Good Arabs, Bad Arabs

It’s such a pain when reality proves to be too complex to fit our favorite theories. A new book, Hillel Cohen’s Army of Shadows: Palestinian Collaboration with Zionism, 1917-1948 (University of California Press 2008), shows how varied the Palestinian Arab response to Zionism was, by investigating those Arabs who chose to collaborate with the Jews. As he demonstrates, the negative connotations we attach to the label “collaborator” can be misleading.

(I translated this book into English. I have not discussed these issues with Cohen and the view I offer here is mine alone.)

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Why I Like South Jerusalem

Yesterday, Ilana and I attended a funeral at a moshav near Netanya. And as always happens on our occasional trips to places where there’s lots of space, we momentarily longed to sell our tiny apartment and move out to the country.

The two-hour drive back was enough make me appreciate the city and remind me why we returned to Jerusalem after our year-long sojourn at Kibbutz Tirat Tzvi in 1990-1991. In the country, you have to spend a lot of time driving to get pretty much anywhere. And I hate spending time in car. Living in Baka, our Jerusalem neighborhood, we don’t even own a car.

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Computers on the Brain: Why We Need Philosophers

Everyone says that brains are like computers. Well, maybe not everyone, but neuroscientists and philosophers of mind use this analogy in their attempts to understand how brains work. This is important information regarding the knowledge behind how people are actually able to concentrate and focus on their work from time to time. This is the type of information that is needed when people want to get focus supplements to help their brain work at the best possible level. On the face of it, the comparison is clear. We know what computers are and we know what brains are, after all. Just like we know that a rock is a rock and an apple is an apple and a democracy is a democracy, right?

Actually, it’s not that simple, as Hebrew University philosopher Oron Shagrir explained yesterday in a talk he gave at Bar-Ilan University as part of its Science, Technology, and Society Colloquium.

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A Pre-Post-Zionist?

A ritual seems to get played out every time a new and original work of Israeli history comes out. Sooner or later, a major review pronounces the book and its author to be “post-Zionist.” What this usually means is that the book has suggested a new way of looking at Israel that is not a knee-jerk confirmation of the reviewer’s right-wing prejudices.

The common wisdom—summed up, for example, in Yoram Hazony’s The Jewish State—is that once all Israeli historians were staunch and loyal Zionists, and that sometime around the 1980s or so a vicious cabal of self-hating eggheads decided to launch a frontal attack on Israel’s founding principles.

But wait a minute—a similar attack was mounted long ago against a man who today resides in Israel’s pantheon of Zionist historians—Jacob Katz.

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