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Selling a Vision of Hope: A Refreshing Alternative to Armageddon

Look inside Nissim Dahan's book Selling a Vision of Hope with Google Books.

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Obama says political progress needed before more Iraq aid

President Barack Obama and Saudi Arabia's King Salman walk together to a meeting at Erga Palace in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Wednesday, April 20, 2016. The president begins a six day trip to strategize with his counterparts in Saudi Arabia, England and Germany on a broad range of issues with efforts to rein in the Islamic State group being the common denominator in all three stops. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) ? President Barack Obama said Thursday that the U.S. and its Gulf partners should wait to see whether Iraq can resolve its political crisis before committing more financial aid, arguing that the paralysis is impeding U.S.-led efforts to defeat the Islamic State group and reconstruct the war-torn country.

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Vision of Hope
Archive >> July 2011
file under: vision of hopepeace in the Middle Eastcivil disobiencea new model 28 Jul 2011 12:03 PM
A Day at the Beach Posted by Nissim Dahan
 

A friend of mine brought to my attention a recent article by Ethan Bronner in The New York Times, Where Politics Are Complex, Simple Joys at the Beach. The article describes a group of Israeli women who engage in civil disobedience by sneaking into Israel groups of Palestinian women to enjoy a day at the beach. The Israeli women, who call themselves We Will Not Obey, are willing to break the law to send the message that in their opinion, the occupation, with its attendent legislation, is unjust and should be brought to an end. The Palestinian women are willing to take the heat from their husbands, friends, and families, to enjoy a day at the beach, and to taste a small measure of freedom.

 

While the beach scene may seem idyllic on its face, not everything goes smoothly on such occasions. A Palestinian woman, who has five of her brothers in Israeli prisons, and whose other brother was killed when he entered a settler religious academy armed with a knife, said, "This is all ours," when she first entered Tel Aviv. The Israeli women reminded her, however, that his was their home. Another Palestinian woman admitted that her husband's family did not approve of her visits, "How can you be with the Jews, they ask me, are you a collaborator?"

 

So perhaps the deep seated divide between these two people is still there, only to be temporarily papered over by an occasional act of defiance, an occasional visit to the beach. But something about this story struck me as significant. Perhaps it was the fact that women, and not men, were taking the initiative to defy the law, but in a gentle, and non-violent manner. Women, on the whole, seem to have a keen sense of right and wrong, and are not naturally inclined to obsess over ideological differences. Women have better things to do with their time. They tend to build bridges, not walls.

 

Our daughter gave birth to her fourth child this week. At a moment's notice, my wife and she sprang into action, making the necessary arrangements to bring this child into the world, and to care for her as best they could. For the most part, the men sat back, watched, and marveled at it all.  Who are women, I often ask myself. 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, a vision of Peace, Prosperity and Freedom.

 

There are many instances, around the world, of a disconnect between the policies of government and the aspirations of the people. The majority of Israelis and Palestinians want peace, but their leaders seem disinclined to make the effort. In the Arab world, the man on the street wants a decent job and the personal freedom to live his life as he sees fit. And yet, the powers that be remain committed to a model that is repressive and out of step with the will of the people. In the United States, Republicans and Democrats, who are debating a solution to debt crisis, are willing to play a game of chicken with the full faith and credit of the country, which could wreak economic havoc in the U.S. and around the world.

 

Leaders, on all sides of the fence, get caught up in ideological traps, traps which imprison their thinking, traps which make it difficult to find common ground, and traps which make compromise a dirty word. At a time when global problems require global solutions, narrow-minded ideological positions keep us cooped up in our own little worlds. And it's going to take more than a Day at the Beach for us to enjoy the light of day.

 

One of the Israeli women mentioned Rosa Parks, "...I admire her, because she had the courage to break a law that was not right." Yes, but that was not enough. What was needed was a vision, a big vision of hope. Dr. King was a man possessed of such a vision, a vision of civil rights and equal treatment under the law. Ordinarily, Rosa Parks' refusal to give up her seat on the bus, would have been a non-event. But Dr. King was no ordinary man. He was a man possessed of a vision, a big vision of hope. He saw in Rosa Parks an opportunity to give substance to his vision, and soon enough, the reality on the ground grew to fill up the space created by the vision. Such is the dynamic of change in the world, and such is the prescription for change in the Middle East.

 

So let us enjoy our Day at the Beach. Let us continue to push the envelope, just a tad, and without violence, to get our voices heard. But let us, as well, find the courage and the wisdom to give purpose to our passions. Let us embrace a Vision of Hope, a vision of Peace, Prosperity and Freedom, and let us give substance to that vision by changing peoples' lives for the better, with new realities that speak louder than words, and which help to break the walls of ideological divides.

 

 

file under: Middle East Peacelegislationboycottsa new model for the Middle East 17 Jul 2011 3:00 PM
Is the Boycott Law Good for Israel? Posted by Nissim Dahan
 

In the Wild, Wild West, American settlers used to "circle the wagons" when their wagon train came under attack. Some of Israel's lawmakers are doing something similar in our time.

 

Faced with a barrage of international criticisms, and with a concerted campaign to delegitimize the Jewish state, and with mounting calls for boycotts, divestment and sanctions, some lawmakers have taken it upon themselves to pass laws which are intended to stem the tide of widespread condemnation of Israel's policies vis a vis the Palestinians.

 

One such law, The Boycott Law, allows for civil suits against Israelis who organize or publicly endorse boycotts against Israel or its institutions, including universities, settlements and businesses in the West Bank. While the law does not call for criminal sanctions, it does allow the victim of boycotts to sue for damages in civil court.

 

Critics of the legislation say that it violates free speech and free expression. Proponents say that free speech, which has its limits, does not give us the right to injure the economic wellbeing of others. They also say something along these lines, "How can we ask the world community to ban boycotts against Israel, if we aren't willing to do so ourselves?"

 

In my opinion, even though I understand the rationale for such laws, and even though I can relate to the pain caused by efforts to delegitimize Israel as the home for the Jewish people, especially given the painful history that brought Israel into existence in the first place, still, I believe that on the whole, such laws do more harm than good.

 

There are several reasons I oppose The Boycott Law: it doesn't work, it helps Israel's enemies, it fundamentally undermines what Israel is all about, and it diverts attention from what needs to be done to restore Israel's standing in the world.

 

The Boycott Law will not work. On the contrary, when people who believe strongly in a cause are told "no," they become even more emboldened to do exactly the opposite. Numerous examples come to mind. The Viet Nam War, for example, was opposed by millions of Americans, some of whom took to the streets, burned their draft cards in the face of criminal prosecutions, and brought the government to its knees in a bid to end the war. The Arab Spring, although the final results are still in play, is a recent example of people taking to the streets and declaring a resounding "yes" to freedom, while assuming incalculable personal risks themselves. Simply put, it is almost impossible, over the long term, to legislate successfully against the idealistic fervor of those who are deeply committed. It doesn't work, and may actually embolden those who have been sitting quietly on the sidelines.

 

Another problem with The Boycott Law is that is gives fodder to Israel's enemies, who are waging a propaganda war against the Jewish state, and who search for any means possible to discredit and delegitimize the state. Therefore, while Israel holds herself out as a "democratic" state, with full freedom bestowed on its citizenry, the Boycott Law can easily be portrayed as an affront to democracy, and as a curtailment to free speech. The enemies of Israel could easily say, "What kind of democracy can Israel be is she sets out to curtail the freedom of expression of her own people?" Even the Anti-Defamation League, not exactly a bastion of liberal thinking, criticized the law saying it could impinge on the "basic democratic right of Israelis to freedom of speech and freedom of expression."

 

The Boycott Law is also dangerous because it can lead to a slippery slope by which Israel loses sight of her identity, her historical legacy, and the moral justification for her existence. Israel came into being, in part, because of 2000 years of oppression of the Jewish people, including forced exile, forced conversion, discrimination, inquisitions, pogroms, etc., ultimately culminating in the Holocaust, which continues to stand as one of the most evil deeds perpetrated by the hand of man.

 

Out of the ashes of the Holocaust, came the birth of a new nation, the nation of Israel, in the land where Jews were historically and religiously connection for over 3000 years. It was fitting, therefore, considering what Jews went through to get a state of their own, that this nation would be democratic and free, and would protect the rights of all minorities, and would serve as a "light unto the nations." In many respects, Israel has lived up to this enormous challenge, and has come to embody much of what is needed to revitalize the Middle East: economic prosperity, job creation, education, democratic rule, personal freedom, the rule of law, protection of minorities, empowerment of women, etc. It would be very wrong indeed to allow the "paranoia" of the moment to undercut Israel's stellar achievements, to discount her ability to do good in the world, and to confuse her sense of identity.

 

My final objection to The Boycott Law is that it diverts attention from what really needs to be done to restore Israel's image in the world. Our goal, as Israelis, should be to consummate a peace deal with the Palestinians, and to bring an end to the occupation, as soon as peace is possible. In the meantime, to facilitate and expedite the peace process, we should be doing things which point to the possibility of peace, such as spearheading an effort to revitalize the Middle East economically with good paying jobs, to put new models in place, and to promote the emergence of personal freedoms throughout the region. The Boycott Law is a short-sighted diversion, an ideological poke in the eye, which diverts attention from constructive action that could be taken, even at this time, to end the diplomatic paralysis, to build neutral pathways to peace, and to move forward on a Vision of Hope for the region, a vision of Peace, Prosperity and Freedom.

 

file under: vision of hopeAmerican DreamAmericaa new model for the Middle East4th of July 5 Jul 2011 1:22 PM
Happy Birthday America Posted by Nissim Dahan
 

Granted, I may be somewhat biased in this regard, but to my mind at least, the United States of America is the greatest country on earth, and probably the greatest country that ever was, and unfortunately, every once in a while, it comes time to prove it. This is such a time.

 

The problems which sit stubbornly at America's doorstep are numerous and overwhelming: a huge debt burden that threatens future generations, a slow economy that is slow to rebound, high unemployment, two wars being fought with limited success, environmental threats which have been put on the back burner, and the list goes on and on. A multitude of problems is taking its toll on the American spirit and putting at risk the American Dream.

 

As the world watches with dismay at the trials and tribulations of the American enterprise, still somehow, in the minds of many, America continues to be the last best hope for mankind. There is no country on earth that is more able, or more inclined, to help turn things around for the better in this troubled world, as she has done so many times before.    

America has had her fair share of criticism of late, and some of it, at least, is justified. However, as yet, no one has been able to suggest a better form of government, and no other country on earth holds a better promise for the destiny of man.

 

Many of the problems we face as a nation are problems we share with other nations as well. A world that is quickly becoming smaller economically and environmentally spares no country from the looming threats which are bound to affect us all. We are all in this together. And therefore, if America is able to reset herself, and to make good on the promise of her founding, then the world as a whole will be the better for it.

 

America must find the courage and the wisdom to look herself in the mirror, and to remake herself in a new light. Cosmetics will not be enough. She has always been pretty to look at, but it is the beauty from within that she has to bring out. Yes, she will focus on solutions to her problems. But those solutions, in this increasingly global world of ours, should take into account the welfare and best interests of other nations and other people, so that a partnership is created the world over, by which the success of one nation inures to the benefit of other nations, and vice versa.

 

The new world order, and the fix for what ails America, will involve financial engineering, by which all nations stand to gain from the success of individual nations. It can't just be about living the good life. It must also be about living a life that brings good to the world.

 

Take the Middle East as an example. In the current scenario, America finds herself fighting two wars, at vast expense, and sees the Middle East as a threat to the American way of life, with the oil supply in jeopardy, and extremism on the loose. But what if America could somehow partner with the Arab states, by which American knowhow could be partnered with Arab capital and business sense, in an effort to revitalize the entire region with good paying jobs, including green jobs, and including millions of American jobs as well. What we're looking for here are win/win situations which help everyone move beyond adversity and toward a Vision of Hope.

 

People the world over sense that things are coming to a head, to an ultimate conclusion of sorts. Human destiny is playing itself out even as we speak. The choices we face are stark. Things will either go well, or they will go very badly indeed. You don't have to be a prophet to realize that when you're talking about the world's oil supply, at a time of increasing competition for scarce resources, you're talking about the potential for World War III.

 

We owe it to ourselves and to future generations, to avoid the calamity of war. We are called upon, in our time, to remake ourselves in a new light, a light that shines as a beacon of hope, a light that points to the possibility of peace, prosperity and freedom for all, and a light that secures the destiny of man as far as the eye can see. So, happy birthday America.  May you find the courage and the wisdom to live up to the potential that is your birthright.