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Selling a Vision of Hope: A Refreshing Alternative to Armageddon

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Vision of Hope
Archive >> November 2011
file under: vision of hopeArab Spring 29 Nov 2011 3:54 PM
Gandhi, King and Mandela Posted by Nissim Dahan


Some of the strongmen of the Middle East are no longer in the picture, but who, and what, will come to replace them?


Yesterday's parliamentary elections in Egypt is a case in point. Certainly, there was a sense of hope written on the faces of Egyptians who voted, as perhaps a first step in reclaiming their country. But who did they vote for? Undoubtedly, the Muslim Brotherhood will garner a strong position in the new government. But does that necessarily mean an end to democracy even before it starts?


It came as a surprise to some to find out that in recent months, the Muslim Brotherhood has advocated strongly on behalf of foreign investment in Egypt, and on behalf of job creation. Even though there are fears in the air that women's rights are in danger, and that a return to religious fundamentalism is in the offing, still, the Brotherhood, at least for now, doesn't seem to dwell on such things, but focuses its rhetoric on jobs. Is this just a ploy to win elections, or is it the real deal?


There is no doubt that ordinary people on the streets of Cairo, and throughout the region, yearn for many of the same things that are sought after the world over, like freedom, dignity and economic security. It would seem to make sense, therefore, that these causes should be at the heart of any successful political campaign, even campaigns conducted by those with leanings toward religious fundamentalism. In other words, to the extent that the people on the street are deeply committed to such things as freedom, democracy and jobs, then to that extent, any political party, regardless of its ideological inclinations, will have no choice but to speak about, and deliver on, the causes which are most important to the people, in order to win elections, and most importantly, to win hearts and minds.


That, at least, is the hope for the revolution that some call the Arab Awakening.


Of course, there are no guarantees, especially when you're talking about political revolutions. In fact, most times things go badly, before getting any better. But there are things, three things in particular, that may help to move a revolution in the right direction, in a direction that is in line with the aspirations of the people.


The first thing that can help bring success to a revolution is to embrace a vision, a vision of hope, that calls for change which is positive, realistic and attainable. For example, if it is freedom and jobs you want, then advocate on behalf of these, because they are within the realm of possibility. And in fact, personal freedom and job creation go hand in hand. Any regime which strives for economic growth and job creation in this globalized world of ours, will  have no choice but to allow some measure of freedom, as a way of instilling a sense of trust among prospective investors. These freedoms may be limited somewhat, as in the case of China, but greater openness is indispensable to economic growth.


The second factor that helps to bring success to a revolution is to bring life to a vision of hope using the right tactics, and this involves a strategy of non-violence. You don't want to demonize certain individuals, or certain groups, because this will cause such groups to retreat into their own corners, in preparation for civil war. You want to be inclusive of all people, and advocate on behalf of a vision which is welcoming to all, and which inspires everyone to come together in common purpose. And you want your voice to be heard throughout the land, while shying away from violence, even in the face of violent attacks by the opposition, which for the most part has been the case in places like Egypt and Tunisia. Syria is another matter, but the violence there by the government is so overwhelming, that some violent resistance is inevitable.


The third, and perhaps paramount aspect of a successful revolution is to pick leaders in the mold of visionaries like Gandhi, King and Mandela, who inspired their people, and who used non-violence to give substance to the aspirations of the people. They were not motivated by revenge. Gandhi could have turned the people against the British, but he didn't. King had reason to turn against his country, but he didn't. And Mandela could have launched a campaign to turn against the whites, and confiscate their property, but he didn't. Instead, these leaders chose a different path: to advocate on behalf a vision of hope, to give substance to their vision using non-violent means, to be all-inclusive in their approach, and to deliver on promises made so as to give hope for a better future.


The Arab Awakening is at a crossroads. We can become entrenched ideologically, and consolidate political power by demonizing one another. Or we can choose instead to embrace a vision of hope, and deliver on that promise with real change, change that capture hearts and minds, and that gives life to the aspirations of the people. The choice is ours and everything we love and hold dear hangs in the balance.

file under: PalestineMiddle East PeaceIsrael 3 Nov 2011 10:18 AM
You're Also Right Posted by Nissim Dahan
A friend of mine, Sagi Melamed, wrote this article. As you read it, ask yourself this: What do you do, to promote the cause of peace, when both sides of a conflict believe they're "right?" Perhaps part of the answer is to put on a shelf somewhere, at least for a while, the issue of who is right and who is wrong. Let everyone think they're right. And in the meantime, create new realities on the ground, which speak louder than words, and which point to the possibility of peace. Why not build a Green Industrial Zone in places like Gaza, and see 300,000 Jews, Christians and Muslims working together to support themselves, to grow their economies, and to solve the environmental issues endemic to the region, such as clean water, healthy care, green energy and food production? After a while, when people begin making money together, they may finally find a way to get along. They will humanize one another in each other's eye. And little by little, the contentious issues that kept them apart may not seem as insurmountable as they once were. It's just a thought.  

You're Also Right

Sagi Melamed


There is a well-known story about a rabbi who was called upon to settle a dispute between two of his followers.  The first man poured out his complaints to the rabbi, and when he finished, the rabbi said, "You're right."  Then it was the second one's turn.  When he finished, the rabbi said, "You're also right."  The rabbi's wife, who had been listening to the conversation, said incredulously to her husband, "What do you mean, ‘You're also right'? They can't both be right!"  The rabbi thought for a few moments, and then replied, "You know, my dear, you're also right."


If an alien were to land in our general vicinity, his response to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would probably be like that of the rabbi in the story: You're both right.


 The Palestinian people are right when they expect and demand independence.  The Palestinian father is right to long for a life in which he can sleep safe at home without fearing a midnight pounding on his door.  The Palestinian woman is right to want to go from place to place without having to go through security checkpoints or risk arrest.


The Jewish people were also right when they returned to their homeland after a 2,000 year exile, establishing their own national home.  Jews are right to fear hatred and persecution, right to believe that only by relying on their own resources, can they prevent the nightmare of another Holocaust.  Jews are right to state that they entitled to all they have achieved through their own efforts.  The Jewish people are correct when they point out that the world has totally unreasonable expectations of them, expectations that are never imposed on any other people.  And they are also right to fear that if they give away some of their land today, then tomorrow the Palestinians might demand it all.


Friends and neighbors may say, "Why do you, the grandson of a refugee from Germany, offspring of kibbutz founders, army officer, and member of a religious community in the Galilee, feel the need to justify the position of our enemies?"  I reply, "I don't have to justify anything, but I do have to understand."  It is not hard to find untruths, gross exaggerations and significant holes in the Palestinian version of the conflict.  But even the most extreme among us cannot deny that Palestinians lack freedom, live in very difficult conditions, declare themselves to be a people and are hungry for independence.


In the 90s I believed, along with many others, that we could find a way to live side-by-side.  We had the feeling that it was beginning to happen, that it would come to pass soon.  I remember that I was even somewhat concerned, during my MA studies in Boston, that peace would break out before I could return to Israel.  What would we only give to be able to have such concerns nowadays! 


The speeches of Binyamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas at the UN General Assembly might have been the last nails in the coffin of the dream of living side-by-side - if not actually in peace, then at least living without war.  But this does not seem possible any time in the foreseeable future.  Both speeches focused on why I am right/fearful/angry/threatened and why the other side is threatening/thieving/untrustworthy.  From their own perspectives, they were both right.  And with "right" like that, who needs "wrong"?


Sagi Melamed lives with his family in the community of Hoshaya in the Galilee.  He serves as Vice President of External Affairs at the Max Stern Yezreel Valley College, and as Chief Instructor (4th Dan) of the Hoshaya Karate Club.  Sagi received his Masters degree from Harvard University in Middle Eastern Studies with a specialty in Conflict Resolution. He can be contacted at:


September 2011