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Selling a Vision of Hope: A Refreshing Alternative to Armageddon

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UK to take in up to 3,000 refugee children

The British government plans to resettle up to 3,000 children from conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa by 2020
Britain announced plans Thursday to take in up to 3,000 of the most vulnerable children and their families from conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa by 2020. The scheme, drawn up in coordination with the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), is aimed at children deemed at risk of child labour, forced marriage and other forms of abuse or exploitation. It will affect children on their own and those accompanied by relatives or carers, and will see several hundred people resettled in the coming year, the Home Office interior ministry announced.

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file under: IranHolocaust Denial 21 Sep 2009 10:54 PM
Why Would Anyone Deny The Holocaust? Posted by Nissim Dahan
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad chose to commemorate Quds Day on Friday, September 18, by expressing his usual doubts as to whether the Holocaust really happened. He stated that the Holocaust was used as a false pretext for occupying Palestinian lands. And he is quoted as questioning, "If the Holocaust was a real event, why don't they allow research on it to clear up the facts?"

 

To this last question, I would respectfully ask, "Who are ‘they,' who are not allowing research to take place?" In addition, "What would the disallowed research show, if ‘they' allowed it to take place?" Tell me if I am mistaken, but to the best of my knowledge, thousands of books have been written about the Holocaust, by researchers of diverse religious affiliations and backgrounds. Did anyone put a gun to their head as to what they could delve into, and what they should leave alone? Is there some sort of Holocaust Research Police that I don't know about?

 

Ahmadinejad is not a stupid man. He has read the books, and seen the movies, and the pictures of the thousands of barracks which housed the Jews, and others as well, on their way to the gas chambers. He has seen photos of the piles of clothing, and shoes, and eyeglasses, and all the sundry possessions of the people who were once living, and who had their lives cut short by the brutality of the Nazis. So why bother denying such incontrovertible facts of history?

 

Ahmadinejad denies the Holocaust because in his mind such denial serves a purpose. But to what purpose? Perhaps his denial evokes condemnation from the West, and such condemnation can be used to burnish his reputation for defiance against the "tyranny" of the West? Perhaps his denials and his hatred of Israel can be used to divert attention away from his government's failed policies, and can inspire support among the masses? Perhaps his fiery words can help to justify Iran's race to become a nuclear power? Perhaps his verbal attacks embolden Iran's proxies, Hamas and Hezbollah, for further attacks against the Jewish State?

 

No doubt Ahmadinejad's Holocaust denials serve their purpose, at least in his mind, but there is also a price to be paid for such claims. When you deny the Holocaust, knowing full well that it took place, you deny yourself, because you are willing to predicate your views on the basis of a lie. So if you are willing to lie to yourself in such a brazen way, then who are you when you look in the mirror?

 

In addition, when you deny the Holocaust, you deny your own people, because you are willing to lie to them, and to lead them on the basis of the lies you tell. How can you claim to respect your people when you lead them on the basis of a lie?

 

And finally, when you deny the Holocaust, you deny the future of your nation. For a nation to lift itself up from poverty, and to come to terms with the competitive realities of a global economy, it must first come to terms with the truth, and make changes based on an accurate assessment of its condition. How can you come to terms with the truth when you are willing to sweep away the suffering and killing of millions, in the name of propaganda and short-sighted self-interest?

 

Ahmadinejad may have his reasons for denying the Holocaust, but he should question, in his own mind, whether his reasons justify the consequences. He betrays himself, his people, and the future of his nation, by clinging to his fantasies. The lies he tells are the lies which hold his people back. He speaks for calculation's sake, but on this score at least, he has miscalculated grossly.

 

 

file under: Peace DividendMiddle East PeaceEconomic Opportunities 21 Aug 2009 12:37 PM
Arabs Need to Talk to the Israelis Posted by Nissim Dahan
 

Written By:

Shaikh Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa

Crown Prince of Bahrain

 

 

We need fresh thinking if the Arab Peace Initiative is to have the impact it deserves on the crisis that needlessly impoverishes Palestinians and endangers Israel's security.

 

This crisis is not a zero-sum game. For one side to win, the other does not have to lose.

 

The peace dividend for the entire Middle East is potentially immense. So why have we not gotten anywhere?

 

Our biggest mistake has been to assume that you can simply switch peace on like a light bulb. The reality is that peace is a process, contingent on a good idea but also requiring a great deal of campaigning -- patiently and repeatedly targeting all relevant parties. This is where we as Arabs have not done enough to communicate directly with the people of Israel.

 

An Israeli might be forgiven for thinking that every Muslim voice is raised in hatred, because that is usually the only one he hears. Just as an Arab might be forgiven for thinking every Israeli wants the destruction of every Palestinian.

 

Essentially, we have not done a good enough job demonstrating to Israelis how our initiative can form part of a peace between equals in a troubled land holy to three great faiths. Others have been less reticent, recognizing that our success would threaten their vested interest in keeping Palestinians and Israelis at each other's throats. They want victims to stay victims so they can be manipulated as proxies in a wider game for power. The rest of us -- the overwhelming majority -- have the opposite interest.

 

It is in our interest to speak up now for two reasons. First, we will all be safer once we drain the pool of antipathy in which hatemongers from both sides swim.

 

Second, peace will bring prosperity. Already, the six oil and gas nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council have grown into a powerful trillion-dollar market. Removing the ongoing threat of death and destruction would open the road to an era of enterprise, partnership and development on an even greater scale for the region at large.

 

That is the glittering prize for resolving the dilemma of justice for Palestine without injustice to Israel. Effectively, this is the meta-issue that defines and distorts the self-image of Arabs and diverts too much of our energies away from the political and economic development the region needs.

 

The wasted years of deadlock have conditioned Israelis to take on a fortress mentality that automatically casts all Palestinians as the enemy -- and not as the ordinary, decent human beings they are.

 

Speaking out matters, but it is not enough. Our governments and all stakeholders also must be ready to carry out practical measures to help ease the day-to-day hardship of Palestinian lives.

 

The two communities in the Holy Land are not fated to be enemies. What can unite them tomorrow is potentially bigger than what divides them today.

 

Both sides need help from their friends, in the form of constructive engagement, to reach a just settlement.

 

What we don't need is the continued reflexive rejection of any initiative that seeks to melt the ice. Consider the response so far to the Arab peace plan, pioneered by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. This initiative is a genuine effort to normalize relations between the entire Arab region and Israel, in return for Israel's withdrawal from occupied territory and a fair resolution of the plight of the Palestinians, far too many of whom live in refugee camps in deplorable conditions.

 

We must stop the small-minded waiting game in which each side refuses to budge until the other side makes the first move. We've got to be bigger than that. All sides need to take simultaneous, good-faith action if peace is to have a chance. A real, lasting peace requires comprehensive engagement and reconciliation at the human level. This will happen only if we address and settle the core issues dividing the Arab and the Israeli peoples, the first being the question of Palestine and occupied Arab lands. The fact that this has not yet happened helps to explain why the Jordanian and Egyptian peace accords with Israel are cold. They have not been comprehensive.

 

We should move toward real peace now by consulting and educating our people and by reaching out to the Israeli public to highlight the benefits of a genuine peace.

 

To be effective, we must acknowledge that, like people everywhere, the average Israeli's primary window on the world is his or her local and national media. Our job, therefore, is to tell our story more directly to the Israeli people by getting the message out to their media, a message reflecting the hopes of the Arab mainstream that confirms peace as a strategic option and advocates the Arab Peace Initiative as a means to this end. Some conciliatory voices in reply from Israel would help speed the process.

 

Some Arabs, simplistically equating communication with normalization, may think we are moving too fast toward normalization. But we all know that dialogue must be enhanced for genuine progress. We all, together, need to take the first crucial step to lay the groundwork to effectively achieve peace. So we must all invest more in communication.

 

Once we achieve peace, trade will follow. We can then create a "virtuous circle," because trade will create its own momentum. By putting real money into people's hands and giving them real power over their lives, trade will help ensure the durability of peace. The day-to-day experience would move minds and gradually build a relationship of trust and mutual interest, without which long-term peacemaking is impossible.

 

When stability pays, conflict becomes too costly. We must do more, now, to achieve peace.

 

The writer is crown prince of Bahrain. 

 

file under: PunishmentJusticeCrime 18 Aug 2009 3:03 PM
In Search of Justice Posted by Nissim Dahan
 

The following article was brought to my attention recently, about the brutal killing of a man on the promenade of a Tel Aviv beach.

 

Haaretz

August 17, 2009

"Our father was a man of peace," says daughter of Tel Aviv murder victim.

 

Hundreds of people accompanied Leonard Karp, who was brutally beaten to death on the promenade of a Tel Aviv beach Friday night, as he was laid to rest in Petah Tikva on Sunday.

 

Karp's daughters, one of which was with him when he was attacked, eulogized their father, saying "our dear father, it is so difficult to say goodbye at such an early stage and with such deep pain. You were the first to arrive at any family event. Today you were described as the life of the party? Everyone agreed with this that you were a man of peace who doesn't like to fight."

 

"It is hard to comprehend that you won't see us starting our own families," his daughters said. "We wish that those who do good will receive good in return and that those who do bad will realize that they were wrong, repent and pay the price."

 

Karp's brother, Ya'akov, also spoke at the funeral, telling those in attendance that when their parents died, Leonard became a father to him. "We were two brothers, we shared a soulful love, and now I am alone-what a cruel fate."

 

Police have arrested five residents of Jaljulia and two girls, one a minor and the other a soldier, from Petah Tikva. The seven are suspected of attacking Karp and his wife and daughter while the three were sitting on a bench on a promenade along a Tel Aviv beach. Police suspect that the seven were inebriated and that they attacked the family for no apparent reason.

 

Eye-witness testimonies suggest that the attackers chased Karp, who tried to flee, and beat him ruthlessly. They later dumped his body in the water, where he was found the next morning. The mother and daughter fled in a different direction, and survived.

 

                                                    __________

 

 

To be quite honest, at first glance, I didn't really know what to make of this article. My first instinct was to ask; who were these killers? And by asking "who," it wasn't really about who they were individually, or what their names were, but rather; what ethnic or religious group did they belong to? Were they Jews, or Israeli Arabs, or Palestinian Arabs? And when I read over some of the comments by other readers, they pretty much asked the same kinds of questions; what "group" did these kids belong to?

 

And then I began wondering; why is it so important to know the religion or ethnicity of these kids? An innocent man was murdered. Can't we just focus on the crime itself, and on the individual perpetrators themselves? Why do we have to relate this murder to the actions and attitudes of a wider religious or ethnic group? Isn't the killing of an innocent man significant enough to justify our full attention, or do we need to look elsewhere to find meaning in this isolated event.

 

It occurred to me that to a greater or lesser extent we all carry with us the heavy baggage of our prejudices and biases. And to a certain extent, we need confirmation that we are indeed right in what we happen to believe about other people. So, for example, if we can take the murder of an innocent man, and attribute it to the doings of a larger segment of society, then we could say comfortably that we were right about this or that group, and that this murder proves the point.

 

If Leonard Karp was murdered by Israeli Arabs, so the thinking goes, we could jump on that as proof that Israeli Arabs are a fifth column in Israel, that they are not loyal Israeli citizens, and that they deserve to be treated differently from Israeli Jews. If Leonard Karp was murdered by Palestinian Arabs, we could jump on that as proof that Israel is under siege by terrorists and that any action needed to stop terrorism is indeed justified. And if the young killers were Jews, we could say that the young generation is hopelessly lost and should be written off as parasites.

 

Well, how about a slightly different approach? Instead of using a senseless act of murder to cast blame on an entire segment of society, how about casting blame on the perpetrators themselves, based on a close examination of the evidence at hand? Instead of using a senseless act of murder to justify our prejudice and bias toward others, how about asking how we may have all been complicit in the crime by neglecting our duty to maintain social justice and fairness in our society? Instead of trampling on the memory of a good and honest man by using his murder to fuel the fires of hate, how about using his memory to promote justice and love for one another?

 

We are emotional creatures, so it is not uncommon for us to allow our emotions to get the better of us. But emotions, as worthwhile as they are in and of themselves, are not likely to bring about justice. The work of bringing justice is hard and tedious, and it requires the focus of cool and calculating minds. Justice may require us to blame others, but more often than not, it requires us to look at ourselves, and to ask of ourselves what we could be doing to improve the lives of others, so that they would be less likely to go astray. So in our quest for justice, maybe it is less important to ask of the criminal; what group are you a part of, then to ask of ourselves; what could we have done to make him part of us.

 

 

file under: IranFreedomDemonstrations 19 Jul 2009 11:28 AM
What Should Obama Say To Iran? Posted by Nissim Dahan
President Obama finds himself in a bit of a bind when it comes to Iran. And the dilemma he faces is not unlike that faced by many policy makers when it comes to the Middle East. Who do you support, the government, or the people?

 

When he ran for the Presidency, Obama vowed to negotiate with Iran's leaders with respect to such contentious issues as their nuclear weapons program, and their support for terrorist groups. And at the time, the prospect of using diplomacy as an olive branch, seemed to be a reasonable approach, as contrasted with President Bush's inclination to wield big sticks, with no carrots in sight.

 

However, in the wake of Iran's most recent election, and in light of the protests and violent clashes which are taking place there, even as we speak, would negotiations with the newly elected government confer legitimacy to a regime whose legitimacy is being contested by a great many people on the street? And yet, if you ignore the current opportunities to negotiate, even with an unsavory regime, do you lose the chance to find a diplomatic solution to what could otherwise result in war?

 

But then again, if you fail to give moral support to the protesters, do you run the risk of betraying your ideals, and alienating the people, for that matter, by espousing the cause of freedom here at home, while failing to do so abroad. Do you dare to play politics as usual when freedom is at stake? Is it hypocritical to cherish freedom, on the one hand, but to withhold support from those fighting for it, on the other? And is there a price to pay for such hypocrisy?

 

In a way, President Obama's hesitation about supporting the protesters in Iran is symbolic of a much larger picture, whereby Western leaders find themselves torn between maintaining quiet deals and understandings that have been struck with non-democratic governments in the Middle East, and their supposed commitment in the West to the ideals of democratic reform and the right of all people to be free. The gap that often exists between pragmatic arrangements, especially those securing the free-flow of oil, and the moral obligation to empower people in their quest for human rights, is not an easy gap to bridge, and the decision is often made to sacrifice human rights on the alter of what is "real," and what is "necessary."

 

And yet, as is becoming quite obvious in Iran, the voice of the people resonates loudly around the world, and is not easily silenced, even by the most repressive of regimes, using the harshest means of intimidation. Especially now, in the time of the internet, and you-tube, and twitter, and all the other varied tools of instant and ubiquitous communication, the natural inclination to speak out cannot be stifled easily. And as people around the world begin to speak to one another, the collective wisdom of the common man will begin to coalesce, and to make itself heard, and known, and believed, and a new ideology will be born, based on such ancient common sense principles as: the right to be free, the right to speak out and to be heard, the right to pursue happiness, and the right to search for justice whenever justice is denied.

 

So what advice can we give President Obama as he navigates through these treacherous waters? Perhaps we could tell him, as he takes everything into consideration, that freedom may not always be easy to support, nor practical in the short-run, but it is a moral imperative for many around the world, just as it is for Americans here at home. And therefore, we owe it to those struggling on the street, and to our long-term strategic interests, to find a way to lend our support to the cause of freedom, and to make it clear to all the dictators out there, that sooner or later, they will have no choice but to accommodate the will of the people, and their yearning to be free. It doesn't have to mean chaos. It doesn't necessarily have to mean war. It just means that society will only find its peace when the fundamental aspirations of the people are taken into consideration, and become a permanent fixture in the political landscape.

 

 

file under: IranFreedomDemonstrations 6 Jul 2009 2:20 PM
Freedom in Iran Posted by Nissim Dahan
People around the world are not all the same. They don't all want the same exact things. But at the end of the day, my guess would be that most people the world over do want some similar things, and that freedom would probably top the list of what most people need and want. Iranians are no exception.

 

What is freedom? Not an easy question to answer considering all the hype that goes into that one simple word. Freedom means different things to different people, and its meaning changes as circumstances dictate. One approach is to say that freedom is our say in how our lives are playing themselves out. We want to believe that our small voice is being heard even in the midst of the noisy confusion that fills our daily lives; that we matter in the overall scheme of things. And the belief that everyone should count, may explain some of what is going on in Iran.

 

Freedom means that if we're already being given the right to vote, that our vote should count, and not be swept under the rug of authoritative ambition. People want a say in who governs them, in who holds the reigns of power, and in what policies he or she decides to pursue. It is not simply my right to vote that is important, but the knowledge that my voice, as contained in my vote, will be heard, even if only as a whisper.

 

Freedom touches on the personal as well. Women, for example, may choose to dress traditionally, but they want to make that choice, not have it thrust upon them by angry men wielding big sticks. My right to choose is at the heart of what it means to be free.

 

And people want a say as to which direction their country is heading. Dictators no doubt have their ideological agendas. But what is deemed necessary by the dictators is not necessarily in the best interest of the people. The man on the street often knows best what is in his best interest better than anyone else. People have a right, for example, to demand that their government's economic policies will create good paying jobs, and not sky-high unemployment. People want to be proud of their nation, and not have to justify why certain ill-conceived policies are further isolating them from the world community. People want to believe that their personal security is being regarded as sacred, and not undermined by the looming threat of war.

 

The yearning for freedom is a hard thing to quash. There are people in Iran putting everything on the line; even their own lives. The fight for freedom often brings out the best in us, by which we are willing to sacrifice our own safety for the sake of something we believe in, something greater than ourselves. The willingness to rise to the occasion, and to put a noble cause, like freedom, above everything else, is unique to us as human beings, and is what allows us to aspire to our greatest potential.

 

I don't envy the leadership in Iran. They must be frustrated beyond belief. They have convinced themselves that they know what's best for their people, and somehow, the people just don't get it. How dare they rise up in this fashion?

 

I don't know what will happen in Iran. But I do know that something has happened there already. Their votes were silenced, so the people rose up and made sure that their voices wouldn't be. Would this make a difference in the long run? No one knows for sure, but one thing is certain; Iran will never quite be the same. The people have spoken, and their voices will reverberate in our collective consciousness forever, along with all those countless others who cast their lots in the search for freedom and justice. Those voices can never be silenced. They will continue to make themselves heard until the day comes when the dream of freedom will be made real, and when true justice will be meted out to all.