After 9/11 and Paris and the beheadings on the beach, after San Bernardino and Charlie Hebdo and the burning of the pilot in the cage, after all the savage terrorist attacks of recent years – you would think the last person the Democrats would choose to help write their platform would be one of the most vocal defenders of a notorious Palestinian terrorist.
But that’s what they just did.
This sad story begins on May 14, 1979. Chaim and Chaya (Irene) Mark, a couple from Connecticut who had immigrated to Israel, were stepping out of a restaurant in the central marketplace of Tiberias when a huge bomb exploded.
“I was hit in the chest and knocked down,” Chaim later recalled. “When I got up, I saw my wife with a leg and arm nearly blown off.”
Two Israeli children were killed in the bombing and 36 other people were maimed. Mrs. Mark spent a year and half in the hospital, undergoing countless surgeries. She was left severely handicapped.
A few weeks later, one of the terrorists involved in the bombing was captured by Israeli police. He confessed to having constructed the bomb and he named one of his PLO comrades, Ziad Abu Eain, as the one who planted it.
Eain had already fled to Chicago – not exactly the behavior of an innocent person. When the FBI came knocking at the Chicago apartment where he was staying, he denied he was Ziad Abu Eain – again, not the kind of response one would expect from an innocent person.
Israel asked the U.S. to hand him over. Eain fought extradition. He used what I call the have-my-cake-and-eat-it-too defense: he denied his guilt and at the same time argued that the bombing was a “political offense.”
That’s right: murdering two Israeli children and crippling a Connecticut housewife was a “political” act.
In jailhouse interviews with the media, in fact, Eain brazenly defended the bombing. He told the Chicago Reader (June 18, 1981) that the Tiberias murders were a justified response to Israeli strikes on PLO targets in Lebanon: “The bombing was like a message. We are still doing something to help you have your freedom.”
Who was Eain’s loudest supporter? James Zogby, who at the time was the founding director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. The very first action undertaken by Zogby with the AADC was to launch a campaign of protests, lobbying, and newspaper ads opposing the extradition of Eain.
Soon afterward, Zogby became active in Democratic Party politics, as deputy manager of Jesse Jackson’s 1984 and 1998 presidential campaigns, then later as “Senior Adviser on Ethnic Outrage” for Al Gore in 2000 and Barack Obama in 2008. Since 2001, Zogby has been a member of the Democratic National Committee.
And last week, he was named as one of the 17 members of the committee that will draft this year’s Democratic Party platform. (He was chosen by Sen. Bernie Sanders, who’d been allotted several slots to fill on the platform-writing committee.)
In his efforts on behalf of the Tiberias bomber, Zogby charged that extraditing Eain would create a dangerous precedent for handing over individuals accused of “political crimes.” Zogby also played the race card. He told the Washington Post (July 24, 1981): “The only way to account for the State Department’s and the U.S. attorney’s behavior in this case is the fact that Ziad Abu Eain is an Arab.”
The U.S. Supreme Court rejected those claims and ordered Eain extradited. The New York Times applauded the extradition. In a lead editorial, it said the “political offense” argument could not be accepted in such a case, since “the crime attributed to Mr. Eain was planting a bomb in a crowded market where children were celebrating Independence Day.”
Zogby was so passionate in support of Eain that even after the bomber was extradited he continued mobilizing AADC members to send letters of protest to the State Department and the Israeli Embassy.
To this day Zogby has never expressed a word of remorse for his crusade on behalf of the Tiberias bomber.
Eain was tried, convicted of murder, and sentenced to life imprisonment. Three years later, he was released in a prisoner exchange. So what did Mr. Innocent do when he was set free? Just two months later, he was arrested for conspiring with other terrorists to hijack an Israeli bus. He spent three more years in prison. When the Oslo accords were signed, Eain, like many terrorists, accepted a senior position in the Palestinian Authority. Evidently he finally recognized the value of “working from within.”
James Zogby, too, understands how effective he can be from “the inside.” Drafting the Democratic Party’s platform plank on Israel will have a lot more influence than organizing petitions on behalf of a Palestinian terrorist with American blood on his hands.
Most people have forgotten about Ziad Abu Eain, the two Israeli children he murdered, and the Connecticut housewife he maimed for life. But the American Jewish community should neither forget nor forgive. Someone who defended a terrorist who harmed Americans should not be rewarded with an influential role in the Democratic Party.
Stephen M. Flatow