Irvine 10, I received nothing but dismissal and Lassie like eyed confusion from Zogby and the audience attending. You do the math here

  5. Julietteharkin
    October 6, 2011 at 6:40 AM

    This is brilliant; right up to the point where you start to sound like a Syrian-regime apologist.  The universality that you speak of at the end must extend to Syria and we must all recognise that it is okay to condemn the Syrian regime, that its anti-Israeli stance does not justify its behaviour now and that its support for the Palestinian refugees inside Syria was in any case flimsy at best.

    • October 6, 2011 at 8:37 AM

      Oh please, we’re sick of your bullcrap. Just because this article is written in a balanced manner it becomes a “regime apologist”???? There is a HUGE conspiracy faced by Syria. I mean Jesus, by my response you must think I’m Assad himself.

      Really, is it that easy for you people to be brainwashed? Did Syria get that “hitlerified” by your media? We really DO NOT CARE what you think about our nation, butt out of it and take your Zogby shill with you.

      • Dianeshammas
        October 7, 2011 at 12:55 PM

        As’ad AbuKhalil wrote on his blog a few weeks back about being mindful towards the U.S-international propaganda against the Syrian regime. While yes, there are horrible abuses, compared to other Arab regimes that is a hard call, but we now found out after all the “hasbara” surrounding Zaynib Al Husni is still alive, confirmed by her family that viewed her on Syrian national TV, and worse yet she was physically abused by her brothers. I think we must differentiate those who are being tortured by the government and domestic violence. As the Syrian revolution goes on, there is a day to day life of intra-familial violence. 

    • Anonymous
      October 6, 2011 at 6:29 PM

      We’re not apologists for any regime and have no idea what you’re talking about. Not only have Palestinians been treated very well in Syria, but so have the Iraqis and the Lebanese.  In fact, the Syrian people have always treated all Arabs who came to Syria as Syrians, not refugees or even guests, but fellow Arabs whose unfortunate circumstances forced them out of their homes into their second home, the Syrian Arab Republic. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.