The journalist Robert Wright argues in his book “Nonzero” that communication, cooperation and trust increase the likelihood that humans can avoid that favored term of game theorists: the zero-sum game. Whereas greater complexity and nuance allow us to avoid the zero-sum trap, the more simplistic and insular we are, the more likely we are to fall into it.
Recent events have cast a dark pall over Israel. The total collapse of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) has led the latter to pursue the course of unilateral action, as reflected in the drive for United Nations affirmation of Palestinian statehood in September. Meanwhile, a wave of parliamentary activity, instigated by Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu Party, threatens to undermine key foundations of Israel’s democratic tradition by seeking to stifle dissent and free expression.
As we walked back from shul on a recent Shabbat, my friend and neighbor David Myers asked me if I was "comfortable" with the service we had just attended.
A recent report in The New York Times captured almost perfectly the thorny questions that stand at the center of relations between the American Jewish community and Israel. Should one be permitted to criticize the government of a foreign country with which one feels a deep affinity, or is it a moral and political imperative to support the policies of that government, right or wrong?
In the opening book of his monumental code of Jewish law, Maimonides declared, "We are bidden to walk in the middle paths which are the right and proper ways...." The great medieval sage was articulating the golden mean, the principle that we should avoid extreme behavior, ethical or physical, at all times. The person who succeeds -- indeed, who navigates between indulgence and self-denial -- is, by Maimonides' standards, the wise one.