About this Blog

I am an American with a long and deep attachment to Israel. I came of age soon after the establishment of the State in 1948 and grew up in a religiously observant family that believed strongly in the necessity of a Jewish homeland. For the last 15 years of my professional life, I directed large Jewish educational programs that served thousands in the American Jewish community. Since 2007, I have split my time between Tel Aviv and Boston, spending about half the year in each place.

I came to writing this blog out of concern for where Israel is heading. Extreme right-wing ideologies have taken hold of the country and become hugely influential. In recent years there have been ongoing, concerted attacks lodged against the fundamental democratic values and basic principles upon which the State was founded. If they succeed – and there is a serious danger that they will – it will make the country unrecognizable in the not-too-distant future.

News-wise, much of this is happening under the radar. It is seldom covered in the mainstream press, especially in the Jewish press outside Israel. Though that media frequently covers certain topics in great detail – Iran, the Arab spring – there is often scant attention to the erosion of Israel’s democratic underpinnings. Yet these shifts in Israel’s politics and character will have major impacts on the society for years to come.

The good news is that there is an active network of human rights non-governmental organizations (NGOs), mostly staffed by professional researchers and attorneys, who work to produce volumes of research reports, videos and testimonies about what has been happening here. My goal is to distill much of this information into a form that is accessible to the average reader who is too busy to read 50 or 70 page reports.

I also will be the eyes and ears of you, the reader, as I travel throughout Israel and the West Bank, providing first-hand accounts of what I encounter. And I will supplement what I see and hear with press reports from reputable sources or will sometimes link to opinion pieces that I think are particularly insightful.

Above all, I will strive to write with integrity and accuracy, and present the facts as best as they can be determined. I’ll try to keep my own feelings and opinions to a minimum. I would rather let readers make up their minds for themselves about the situations and developments I describe, based on the material presented.

And although much of what I write about may be troubling, I will also strive to write about the positive aspects of Israeli society. This is a vibrant culture where people engage intensely and where a sense of an underlying collective still prevails. I will be covering that as well.

After reading this blog, I hope readers will want to support and defend the human rights NGOs whose work I will be drawing upon and who are playing such a critically important role. I also hope readers will communicate with their elected officials and Jewish community leaders to help them understand that there is a range of views about Israel among American Jews – that it is okay to be critical of the government but still strongly support the country – and that there is enormous complexity and nuance to the situation here.

You can follow this blog by subscribing in the top of the right hand column to receive new posts via email, Twitter, or RSS feeds.  I hope you join the community of readers who are already doing so.

Allen Katzoff

5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Judy Labensohn
    Dec 24, 2011 @ 11:01:09

    Dear Allen, I am so excited by your blog and glad that you’re not just basking in the TA sunshine and sipping green smoothies on the sand. Tell me about the place where I live! Judy at http://www.writeinisrael.com

    Reply

  2. Ailin
    Feb 07, 2012 @ 09:45:36

    Hey Allen! Keep up the fantastic work! As I’m learning every day, it’s all about multiple narratives and nuance. Once we can all accept the pluraluty of truth, we’ll all become a little kinder to one another, perhaps. xox

    Reply

  3. Sharon Reisfield
    Apr 01, 2012 @ 09:54:19

    Allen, your blog resonates profoundly with this one ex-Jersey girl, raised on liberal values and the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., I am finding myself more and more missing that society which atleast lauds human rights as a value, and becoming absolutely disheartened with the current state of affairs.

    Reply

  4. William Bilek, M.D.
    Apr 18, 2012 @ 23:50:47

    Allen, now that I have read the introduction of where you come from, I have a better understanding of why you support Beinart’s work. You are of identical mindsets.

    I am really sorry that you have not found time to continue our discussion which began in The Times of Israel. While I believe that you have a right to your opinion, and even a “right” to ask “readers (to) communicate with their elected officials and Jewish community leaders to help them understand that there is a range of views about Israel among American Jews “, I believe, most passionately, that such action is irresponsible, anti-democratic, and circumvents the expressed will of the majority of the Israeli electorate, with whom you disagree, but do not share their existential risks.

    I am also troubled by your dependence on NGO’s, many of them largely funded by foreign groups and governments that are not “friends of Israel”; some of whom were even in the forefront of the anti-Semitic hatefest that was Durban.

    Reply

    • Allen Katzoff
      Apr 19, 2012 @ 06:09:44

      Hi Bill,
      I thought I had answered your comments on the Times of Israel site. If you recall, I had written that prohibiting Americans who live outside Israel from criticizing Israel is the same as prohibiting them from criticizing other countries that face dismemberment from powerful secessionist movements, threats of bloody deadly civil war, or all manner of other potential catastrophes. One could argue that israel is a special case, that it faces “exstential threats,” but there are other countries and groups that have also faced existential threats (Rwanda, Darfur, etc.) yet we need to criticize those grovernments or the leaders of opposition groups there when they are oppressive or violate human rights. They also use the victimhood argument to justify human rights violations. The implications of your postion is that Americans should only criticize America and leave the rest of the world to its own devices. I respectfully disagree with you on that.

      Your accusations against the human rights NGOs verges on the slanderous. They are not anti-semitic and I suggest that before you publicly make those types of accusations against a entire class of people — good people who devote their lives to fighting injustice and oppression — you might want to meet them and see who they are and learn they sacrifice so much. In my opinion, they are true tzadikim. You may disagree with them but your accusations do exactly what Beinart was criticizing: squelching debate and discussion, the very hallmarks of a democracy.

      Reply

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