Washington — As the new head of The Israel Project, Josh Block brings an aggressive, in-your-face style of operation to one of the Jewish community’s fastest-growing organizations, even as the group undergoes sweeping changes with his arrival.
It’s an approach that contrasts strikingly with that of his predecessor, TIP founder Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, under whose tenure the organization developed a reputation as Israel’s most effective nongovernmental public relations agency. But that may not be the most important part of the transformation now taking place .
Developed by Mizrahi as a multinational campaign to change perceptions of Israel worldwide, TIP is now withdrawing from the international arena, including countries, such as China and India, whose global influence is surging.
It was in 2002 that Mizrahi established TIP — a private initiative funded by wealthy backers that engaged journalists (and others) with information targeting their working needs. Among other things, TIP helped media people gain access to Israeli decision makers and expert sources, and conducted public opinion polls offering crucial nuggets of information about how people viewed Israel and its neighbors.
Where journalists seemed strongly critical of Israel, TIP wielded its formidable public relations resources to make its case and, it hoped, show them the error of their ways.
As Mizrahi’s successor, Block faces a double challenge. While overseeing massive changes in TIP’s organizational focus and personnel shifts in the group’s leadership, he is also attempting to reshape his own public image. To many, Block seems something like Mizrahi’s temperamental opposite: an aggressive defender of pro-Israel views, even at the price of openly quarreling with journalists, rival organizations and the Obama administration.
At a reception in a fancy Washington hotel March 21, Block celebrated the launch of The Tower, one of TIP’s new projects. An online long-form journalism publication devoted to Middle East and Israel issues, it is, as Block boasted, “Vanity Fair Meets Foreign Affairs.” Block addressed the crowd of journalists and foreign policy wonks gathered around an ice sculpture in the shape of the website’s logo.
The Tower’s first issue features a medley of writers representing a wide variety of viewpoints, a fact that TIP officials point out repeatedly. For Block, the new magazine and the daily website TheTower.org are viewed as a “home for ideas” supporting the group’s mission, which he defined in an email exchange as “to provide facts, and educate and inform the media and policy conversation about Israel and the Middle East.”