Editor's Note: James Zogby—a notorious Anti-Semite and staunch defender of Islamic terror groups (including Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, and the Muslim Brotherhood) who refers to Israelis as “Nazis” and perpetrators of “a holocaust” on Palestinians—recently tried to demonize Coptic Solidarity, a D.C.-based human rights organization that works to shed light on and seek to redress the plight of persecuted Christian minorities in Egypt and elsewhere. In the following statement, CS explains what happened, and how Zogby “has publicly shown that he is untrustworthy and will go to great lengths to tarnish the reputation of others in an effort to portray himself as some sort of social justice warrior.”
Coptic Solidarity (CS) strongly condemns Dr. Zogby’s recently published Huffington Post article which contains fallacious and malicious accusations against the organization and its guest speakers. CS is especially surprised that Zogby did this in the context of publicizing what can only be characterized as unprofessional and timorous behavior on his part—which CS never meant to share in consideration of his privacy—but in a way that twists facts around to portray himself as a “morally outraged” social justice warrior combatting “Islamophobia.”
Coptic Solidarity is, therefore, happy to set the record straight, based on documented facts contained in a series of emails. (Note: CS wrote to the Huffington Post requesting the opportunity to respond to Zogby’s accusations directly on the website, but its editors refused the request.)
On March 24, 2017, Coptic Solidarity received an email from a USCIRF staff member stating that Zogby had expressed interest in speaking at Coptic Solidarity’s annual two-day conference (June 15-16) dedicated to discussing and offering recommendations to help persecuted Copts and other Mideast Christian minorities.
On March 30, Coptic Solidarity extended an invitation to Zogby. Although CS proposed to place him on a Day-2 panel at the Marriott Hotel, he asked to be moved to Day-1 panels at the Capitol Building. Some shuffling had to be made to accommodate his request, after which he accepted the invitation, adding “Thank you again for the opportunity.”
On June 13—just two days before the conference—Zogby wrote in canceling his scheduled talk, leaving Coptic Solidarity scrambling to find a replacement speaker in less than 48 hours.
He gave two reasons for canceling. First, he “was concerned to find that the session at which I was to appear had significantly changed…. I am not prepared to discuss the new topic – ‘The Indigenous Culture of Violence and Impunity.’ In fact, the very framing of the topic concerns me.”
Actually, nothing “had significantly changed.” Thirty five days earlier, on May 9, Coptic Solidarity had emailed its updated program and list of confirmed speakers to all guest participants, including Zogby. The program clearly indicated that his panel was titled “Combatting the Indigenous Culture of Violence and Impunity.” Zogby did not reply with any objections at that time. Nor did CS expect any objections since no serious analyst—including many Egyptian Muslim intellectuals—denies that there is a very real culture of violence against Christian minorities in Egypt, which authorities often treat with impunity.
Zobgy’s second reason for canceling was that he disapproved of some of the other invited speakers. Without giving names, he said some of them belonged to “hate groups,” while others “have made a career out of spreading hurtful anti-Arab and anti-Muslim propaganda.”
Unlike Zogby, Coptic Solidarity believes in giving all voices a platform. In fact, some CS board members strongly opposed inviting Zogby due to his own problematic reputation; in the end they agreed on the belief that open debates with opposing views are ultimately healthy and beneficial to all.
However, instead of publicly questioning whichever speakers he had problems with—and thereby showing them and the audience where they err—Zogby fled the stage, forfeited the chance for dialogue or debate, and then, from the safe confines of a keyboard, rushed to publicize his shoddy performance by way of a twisted monologue, that is, an article.
Coptic Solidarity can only wonder at Zogby’s behavior. Why would he pursue speaking at its annual conference, and then, after getting the title of his panel and names of other speakers more than a month earlier, wait until the last instant to cancel—knowing full well that doing so would leave the organizers in a bind?
Moreover, although Coptic Solidarity could have suffered from his actions—happily a better speaker was quickly secured—it never thought to publicly complain or denounce Zogby’s unprofessional conduct, which it deemed a private matter. It was therefore with some surprise that CS learned that he was the one publicizing the matter—but in a twisted way that makes unprofessional and cowardly behavior appear moral and heroic.
This whole episode is instructive for all associated guest speakers and organizations they represent. Zogby has publicly shown that he is untrustworthy and will go to great lengths to tarnish the reputation of others in an effort to portray himself as some sort of social justice warrior. Groups should think twice before extending a speaking invitation to him, which CS regrets doing and is happy he withdrew.
More importantly, it illuminates the contours of the policy discussion on human rights and religious freedom in the Middle East. People like Zogby exhibit what is known in the region as a dhimmi mentality—one that calls on Christian minorities and their representatives never to protest their persecution, and especially never to criticize Arab or Muslim cultures and societies, but to acquiesce and make do as best they can. Fortunately, most experts that Coptic Solidarity invites still value open and honest dialogue and debate on how best to achieve religious freedom, pluralism, and equality for all in the Middle East.
Coptic Solidarity condemns Dr. Zogby’s unprofessionalism, his false accusations and mischaracterizations, and, especially, his flagrant attempt to demonize and silence those who actively work to help persecuted Christians and other minorities in the Middle East.