New Leader Josh Block Gives Makeover to The Israel Project

Brings In-Your-Face Style and Launches New Publication

New Approach: The head of The Israel Project, Josh Block, right, and David Hazony appear at a launch of the group’s new publication, The Tower.
Nathan Guttman
New Approach: The head of The Israel Project, Josh Block, right, and David Hazony appear at a launch of the group’s new publication, The Tower.

By Nathan Guttman

Published April 02, 2013, issue of April 05, 2013.

(page 2 of 3)

The idea of launching TIP’s own online publication follows a course set by other interest groups, among them the progressive Center for American Progress and its ThinkProgress blog, a publication that came under harsh attacks from Block before joining TIP, because of the views that some of its writers expressed on Israel.

The Tower Magazine’s editor is David Hazony, a conservative Israeli-American writer (and a Forward columnist). Hazony and Block refer to the publication as “nonprofit journalism,” which, the magazine editor believes, will help explain “the most misunderstood state” that is Israel. The first issue includes an essay arguing that Israel is America’s last ally in the Middle East; alongside it is an article comparing threats to children from violence in the United States with terror in Israel, and a discussion of gay and lesbian issues in Israel and how they differ from the debate in America. “I don’t think I’m advocating any ideology,” Hazony said, arguing that the publication should be read “for its own merits,” regardless of the group behind it.

The new publication is only a small part of a massive facelift at TIP. Mizrachi brought the group to life during the height of the second intifada, when images from the Middle East were plastered daily on the front pages of American newspapers, and Israel’s portrayal was at times that of the aggressor, not the victim.

Since then, TIP has been one of the fastest growing Jewish organizations. In 2011, according to the latest available tax filings, it began raising multi-year pledges and collected more than $19 million. From traditional hasbara — the Hebrew term for viewpoint promotion —focused on educating the press, TIP expanded to a global operation working in Europe, China, India, Latin America and Russia, and hosting an extensive Arabic-language operation. Mizrahi saw the group’s Mandarin and Arabic operations as particularly crucial to the future of pro-Israel advocacy. The group also spent $1 million a year on polling, hiring top political pollsters to examine messaging on Israel and to gauge international public opinion.

Much of this is now gone. TIP board members ultimately rejected Mizrahi’s view of China as a key arena in the battle to influence public opinion on Israel. TIP does still maintain its program in Arabic, which is based in Israel and will soon expand its publications. Funding for this program is provided mainly by one TIP donor, New York businessman Richard Perry. But beyond that board members have stressed the need to “go back to the basics” of the organization’s mission. By the time Block took over, TIP had completed the process of shutting down its other international operations in favor of focusing on the United States.

The leadership overhaul also involved the departure of many of TIP’s senior staff members, including Laura Kam, who was in charge of the group’s global affairs; director of communications Alan Elsner, and research director Meagan Buren. All former employees were required to sign a nondisclosure agreement preventing them from discussing their workplace.



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