After nearly 10 years as spokesperson and director of strategic communication for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Josh Block is now CEO and president of The Israel Project, a Washington, DC- based organization.
Founded in 2003, TIP describes itself as “a non-partisan American educational organization dedicated to informing the media and public conversation about Israel and the Middle East.”
Block’s background also included the partisan world of press spokesperson for the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and the presidential campaigns of Bill Clinton and Al Gore.
He spoke at an off-the-record meeting of Community Relations Committee of Greater MetroWest’s Israel and World Affairs Committee on May 15.
He was interviewed a day later by NJ Jewish News.
NJJN: How does your organization differ from other Israel advocacy groups?
Block: There is really no other organization that focuses on strategic communications and integrated public relations, ensuring that facts about Israel and the Middle East are well known to journalists on the ground and here at home. We work as a hub, a resource, for other elements of the community. The pro-Israel community has made a tremendous investment in lobbying and politics and think tanks and ideas and Jewish continuity. But it has not made that kind of progress in communications in today’s world.
NJJN: Is your main focus on journalists?
Block: We provide information to journalists and policy-makers and their staffs to shape their perceptions of Israel and we need to assure Israel’s security.
NJJN: Does TIP have a position on controversial issues such as the expansion of West Bank settlements, the peace talks with the Palestinians, the role of J Street?
Block: We are not an organization that prescribes policies Israel ought to pursue. We provide information. We are in favor, broadly speaking, of a two-state solution and we want peace.
NJJN: How do you feel about including J Street in the dialogue?
Block: As a member of the pro-Israel community I understand very much why there is deep concern about how J Street conducts itself. J Street has been dishonest by representing itself as the mainstream. There is something dishonest about urging the Obama administration to not veto anti-Israel resolutions at the United Nations or not supporting Israelis’ right to self-defense.
NJJN: What is your position on the expansion of the West Bank settlements?
Block: Settlements are an issue, but they are not the key issue. They are not the obstacle to peace. But we are not a policy group and we are not making policy pronouncements. We are providing information and perspective about them…We are not telling the Israelis what to do…. Our goal is to make reporters’ jobs easier.
NJJN: How do you handle the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign against Israel?
Block: I think we need to be clear about the detractors and the effort to boycott Israel. BDS as an economic notion is a failure. Israel has never been stronger or more prosperous in the region. We ought not to make more of it than it is. But that does not mean that the people behind the effort to boycott and isolate Israel do not have very terrible motives, and it does not mean they are not dangerous. There is an industry of misinformation that fuels this anti-Israel movement, and in the media culture we are in, lies will spread.