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Resounding collapse of US-Israel organisation

August 3, 2019 at 12:12 pm

Due to difficulties collecting donations that led to its bankruptcy, The Israel Project (TIP) on Wednesday closed its office in Israel, Haaretz reported yesterday .

The US NGO has faced a severe budget crisis and, according to the Israeli daily, is on its way to being completely shut down.

Haaretz said that the TIP’s office in Israel was cleared and all staff laid off, reiterating that the Jewish organisation will vanish very soon.

“They just have no money left, absolutely nothing,” one person who has worked closely with TIP over the years was reported as saying by Haaretz. This person also stated that work at TIP’s US office “has also come to a halt”, but TIP’s officials are now debating how to end operations.

Speaking to Haaretz, Lior Weintraub, TIP’s vice president and head of its Israel office, said: “TIP became the first casualty of the polarization in the pro-Israel community in America.”

After speaking with former employees and staff, Haaretz said that they described how the organisation – which for years was considered a leading enterprise in the field of Israel advocacy – went from being “the future of the pro-Israel community” to being on the verge of collapse.

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TIP was founded in March 2002, at the height of the Second Intifada, in order to reflect a positive image about Israel regarding its violations against the Palestinians. Its founder was political and media consultant Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, who led TIP for a decade.

According to Haaretz, the NGO experienced fast growth in its early years, moving from a core mission of working mostly with US journalists to a wider effort to influence how Israel was being covered in multiple countries and languages.

TIP expanded its efforts to Latin America and, through digital projects such as the Arabic website Al Masdar, into the Arab world.

One of TIP’s signature activities was inviting hundreds of influential international journalists to partake in helicopter tours over Israel in order to highlight the country’s security challenges and its narrow borders.

In 2012, Mizrahi left TIP and was replaced as CEO by Josh Block, a former spokesman for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

Block once compared AIPAC and TIP to a heavy aircraft carrier and a small, vibrant commando force. He took over the organisation at a time when it was already closing some of its international activity and refocusing exclusively on the debate within the United States.

Block and TIP’s Washington DC office assumed a prominent role in advocating against the 2015 Iran nuclear deal spearheaded by the administration of then US President Barak Obama. That fight led to discomfort and disappointment among several large Democratic donors to TIP, who wanted the NGO to work with the media to improve Israel’s image, not brief journalists against the signature foreign policy initiative of the Obama presidency.

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Even so, the organisation succeeded in raising almost $9 million in donations in 2015, and was expanding its operations in both Washington and Jerusalem. However, from 2015 to 2018 TIP lost not just one but several major donors who had previously given large sums of money but were no longer interested in supporting it.

Donors affiliated with the US Democratic Party cut their support for reasons such as the organisation’s tough criticism of President Obama and the Israeli government’s sharp turn to the right following Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 2015 election victory.

Other Israel advocacy organisations, Haaretz said, are following TIP’s collapse closely, trying to learn practical lessons from it in order to avoid a similar fate.

“The entire combination of things that happened to us over the past years was unique,” a former TIP employee told Haaretz, “but some of the problems we faced can definitely happen tomorrow at another organization — and maybe they are already happening and people just don’t know it yet”.

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