Zogby, Poetry And The “Gibran Gala”

z4Every year in April James Zogby’s one-man shop, the Arab-American Institute (AAI), holds its annual “Spirit of Humanity” Awards Gala. The AAI states that it “established the Kahlil Gibran Spirit of Humanity Awards to recognize those whose commitment to our common humanity is a living reflection of the spirit the great Lebanese-American poet.” OK. Well, for the past five years the Al-Thani family dictatorship that has ruled Qatar with an iron fist since its establishment has held Mohammed Al-Ajami in jail for the crime of poetry. During these five years, and previously, the embassy of Qatar in Washington DC has been one of the main sponsors of the annual “Gibran Gala” as Zogby likes to call it.  What the Ikhras Shoe-Of-The-Month award winner claims his annual event was established to celebrate is a crime punishable by imprisonment by one of the main sponsors of the event. Zogby has been on the payroll of the Arab oil-Sheikhs (or “shakes” as he calls them) for decades and his hypocrisy comes as no news to anyone. He also enjoys the largess of the Saudi-Wahhabi regime and the United Arab Emirates who will also be sponsoring his “Gibran Gala” next month. For the past two years Zogby, for unexplained reasons, has stopped releasing the names of the sponsors and underwriters of the annual AAI flagship event. We believe this decision was taken as a direct result of ikhras’ highlighting of the “Gibran Gala” sponsors. Zogby is clearly on the defensive about his links to the GCC embassies and the funding he receives from these tyrannical regimes. There is no need for Zogby to feel defensive. He is entitled to maintain relations with any regime and embassy he chooses, but he has no right to do so in the collective name of the Arab-American community. We do not expect Zogby to cut ties to his benefactors which will most assuredly lead to the same fate as Ziad Asali and the American Task Force on Palestine. We do, however, call on Zogby to remove “Arab-American” from the name of his shop.