Cockburn was fortunate to get his fellowship in 1982, because by 1983, an institute official says, there was not even a fellowship committee anymore. Institute board members who were interviewed by the Phoenix said Cockburn was supposed to be writing a book on Lebanon, perhaps on the Israeli invasion, but none of them knew when the book was to be completed. Both Aruri and Abbas Alnasrawi, a University of Vermont professor who is a former member of the institute’s fellowship committee and was recently elected president of the AAUG, recommended that the Phoenix speak with Edward Said.
Said is a professor of English literature at Columbia and a noted observer of Middle East issues. AIPAC says Said is a member of the Palestine National Council, the PLO’s policy-making body, and has met often with Yasser Arafat. He was a founder of the AAUG and is chairman of the board of the Institute of Arab Studies. Cockburn regularly quotes Said and, according to one source, “has made Said a bit of a celebrity in the Voice”; Said himself has written on Middle Eastern affairs for the New York Times op-ed page and for the New York Review of Books. AIPAC contends Said attended that July 1982 meeting of Palestinians in London, at which conferees allegedly agreed to raise $100 million for propaganda in the US. The Phoenix tried unsuccessfully to reach Said for comment.
If Said and the Institute were looking for a journalist in sympathy with their point of view, they couldn’t have found a better one than Cockburn. Israel is one of Cockburn’s favorite bogeymen: he seems to believe that it is truly more vicious than most societies and deserving of all the criticism he has heaped upon it.
In June of 1982, the Israeli invasion of Lebanon gave Cockburn the opportunity to slam Israel again. In the June 22, 1982, issue of the Voice, he and Ridgeway joined other critics who were comparing the Israeli invasion to Nazi blitzkriegs. “The words and images coming from Lebanon and from the Israelis,” they wrote, “must cause anyone with a memory of the German blitzkriegs across Europe to shudder. Palestinians are denuded of identity and become subhuman, as ‘terrorists’ to be ‘flushed out,’ ‘mopped up,’ ‘cleaned out.’ Closely packed houses in ancient cities and villages, shacks in refugee camps, are bombarded and destroyed in this enterprise, even as Israeli troops confess on television that they have difficulty in distinguishing Palestinians from Lebanese or anyone else.”
For weeks after the invasion, Cockburn rarely let up. Whatever else was happening in the world, whatever terrorism was being practiced by capitalists or communists, by Old Worlders, New Worlders, or Third Worlders, Israel held center stage. “The Israelis,” he declared in the August 10, 1982, Voice, "are behaving like war criminals.”
In the July 20 issue, Cockburn and Ridgeway had attacked Tom Hayden and Jane Fonda for visiting Israel, the West Bank, and the Lebanese battlefields under Israeli auspices. In a letter to the Voice, printed August 3, Hayden replied in part, “had Alexander Cockburn and James Ridgeway called us before shooting from the hip, they would have found that we hardly ignored civilian causalities . . . we looked down no gun barrels at Lebanese women and children, as outrageously alleged in the article. We met not only with Israeli military spokesmen, but with Peace Now leaders and Palestinian human-rights lawyers on the West Bank.”