Report: Josh Block to head The Israel Project
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Report: Josh Block to head The Israel Project

Will the world be losing its only major friendly, pro-Israel media advocacy group?

According to the Forward’s Nathan Guttman, The Israel Project (TIP) is close to announcing that its new CEO will be Josh Block, the former spokesman for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

While AIPAC and TIP appear to share similar goals, the appointment of Block would mark a major shift for the organization founded by Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi. TIP has distinguished itself from more combative media-focused pro-Israel groups like CAMERA and Honest Reporting by working with journalists rather than hounding them (see my story on TIP’s good-cop approach here), becoming more of a pro-Israel media resource than a pro-Israel media watchdog in the decade since its founding.

Block, as Guttman notes, does not have a reputation as a good cop:

TIP’s message resembled that of AIPAC, the Jewish community’s powerful mainstream pro-Israel lobby. But it came wrapped in a new and appealing package. The group ran TV ads praising Israel’s diversity and religious freedom, while still speaking out on the key points of pro-Israel advocacy: opposing Iran’s nuclear ambitions and backing the Israeli government’s positions regarding the Palestinian conflict. The group’s style typically involved coaxing reporters with crucial information and access to key policymakers rather than confrontation and accusations of anti-Israel bias. Its leaders innovated outreach campaigns to news media in Europe, the Arab world and other Middle Eastern countries.

Block, slated to take over the helm of the organization, could bring a different style. His nine-year tenure as AIPAC’s spokesman and his subsequent career in the private sector have gained Block a reputation as a combative defender of Israel, eager to take on its detractors — especially those within the Democratic Party, the foreign policy community and even Jewish circles — who veer off the unofficial though well-defined mainstream pro-Israel road.

After leaving AIPAC, Block remained a harsh critic of J Street, the dovish lobbying organization operating to the left of AIPAC, and entered a highly publicized quarrel with the Center for American Progress, a progressive Democratic think tank whose views on Israel, according to Block, were biased and at times “borderline anti-Semitic.”

Block’s reputation as a pro-Israel bulldog seems to stand in stark contrast to that of Mizrahi, who chose mostly to engage with journalists and policymakers rather than fight with them. Unlike StandWithUs or the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, two other pro-Israel groups that focus on media, Mizrahi’s TIP was not a media watchdog. The organization put together events for Arab-language reporters who, for the most part, had never written a good word about Israel. Mizrahi has been active in bringing diplomats from across the world to Israel for the group’s famous helicopter rides, which, TIP believes, show the real strategic threats facing Israel.

Read the story here.