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Israel Critic in State Dept. Post

April 22, 1999

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A young Arab-American lawyer who has criticized Israel as a torturer of Palestinians and occupier of their land has worked as a special assistant for the State Department’s Near East bureau chief since last summer.

Responding to a complaint by the Zionist Organization of America, the bureau chief, Assistant Secretary of State Martin Indyk, told The Associated Press he was aware of Joseph Zogby’s sympathies for the Palestinians.

``I believed he could make an important contribution to the work of the State Department, and that has proven to be the case,″ Indyk said.

Also, Indyk said, ``There are very few Arab-Americans working in the State Department in any area. The Clinton administration is committed to a diverse work place, and in that context we do feel it is important to have Arab-Americans in the State Department.″

Zogby, in his late 20s and a graduate of the University of Virginia law school, was hired last summer for a year as one of Indyk’s two special assistants. ``He has been offered a position to continue here, with a promotion, based on his performance here,″ Indyk said.

The appointment was raised with Indyk at a meeting Thursday in New York with the heads of several American Jewish organizations.

Morton A. Klein, national director of the Zionist Organization of America, said he had urged Indyk to dismiss Zogby ``given Zogby’s harsh bias against Israel and U.S. policy in the Mideast.″

The ZOA distributed two articles by Zogby. In one, he accuses Israeli security forces of torturing hundreds of Palestinian people a year, In the other, marking Israel’s 50th anniversary, he calls Israel a colonizer and abuser of human rights, likening it to America’s ``genocidal treatment of the Native Americans and enslavement of African-Americans.″

``The Jewish state is still not free,″ he wrote. ``It occupies another people and nation ... the jailer himself is still in prison. He feels compelled to keep constant watch over his captive, confiscating his land, torturing him, detaining him without charge or trial, and rearing hate in his heart.″

Biographical notes on a Zogby article for the periodical ``Washington Report on Middle East Affairs″ say he founded the Palestine Peace Project, which brings American lawyers and law students to territory under the Palestinian Authority’s control to volunteer with local legal and human rights organizations.

Klein said Zogby still directs the Peace Project and that it shares the telephone number of the Arab-American Institute, a pro-Arab lobby headed by James Zogby, his father.

The elder Zogby said in an interview that ``Joe represents one Arab-American in the bureau. There should be more for there to be real diversity.″

``Mort Klein’s characterization of Joseph’s views are wrong,″ Zogby said. ``If we were all as Mort Klein characterizes us to be, this would be an ugly world.″

Further, Zogby said his son wrote ``a thoughtful piece in an effort to bridge the gap in perception between the Palestinians and Americans.″

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee said Arab-Americans systematically have been excluded from ``input″ into U.S. Middle East policy and said Klein’s criticism was based on out-of-context quotations and Joseph Zogby’s ``ethnicity.″

Indyk described Joseph Zogby as ``a valued member″ of the Near East bureau. ``His performance has been exemplary and fully consistent with U.S. foreign policy,″ Indyk said. ``He has my full confidence and that of the Department of State.″

The articles were written before Zogby joined the government and represent ``his private views,″ Indyk said. ``What matters is whether those who work here support administration policy, and he does.″

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