But to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), a pro-Israel group in Washington, and to the B’nai B’rith’s Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the Institute of Arab Studies is more than a cultural organization. To them, it is one of the many Arab propaganda organizations seeking to discredit Israel among Americans. AIPAC says the Arab League decided at a summit meeting in Algiers 10 years ago to raise money for anti-Israel propaganda in the US. AIPAC uses what is says are the League’s own words — “to multiply the efforts — with regard to the American people and their various information media — to clarify the justice of the Arab cause . . .” League members created a fund, initially $5 million, to finance this effort. In July of 1982, AIPAC contends, leading Palestinians met in London “to organize a $100 million public relations campaign to sway US policy against Israel.”
The connection between these plans the Institute of Arab Studies — if any — is unclear. The Institute is an offshoot of (and shares its Belmont offices with) the Association of Arab American University Graduates (AAUG), which AIPAC calls “one of the more militant and active pro-PLO groups in America.” leading Palestinian advocates have served as officials of both the institute and the AAUG. According to the ADL, the Institute helped organize an anti-Israel demonstration in Boston on September 20, 1982.
According to AIPAC, the institute was first financed with a “non-renewable grant of $225,000 from private Arab sources.” Its first year’s operating costs, AIPAC says, were almost $280,000, and its five-year goal reportedly was to raise a total of $25 million. AIPAC and other pro-Israel sources contend that most Arab propaganda organizations in the US must rely les on Arab-Americans and more on Arab governments or, in some cases, on American corporations that do business with Arab nations.
For its part, the Institute of Arab Studies may have fallen on hard times. When the Phoenix first called the IAS office, a woman who answered the phone said, “Right now, the institute is undergoing re-evaluation. Programs are being redesigned and re-evaluated. They’re trying to decide whether they can get more funding.”
As for the source of the funding, Nasseer Aruri, the treasurer of the institute’s board of directors, told the Phoenix the institute raised money by “advertising ourselves, showing our work.” Aruri, who is a political science professor at Southeastern Massachusetts University, said the money came from individuals and companies. Did any of it come from overseas? “Some of it,” he said, “but most of it was from here.”
Another board member, Samih Farsoun (a sociology professor at American University in Washington, DC) laughed at AIPAC’s tale of Palestinians gathering in London in 1982 to raise $100 million for propaganda. “I wish it was true,” he said. Which? The gathering in London, or the $100 million? “I wish all of it was true. It is very much needed in America to have the Palestinian and/or Arab point of view for the American public, because most of the media barely reflect that.”
Cockburn’s work certainly has reflected the Palestinian and Arab points of view. Was that considered when the Institute decided to give him the fellowship. “Yeah,” Farsoun acknowledged, “I think so.”