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Babel: A Guide to the East-West Encounter, Ofer Grosbard

Reviewed by Yael Aronoff

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Ofer Grosbard constructs a framework to improve intercultural communication between what he characterizes as Western Israeli actors and their counterparts from Arab or “Eastern” cultures. In Babel: A Guide to the East-West Encounter, he constructs this framework by providing numerous interesting examples of misunderstandings in previous Israeli-Arab negotiations and suggests alternative ways that Israeli, Egyptian, Jordanian, Palestinian, Syrian, and American negotiators could have improved their communication during key interactions.

Other authors have generalized that Western cultures tend to be more individualistic and Eastern peoples tend to be more collectivist. To those traditions, Grosbard adds several categories of delineation. The book is organized by “Eastern-thinking,” “outwardly-directed” and “Western-thinking,” “inwardly directed” paradigms. In “Eastern thinking,” he argues, respect, identification, authoritativeness, and social skills are prioritized and serve as the lenses through which negotiators communicate and perceive the communication of others; “Western thinking” prioritizes admiration, empathy, assertiveness, and critical thinking. The book employs a number of examples from previous Israeli-Arab negotiations to show the successes and (mostly) fail

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