The Washington- and Jerusalem-based pro-Israel lobby organization The Israel Project (TIP) claims to be dedicated to “get(ting) facts about Israel and the Middle East to press, public officials and the public.” But it appears that the group is not always particularly interested in getting the facts out. A ThinkProgress investigation has revealed that not only is TIP connected to an Iran-focused media group allegedly based in London, but also the pro-Israel group appears to be trying to cover up those ties.
Last year, a LobeLog investigation of TIP revealed ties between the group and a European media organization called Réalité-EU, a group that “focuses on developments in Iran and the Middle East which pose a global threat.” When asked about Réalité-EU’s connections to The Israel Project, TIP co-founder and president Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi intimated that the reporter (this post’s co-author, Eli Clifton, now at ThinkProgress) was a conspiracy theorist and asked that he “pls [sic] check your facts before you make me/TIP into some scary boogie man.”
Now, ThinkProgress has learned that in 2008, the Réalité-EU project received a quarter-million dollars through a donation made to TIP by the Marcus Foundation. According to the foundation’s tax filings [PDF], TIP, at its K Street address, received the $250,000 for “Iran Media Project – Realite-EU,” which was listed as the “Project Title.” A screen capture of the grant can be viewed below:
While TIP is focused on Israel first and foremost, the group also regularly focuses on the Iranian threat to Israel and the U.S. However, Réalité-EU is more narrowly focused on the Iranian threat in general. TIP has made no secret of its pro-Israel leanings and its mission of giving a “more positive public face” to Israel and Israeli government policies. But Réalité-EU has never presented itself as a pro-Israel organization or publicly associated with pro-Israel organizations like TIP.
Despite this clear evidence of TIP’s connection to Réalité-EU, neither side will admit the relationship exists. ThinkProgress asked all parties involved about the Marcus Foundation grant to TIP for the Réalité-EU project, but no one proffered answers to repeated inquiries. Gerlinde Gerber, a communications associate at Réalité-EU, answered a London, U.K. telephone number for the project, but said she was in Washington, D.C. When asked about connections between Réalité-EU and TIP, Gerber told ThinkProgress she is “not authorized” to speak about the topic.
When asked if she was based at TIP’s Washington office, Gerber again refused to answer. ThinkProgress then called TIP’s main switchboard and asked for Gerber. We were told, “Sure, hold on one second.” After a couple minutes on hold, the line went dead. On a second try, a new receptionist answered and told ThinkProgress no one with that name was at TIP.
TIP president Mizrahi also did not answer direct e-mail inquiries or multiple messages left with her organization regarding the Marcus Foundation grant and TIP’s communications director Alan Elsner refused to discuss the issue and hung up.
Mizrahi had previously lashed out when asked by LobeLog about Réalité-EU’s connection to TIP, writing, “I goggled [sic] you and it seems you are a blogger who sees war mongering Jews all over the place. Oh, what a danger! I hope the world will be safe from them!” Mizrahi claimed she was a “peace activist” and pleaded that she not be painted “as some right-wing crazy.” She then passed along a quote from the organization’s “web guy” saying the two groups are “not connected.”
But Mizrahi has a history of associations with right-wing activism. In her personal capacity, Mizrahi gave $25,000 to the neoconservative think tank the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD). Staff members at FDD, which is heavily focused on Iran, regularly advocate for a military strike against Iran. And generally, TIP has espoused extreme views on Israel. Recently, the organization has suggested that talking heads should refer to the effort to end settlements in the West Bank as “ethnic cleansing.” And a guide produced by the group instructs its American allies to stoke fear of immigrants and 9/11 when discussing Israel’s “right of return” debate.
Separately, a ThinkProgress investigation recently revealed that TIP has paid at least $140,000 to disgraced Christian right lobbyist Ralph Reed, who is currently promoting right-wing Israeli policies in the Republican Party.
Just as Mizrahi’s associations with advocates for war with Iran and far-right-wing opponents of a two-state solution should raise questions about her bona fides as a “peace activist,” TIP and Réalité-EU’s inability to answer basic questions about their organizations and their ties to each other should raise questions about their mission to inform media and the public about the “facts” in the Middle East.