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Peace Roadmap

Selling a Vision of Hope: A Refreshing Alternative to Armageddon

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Vision of Hope
Archive >> December 2008
file under: Gazafrom hate to hope 31 Dec 2008 10:18 AM
We Could Argue Until The Cows Come Home...Or... Posted by Nissim Dahan
On the surface, at least, the purpose of a system of justice is to bring justice. In America, however, every defendant has the right to legal counsel. Every once in a while a sharp and crafty lawyer can get the defendant off, even if he was caught with blood on his hands. Such is the power of a persuasive argument. But is justice served when legal arguments and loopholes are used to subvert the truth?


We see unfolding before our eyes a tragedy in Gaza. Innocent civilians are losing their lives even as we speak. And as we witness the events of recent days, we also hear some rather persuasive arguments on both sides of the conflict. And since there are strong equities on both sides, and since the arguments are often equally persuasive, depending which side you're on, then the same question arises once again: Is the cause of justice being served?


From the Palestinian side we hear arguments which would constitute a strong case in a court of law: that Israel is responding disproportionately in relation to the initial provocation of the firing of the homemade rockets and mortars, that the rockets were fired as an act of self-defense in the face of the closures and the economic boycott of Gaza, that only a few Israelis have died as opposed to hundreds of Palestinians, that the targeting of civilians violates international law, and so forth, and so on.


Likewise, those in support of Israel could counter these charges with equally persuasive arguments: that in the face of mortal enemies Israel is forced to project a strong image of deterrence, that the closure and boycott of Gaza came in response to a constant barrage of rocket fire which can potentially target as many as 500,000 Israelis, that the respective number of casualties on either side does not negate the right to self-defense, that the civilian casualties are not intended but are inevitable when the militants choose to position themselves among civilians, and so forth, and so on.


These are just some of the arguments that are volleyed back and forth like ping pong balls. And yet, where is the justice? What do you say to a mother who lost five beautiful daughters who were only trying to make their way on a horse-drawn carriage? We can continue to argue back and forth, and satisfy ourselves that we are out doing one another in the blame game. Or we can be a bit more original, and bring forth peace, instead.


For peace to happen, a lot of things will have to change. Foremost, as far as I can tell, is the way we think. In a way, when we go about gingerly arguing our positions endlessly, with no clear outcome in sight, aren't we being just a little bit selfish? It's about what I believe and what I think. In other words, it's about me. And what is lost in the focus on me, is we.


We are all entitled to our beliefs, and to our ways of seeing the world. But are we entitled to trap ourselves in a vicious cycle of recriminations, a cycle that has no beginning, and no end, a cycle that will deprive our children of their right to a decent and peaceful life? It may well be time, before time runs out, and believe me, time is running out, to step out of ourselves and beyond our differences. It may be time to put on a shelf at least some of who we are and what we believe, in favor of something we can believe in even more, in favor of peace, in favor of sustainability, in favor of what makes sense.


Imagine, if we continue down the path we're going, we may well find ourselves all dead, and even in death, arguing our case before God: "Oh God," we'll say, "We were right about this or that, and we had no choice but to do what we did, in your name no less." And what do you think God would say in response? "I gave you life so that you could live, not kill, and not die, before your time. I gave you the common sense to bring a semblance of order to your lives. I gave you a wondrous world, full of beauty, so that you could create a paradise right here and right now.  And what did you do instead? You took what could have been a heaven on earth, and made it into a living hell. And you did all that in My name? Well guess what...thanks but no thanks."


Here is my dream for the Palestinian people for the New Year: a country of their own, side by side Israel, a country which enjoys the blessings of peace, prosperity, and freedom, where every citizen has the opportunity to pursue his or her dreams, and where every child dares to reach for the stars.


This war, tragic as it is, will soon come to an end, God willing. And then, hard as it may be to believe, because of many factors which are converging as we speak, there will be an opportunity to broker a lasting peace. Things can be done, right here and right now, by Palestinians, Israelis, and the rest of us around the world, to improve the chances for peace. But in order to do what we have to do, we will have to let go of some of our beliefs, of some of the history, and of some of who we are. We will let go of this, however reluctantly, so that we can realize a better version of ourselves, a version of ourselves that gives fuller expression to the potential for good that is within each and every one of us.


We were created in God's image. And so, like Him, we too are creators. It is time to create a version of ourselves that allows God to see His image in us.

file under: vision of hopeterrorism 8 Dec 2008 8:39 AM
What Does Mumbai Mean? Posted by Nissim Dahan
I don't claim any particular expertise in Indian/Pakistani relations. However, given the horrific events of recent days, I think that certain conclusions can be drawn.


1. Terrorism will not go away any time soon: Given the strong probability that there will always be various groups around the world whose members perceive themselves to be the victims of injustice, and given that as few as 10 men, acting in tandem, and with scant resources, could wreak such havoc in a huge metropolitan city like Mumbai, the chances are good that terrorism is likely to persist, as a relatively inexpensive way of lashing out, making your grievances known, and effectuating change.


2. The recruitment and training of terrorists is not particularly difficult: From what I've read, the lone terrorist, who participated in and survived the attack, has a 4th grade education, and admits to having been trained in a training camp located somewhere in Pakistan. It is apparent, therefore, that recruiting prospective terrorists, and inculcating in them an ideological mindset which predisposes them to carry out suicide missions, is both feasible, and not particularly difficult. It is also obvious that there are, as we speak, organized training camps, operating with impunity, in places like Pakistan, and probably in a great many other places as well.


3. The governments of countries which host terrorist training facilities are unable or unwilling to clamp down on such activities: We must assume that if terrorist camps are operating in countries like Pakistan, then the government leaders must know about such activities, and are currently unable or unwilling to eradicate them. It is not difficult to fathom why. Clearly, such governments may lack the resources, or may lack the political will, since acting forcefully in this regard could well result in civil war, which may pose even more of a threat than the terrorism itself. It is also possible that corruption may be playing a part in the decision making process, whereby people are being paid off to remain silent and to do nothing to disturb the status quo. There are quiet understandings in place.


4. There is a limit to the outside pressure that can be brought to bear against a nuclear power: Even if India rightfully claims that the Pakistani leadership is not doing enough to curb the threat of terrorism, its hands may be tied when dealing with a nation that possesses some 60 nuclear weapons. A military reprisal from India against Pakistan, which will probably not occur, will not likely be strong enough to curb the terrorist threat, given the need to show restraint, in an effort to minimize the risk of a nuclear confrontation.


So given the realities on the ground, and the constraints they impose, what should the world do to contain the terrorist threat? My answer would be to Sell a Vision of Hope, by which we use a multi-faceted approach to undermine the enemy, by beating him at his own game, and by strengthening our resolve to meet the threats he poses:


1. Ideology: If the terrorist uses the divisive ideology of violent Jihad to win hearts and minds, we counter with the unifying Ideology of Common Sense, an ideology based on common sense principles, principles which have universal appeal, and which are therefore universally accepted as true. We will use a new ideological framework to speak to one another with common sense and with a sense of personal dignity. In a more perfect world, common sense, the collective wisdom born of shared experience, will inspire our thinking and inform our speech. In our fractured world, common sense is the common denominator.


2. Investment: If the terrorist uses charitable handouts to win hearts and minds, we counter by investing in jobs, green technology jobs which protect the environment, which grow our economies, and which help to neutralize the hold of extremist thinking.


3. Hope: If the terrorist wins hearts and minds by selling people on a vision of hope for martyrdom, or virgins, or paradise, or what have you, we counter by selling people on a Vision of Hope, a vision of Peace, Prosperity, and Freedom. People the world over need hope like air to breathe. Give the man on the street a sense of hope, and you will have turned the corner on world peace. Nothing more is needed and nothing less will suffice.


4. Public Diplomacy: If the terrorist wins hearts and minds by seeking to set us against one another, we counter by launching a series of Public Diplomacy Programs which are specifically designed to prop a Vision of Hope up and to carry it forward, including: a program to empower women, a media campaign, a student exchange, a cultural exchange, an expanded version of the Peace Corps, and a series of international conferences on education, religion and the environment. Take, for example, the program to empower women by financing female entrepreneurs, and promoting women's rights. Who are women? They are the givers of life, and the caretakers of life, and as such are uniquely qualified to reconstitute their societies consistent with a Vision of Hope.


5. Fight: If the terrorist wins hearts and minds by launching terror attacks against us, we counter by fighting back, and fighting hard, but we position the fight within a Vision of Hope. We raise the fight on the ground to a higher moral plain by giving the fight a moral clarity of purpose. We give the fight a good measure of credibility. People will fight harder once they know what they're fighting for. We're not fighting a "war against terror." We are fighting a war to realize a Vision of Hope. There's a big difference.


To defeat terrorism, or at least to contain it, we have to become at least as smart, and at least as committed, as the terrorists themselves. We owe it to ourselves to know our enemy, and to beat him at his own game. In effect, we have to co-opt his strategy, to do what he does, only better, and thereby marginalize him in the eyes of his own people. We have to put him in the uncomfortable and untenable position of holding his people back from a better life. Even the terrorist will not be able to withstand that kind of pressure. He will become a pariah in his own land, walking out of step with the will of the people. Ultimately, the will of the people will not be deterred.


The terrorist derives his power from his ability to inspire his followers, even as he intimidates his enemy. Our path to victory will be to inspire our own people, and even people around the world who may choose to partner with us, because unlike the terrorist, we have something better to sell. We can win the war of ideas by showing that our ideas make more sense, and that we are willing to back our words up with new realities on the ground, realities which speak louder than words, and which point toward the promise that comes with hope. In the final analysis, the ideological extremists will not be able to capture the public's imagination, once people begin to imagine a better life for themselves. It behooves the West to put that option on the table.


We, who are often on the receiving end of terror, can certainly coordinate our efforts better, and embolden ourselves with a vision that gives purpose to our cause. But we may also have to resign ourselves to the possibility that even with a better vision, and even with a more comprehensive and effective approach, the lure of extremist thinking will be hard for some to resist. Terrorism is jut too convenient and enticing a weapon for us to be able to eliminate it totally.


Therefore, even though we could do a lot better in this regard, we may just have to accept a small measure of terror as an unfortunate aspect of modern life, not unlike how we have come to accept the unfortunate realities of crime on our streets, or accidents on our highways. Selling one another on a Vision of Hope will not cure all our ills, but will help contain them, and will inspire us to realize our potential as a species, and to meet the challenges which lie ahead with vigor and resolve.