Donald Trump’s decision Wednesday to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is likely to shake up the Middle East for years to come. In the meantime, a quieter Israeli foreign relations conflict has sprung up in Texas: Consul General of Israel to the Southwest United States Gilad Katz vs. the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
Katz hadn’t even arrived at his Houston office on Monday morning when, scanning the headlines in Israeli media, he learned that Adolf Hitler’s infamous manifesto “Mein Kampf” is permitted in Texas prisons. Meanwhile, a slate of uncontroversial classics — including titles like Where’s Waldo? Santa Spectacular and the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Color Purple — are among more than 10,000 books banned in Texas lockups.
“I thought, ‘I have to do something,’” Katz said.
On Tuesday, he penned a letter to Texas Board of Criminal Justice Chairman Dale Wainwright expressing his deep concern.
“We feel it is inappropriate to include a book from such [a] notorious leader of one of the most murderous regimes in history,” Katz wrote.
He hasn’t yet heard back. Jason Clark, the Department of Criminal Justice’s deputy chief of staff, would not comment on the letter Wednesday, noting only that “offenders have access to thousands of publications.”
Texas’ policies on prison reading have long been criticized as arbitrary, even bordering on censorship. When a list of the prison system’s banned books was released last month, Texas free speech and criminal justice advocates called out the department for its seemingly subjective decisions.
Books may be banned from Texas prisons for containing certain sexual content, information about the manufacturing of various weapons or material that could be used to execute a criminal scheme, among other reasons.
Clark told The Dallas Morning News last month that “Mein Kampf is on the approved list because it does not violate our rules.”
“Mein Kampf,” which translates to “my struggle,” was written while Hitler himself was in prison and forecasts the murderous dictator’s plans for the Holocaust. The manifesto’s place in public dialogue has long been disputed. Along with a pair of books authored by former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke, it is one of the most controversial titles allowed in Texas prisons.
Katz said that although the policy governs Texas inmates, it is “very, very disturbing” to Israelis.
“Letting [prison inmates] read ‘Mein Kampf’ is not moral. It’s just not moral,” Katz told the Tribune on Wednesday.
Katz said he hopes to meet with Wainwright to discuss a potential policy change but isn’t sure what steps he’ll take beyond that.
This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2017/12/06/texas-prisons-ban-more-10000-books-israeli-diplomat-wants-know-why-hit/. The Texas Tribune is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.