Should an extremist who demonizes Israel as "an alien oppressor" and denounces America's Middle East policy serve as special assistant to the U.S. official who directs American policy in the Mideast?

Nat Hentoff, in his article about Joseph Zogby [op-ed, May 29], fails to acknowledge that in two articles written by Mr. Zogby last year, which are still circulating on the Internet and which Mr. Zogby has never disavowed, Mr. Zogby calls Israel a "colonizer," an "alien oppressor" and an "abuser" whose rule is similar to South African apartheid. Mr. Zogby also accuses the United States of "willful ineffectuality" and playing an "unconstructive role" in the Mideast; and he mocks "the American government's rhetoric about respect for the rule of law and human rights."

Assistant Secretary of State Martin Indyk himself has acknowledged that Mr. Zogby's articles were "distasteful and disturbing." Mr. Hentoff suggests that Mr. Zogby's views are comparable to those of left-wing Israeli groups such as Peace Now. Yet the leader of the left-wing Israeli Labor Party's American division, Jerry Goodman, has said that he was "distressed" by Mr. Zogby's articles and that the "anti-Israel bias creeps through."

Mr. Hentoff claims that when Mr. Zogby was hired by Mr. Indyk in September 1998, he resigned as director of the Palestine Peace Project -- an anti-Israel propaganda group. Yet on April 20, more than seven months after Mr. Zogby was hired by Mr. Indyk, the official Web site of the Palestine Peace Project still listed Mr. Zogby as its director.

Mr. Hentoff also failed to mention Joseph Zogby's arrest in Jerusalem in 1994 for interfering with an attempt by the police, implementing a court order, to seal off two rooms in the home of a convicted Arab terrorist.

Those of us who have criticized the hiring of Mr. Zogby by the State Department have not engaged in any "broadsiding" or "violations of fairness," as Mr. Hentoff claims. Mr. Zogby's own words in context reveal an individual who is thoroughly hostile to America's Middle East policy and to America's ally Israel and, therefore, unqualified to serve on the staff of the State Department's Mideast team.

MORTON A. KLEIN

National President

Zionist Organization of America

New York