James Zogby, head of the American-Arab Institute in Washington, disclosed to Asharq Al-Awsat that President Joe Biden’s popularity has significantly dropped among Arab and Muslim communities, as well as among American youth.
The decline is attributed to Biden's unwavering support for Israel since the Gaza conflict began.
Zogby highlighted that diminished approval of Biden will be noticeable in key states including Michigan, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Florida, and possibly Georgia – all swing states where the competition with his rival, former President Donald Trump, is tightening.
Despite his long history with the Democratic Party for nearly five decades, Zogby has rare criticisms for the Biden administration.
He predicts that candidates from the “third party” will gain many votes because of dissatisfaction among a narrow youth demographic with the ages of both Biden and Trump, and expects many others to abstain from voting.
Zogby also mentioned facing threats due to his pro-Palestinian stances, resulting in the imprisonment of some individuals.
Certain Jewish organizations label criticism of Israel as part of anti-Semitism, noted Zogby.
He highlighted the challenges faced by Arab communities in universities and workplaces for supporting the Palestinian cause.
In a Zoom interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Zogby was asked if he felt let down by how President Biden supported Israel during the Gaza war.
“My disappointment with Biden is deep and will last,” said the head of the American-Arab Institute.
After the events of Oct.7 and Biden’s anger towards Hamas, Zogby told the White House they weren’t giving themselves an exit.
He criticized Biden for providing unconditional support for Israel.
By the time the US president changed his language, it was too late as the Israeli war machine had committed atrocities.
Zogby recalled a high-level meeting where he requested a ceasefire.
The administration responded it would be unacceptable, fearing it would give Hamas a chance to rearm.
Zogby pointed out the thousands of civilian casualties, but there was no response to the dilemma of choosing between two unacceptable situations: a ceasefire or the death of Palestinians.
In the last three months, Zogby noted that some Arab Americans have expressed a prevailing sentiment that Arab and Palestinian lives are not valued.
“I think there’s something significant in the Israeli narrative, as Joe Biden and many in his administration did,” said Zogby.
“These views date back to the 70’s and 80’s and continue today: Israel is seen as a pioneering border state, similar to how America fought on its borders and made room for freedom where dreams could come true,” he added.
“The indigenous people are viewed as obstacles to civilization. This mindset is still prevalent today, and it's a significant factor. I believe Arab Americans sense that.”
“This lack of understanding will cost Biden the support of the Arab community,” explained Zogby.
He hinted that with the elections approaching, Arab Americans might not give the support Biden is counting on.
Zogby shared poll results showing a significant drop in support for Biden, with only 17% indicating they would back him, compared to the 59% who did in 2020.
He warned against dismissing this sentiment, emphasizing that people, especially the youth, won't simply return to voting for Biden or Trump.
Moreover, Zogby expected third-party candidates to perform well in 2024, as many individuals, especially the youth, feel disengaged and may not vote at all.
He underscored the importance for Democrats not to take these votes for granted.
Zogby, a well-respected figure among American decision-makers of Lebanese descent, believes third-party candidates like Cornel West and Bob Kennedy are already gaining support.
He noted that their stance on Israel, especially in the case of Kennedy, might differ but doesn’t evoke the same level of frustration within the Arab community as Biden’s did.
Zogby mentioned that this could impact the upcoming elections.
When asked about Arab Americans being united in their feelings, Zogby said: “One thing we learn from surveys and politics is that there is absolutely no unity.”
As for the influence of Arab American votes on Trump and Biden, Zogby explained: “They matter a lot in states like Michigan and Virginia.”
They could also have an impact in Florida or any state where elections are decided by a small margin, like 3% or 4%, he added, noting that even a community with 2% support in Ohio, 2% in Pennsylvania, about 5% in Michigan, and 1.5% in Florida, can make a significant difference.”
“In elections decided by a majority of 20,000 votes or fewer, like in Georgia, our growing community there can play a role,” noted Zogby.
Regarding the growing issue of anti-Semitism in the US, a sensitive matter not only within communities but also in universities and various spheres, much like addressing Islamophobia, Zogby recognized that “anti-Semitism is a real problem, no question.”
Zogby affirmed that he has consistently fought against anti-Semitism within his community.
He raised observations, one being that “there are two Jewish organizations making efforts to conflate anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism and anti-Israel behavior.”
“This is fundamentally wrong,” said Zogby, clarifying that “when we look at the rise of anti-Semitism, we need to distinguish between someone tearing a poster supporting Israel or burning the Israeli flag.”
“That is not anti-Semitism. It is anti-Israel sentiment,” he asserted.
Zogby also highlighted that “there is a lot of talk about this issue, but not as much attention is given to the challenges faced by Arab students on university campuses.”
“In truth, it's not only limited to campuses but also extends to workplaces.”
“Some major Jewish organizations pressured certain companies to sign statements equating any criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism,” revealed Zogby.
According to Zogby, this is fundamentally wrong and a violation of freedom of expression.
Referring to influential Arab Americans in different administrations and their role in addressing issues like the conflict in Gaza, Zogby shared two observations.
Firstly, those in high positions are quietly battling and shaping conversations by correcting narratives.
Secondly, Zogby expressed concern for junior staff facing tough situations.
Looking ahead to the elections on November 5, about eleven months away, Zogby said he can't imagine a replay of the 2020 race with Joe Biden and Donald Trump.
As per Zogby, many Americans feel the same way.
“Look at the polls; the majority say it's unlikely,” he confirmed.
Zogby noted that Americans realize that by the time of elections both Biden and Trump would be in their eighties.
If Joe Biden doesn't run, Zogby said he doesn’t know who will.
“At this point, it's too late for new entries into the primaries,” he reminded.