Why this blog?

203Born and raised in a multilingual family in Istanbul, I moved twice, first to New York and then to Paris, long after my distant Sephardic Jewish ancestors’ emigration from Spain to Turkey. These voluntary exiles have allowed me to acquire both an insider’s perspective on “foreign” cultures (American, French, “Western”) and an outsider’s perspective on my own multiple cultures.

During my eight-year stay in New York I was impressed and influenced by the existence of a powerful independent press and how pivotal an actor it is in a democracy. My stay in New York, where I started as a graduate student in industrial and management engineering at Columbia University, was an opportunity to observe the importance of being well informed and thus the value of good journalism in a democracy. It was, after all, the relentless efforts of two young Washington Post reporters that eventually led to the resigning of the president of the United States in 1974 after the Watergate scandal.

Later, after settling in Paris, I organized with two Parisian friends a set of round-table debates and cultural events, designed as a “Jewish component” of the Turkish Season in France in 2009, in Paris, Marseille and Montpellier. The initiative aimed to educate the French audience by highlighting common political interests between Turkey, Israel, and the European Union.

An article that I wrote, in French, on how Turkish perceptions of France have evolved over the last few years and on the issues that continue to influence bilateral relations was published in the geopolitics magazine Outre-Terre in their December 2012 issue.

Capitalizing on this experience and as an eager quadri-cultural observer of society, in this blog, I will regularly bring new perspectives, in English, Turkish and French, on developments in – and idiosyncracies of – Turkey, Israel, United States and France, countries whose news media I monitor regularly. The blog will focus mostly on these countries’ relationship with their own Jewish and other minorities and on the bilateral relationships between these countries.

Alfandar aims, with the readers’ comments, to contribute to being “less wrong” about the “other” cultures and about our own. It aims to offer a balanced perspective, uncover unduly negative media coverage, challenge sweeping or unfounded generalizations, publicize “positive” news that most media tend to ignore, and contribute to sharing “best practices” among these four cultures.

So send your comments, tell your friends and see you every two weeks on Alfandar!

 Michel Alfandari