Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). His latest book is Israel: An Introduction, to be published by Yale University Press in January 2012. You can read more of Barry Rubin's posts at Rubin Reports, and now on his new blog, Rubin Reports, on Pajamas Media
By Barry Rubin
I ran into an older, retired Israeli colleague who is a fine scholar in his field. We hadn’t met for 25 years and agreed to have coffee in a nearby Tel Aviv cafe. In the ensuing conversation I learned some key things about why current intellectual and political discussion is such a wreck.
The retired professor has read nothing I’ve written. He is on the left-wing politically, in the historic non-Communist sense, but his work has always been first-rate and untouched by any political slant. In addition, he has worked amicably with people of different views. And that’s why I was dismayed by his first question: “Are you left-wing or right-wing?”
I sighed, partly because I hate this starting point of dividing people into two categories. A more appropriate question would have been: What do you think of….? To classify someone is to decide in advance to agree or disagree with whatever they say. To ask someone their view makes it possible to listen and think about the quality of their ideas.
A scholar or analyst, whatever his personal views, should do work that is beyond politics.
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