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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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Up to 500 feared dead in Mediterranean shipwreck last week

Up to 500 feared dead in Mediterranean shipwreck last week
As many as 500 people are feared dead after a shipwreck last week in the Mediterranean Sea, two international groups said Wednesday, describing survivors? accounts of panicked passengers who desperately tried to stay afloat by jumping between vessels. The disaster happened in waters between Italy and Libya, based on accounts from 41 survivors who were rescued Saturday by a merchant ship, according to the U.N refugee agency and the International Organization for Migration. The tragedy ranks among the deadliest in recent years on the often-treacherous sea voyage along the central Mediterranean by refugees and migrants from Africa, the Middle East and beyond who have traveled in droves hoping to reach relatively peaceful and wealthy Europe.

Listen to an interview with Nissim Dahan on the Tom Marr Show.

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Vision of Hope
Category >> Arab Spring
file under: Middle East PeaceDemonstrationsArab Spring 5 May 2012 5:12 PM
Change Don't Come Easy Posted by Nissim Dahan


Changing the Middle East can become quite frustrating to say the least. Suppose you believe deeply that change is in order. You rally the troops. You take to the streets. You dodge a bullet or two, if you're lucky. And when it's all said and done, new elections are held, the old guard may even be ousted from power, or so you think, and in come a new crop of leaders who leave you guessing as to whether the change that they have in mind is in sync with the change you were hoping for.



What's wrong with this picture?



People are putting their lives on the line, and so far at least, there remain strong doubts as to what it will all mean. There seems to be a dis-connect between the aspirations of the people on the one hand, and the kind of change that is likely to come about on the other.



What do the people on the street want? It's hard to say for sure. Maybe they don't even know. But there are hints. Mohamed Bouazizi, who started it all in Tunisia, wascollege educated and without a job. His was the story of many in the Middle East. He sold fruits and vegetables to support his mother and sister. When the police harassed him, and confiscated his cart, he set himself on fire, and set the Middle East ablaze. What was he telling us in that final act of despair? My guess is that he was saying that he needed a way to support his family, and he needed as well the freedom to live his life as he saw fit.



So it could be said that at the heart of the Arab Spring is a yearning for good paying jobs, and personal freedom.



And yet, as clear as this may be, there is still a gap between the change that people want, and the change that is likely to come about. So how do you bride this gap?



You can't depend on slogans. Slogans come and go, and are subject to the whims and fancies of those who set out to exploit them. You can't depend on violence. Violence begets violence, and you end up with leaders who assume power because it is in their nature to be even more violent than anyone else. You can't just hope that things will work out. Most times, power vacuums are filled in a grab for power, by leaders who are not inclined to listen to their people.



So what can you do to get your voice heard, and to bring about the kind of change you can only imagine? You build a model, a model that inspires a sense of hope, and that delivers on that promise with jobs, with dignity, and with personal freedom. We're not talking about a make-believe model. We're talking about a real model that you can see and touch, a model that will shine as beacon of light, for all to see, and for all to follow.



Want an example? Build a Green Industrial Zone in the most unlikely of places, in Rafah, Gaza, and use it as a new model for the Middle East. Make it an Arab initiative, to be funded by wealthy Arab investors. And let this model resonate with hope on as many levels as possible. If you believe in empowering women, then finance female entrepreneurs so that they can start their own businesses. If you believe in educating young people, then include a vocational school to teach needed skills. If you believe in sustaining the environment, then use state-of-the-art research and technology to address some of the environmental issues endemic to the region, such as: clean water, food production, healthcare
and green energy. Imagine Jews, Christians and Muslims showing up to work, on a daily basis, and building a new Middle East.



If you believe in the rich legacy of Arab dignity and pride, then reclaim it with a new model for the Middle East, one that can be replicated in a bid to revitalize the entire region with jobs, and with the personal freedom to which we are all entitled by virtue of our common humanity. A model of this sort will make very clear what we are fighting for, and how to get there.


























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: Middle East PeaceFreedomArab Spring 25 Sep 2011 3:42 PM
So It's Freedom You Want? Posted by Nissim Dahan
 

People the world over cry out for "freedom," but how often do we sit down and think about what it really means to be free?

 

Over the years, different people the world over embraced different interpretations of "freedom."

 

Janice Joplin used to sing of freedom as "...nothing left to lose." Is that what it means to be free? Or is that the state of mind that is needed to put everything on the line, and to venture forth in search of freedom?

 

The framers of the U.S. Constitution thought of freedom as conferring certain inalienable rights to the citizenry, such as freedom of religion, speech, a free press, free assembly, and free association.

 

On January 6, 1941, President Roosevelt spoke of the four fundamental freedoms that people "everywhere in the world" are entitled to: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear.

 

However you define it, the notion of freedom has captured hearts and minds of people in all four corners of the world. And still somehow, it is often difficult to define what exactly it means to be free. Yet we realize, as we fight for freedom, that it is important to understand what it is to be free, so that at the end of the day, we know what it is we're looking for, and recognize what it is when we finally find it.

 

Certainly there is a role for government to play in assuring to their people the basic right of freedom. Liberty is enhanced to the extent that governments undo the shackles of oppressive rule, external control, interference, regulation, etc. Freedom also grows as a person comes to believe that he is the master of his destiny and that he can make the decisions to chart his course in life, without excessive and unreasonable interference from government. And of course, freedom connotes a fundamental respect for human life, and the protection of a person's right to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

 

However, just as government can play its role, the individual himself has a role to play as well, in fighting for and sustaining a sense of personal freedom. It could well be argued that the greatest freedom of all is the freedom to think. Rene Descartes famously said, "I think, therefore I am." Inherent in the human condition, and our existence as free human beings, is our ability to think, and I would add, our ability to think clearly, with common sense and personal dignity, unhampered by the biases, suspicions, prejudices and superstitions which are thrust upon us, at an early age, by the societies we find ourselves.

 

As we search for freedom in such diverse places as the Middle East, or the Far East, or the West, or wherever the need arises; if it is really freedom we're after, and if we dare to be true to ourselves, then we have no choice but to let go of past prejudices and wrong-headed thinking, in favor of what makes sense, and what promises hope for the future.

 

Our challenge, as freedom fighters, is not an easy one. All too often, we are called upon to put everything on the line, in hope of finding something that may never be found. But perhaps the greatest challenge of all, as we seek our freedom, and the freedom of others, is to break the chains that bind us to the thinking of the past, and that keep us imprisoned in the psychological cages that we have built for ourselves. If we find the courage and the wisdom to break these chains of the mind, then, and only then, will we shine the light on the path to freedom.

file under: Arab Springa new model for the Middle East911 11 Sep 2011 3:45 PM
9/11 and The Arab Spring Posted by Nissim Dahan
 

In this ambiguous world of ours it is often difficult to find moral clarity, even when it comes to seemingly black and white issues like 9/11 and the Arab Spring. And the question arises therefore: How do we bring moral clarity to a world that is mired in confusion and chaos?

 

The Taliban were not exactly a friendly bunch when they ran things in Afghanistan. They made life difficult for the people with their distorted version of Islam. They kept women covered up and hidden away in the shadows. And they allowed al Qaeda to recruit and train in preparation for 9/11.

 

The consequences of the terror attack ran deep and have changed the course of human destiny forever. Three-thousand innocent civilians were murdered, and things would never be the same. A War On Terror was launched. Regime change was undertaken in Afghanistan and Iraq, and in recent months, perhaps as an indirect consequence, the Arab Spring has taken hold in the Middle East, bringing with it the prospect of regime change throughout the region, in response to a call by the people for freedom and jobs.

 

Yet still somehow there is little that has been resolved in the Middle East, even ten years since the towers of the World Trade Center came tumbling down. And there are few prospects, at this point in time, that the hopes and aspirations of the Arab Spring will bear fruit. We can see, lurking in the shadows, all sorts of shady characters who remain poised to pounce on the opportunity to assume the reins of power, and to impose on the people their lopsided versions of right and wrong.

 

9/11 was a defining moment in American history, but what did it mean? The Arab Spring is a defining moment in Middle East history, but where will it lead? Will the hopes and aspirations of the people be realized? Or will the War On Terror and the Arab Spring be footnotes in the annals of history; cast aside as missed opportunities to bring about real change?

In order for 9/11 and the Arab Spring to achieve the measure of meaning they deserve, we need to raise the fight on the ground, against terror and against oppression, to a higher moral plane, by giving the fight a moral clarity of purpose. We need to make sense of it all, for it to make a difference in the day to day lives of everyday people.

 

 To bring moral clarity to the confusion of our time, we must embrace a vision that makes sense, and that inspires in people a sense of hope. And then we must find the courage to give substance to the vision and make it real.

 

The vision for our time is, and must be, a Vision of Hope, a vision of Peace, Prosperity and Freedom. It is a vision that makes sense of the wars that we are waging, and that inspires in us the belief that things can get better, if people of good will, people like us, choose to make it so. Positioned in the proper context, our struggles assume a greater sense of purpose. We are not fighting a "War on Terror." We are fighting a war to realize a Vision of Hope, a vision of Peace, Prosperity and Freedom. There's a big difference. We are not fighting to kill Gadhafi, or to execute Mubarak. We are fighting to bless our people with the dignity that comes from decent jobs and personal freedoms.

 

To bring justice to those who lost their lives on 9/11 and in the Arab Spring, build 100 Green Industrial Zones throughout the region, using Arab capital, along with Arab, Israeli and American knowhow. Create jobs that grow our economies, that protect the environment, and that help to weaken the hold of extremist thinking. Use state-of-the-art green technology to address the environmental issues of the region such as clean water, food production, green energy and healthcare. Show that the lives lost, and the battles waged, served a greater purpose, a purpose that inspires a sense of hope in things to come.

 

The tenth anniversary of 9/11 is a time to reflect and to remember. As we remember those who lost their lives in such a brutal fashion, let us also reflect on how best to do justice to the sanctity of those precious lives, by embracing a Vision of Hope, and giving substance to that vision with changes which will inspire in people a sense of hope for the future, and a belief that their struggles will not have been in vain.

file under: vision of hopeTurkeySyrian SpringMiddle East PeaceHamasArab Spring 11 Aug 2011 3:58 PM
Are Turkey and Israel Kissing Cousins Again? Posted by Nissim Dahan
 

 

Relations between Turkey and Israel have been strained to the breaking point, ever since nine Turkish activists on the Mavi Marmara tried to run Israel's naval blockade of Gaza, and were killed by Israeli naval commandos in May of last year. In the years preceding this incident, relations between the two countries were relatively good, including strategic cooperation, tourism, economic cooperation, and the like. But since the Mavi Marmara affair, any attempt at rapprochement by Israel was met with; "apologize first," by Prime Minister Erdogan.

 

In light of this recent and contentious history, rumors that Turkey may be willing to help mediate the prisoner exchange by which IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, now being held by Hamas militants, would be released, seemed too good to be true. Why, in the face of such strong positions taken by Turkey, would Prime Minister Erdogan even consider helping Israel secure the release of her soldier, Gilad Shalit?

 

The answer may well be the "Arab Spring," or more specifically the "Syrian Spring." The turmoil in the Arab world is plain to see, and is most vividly brought home by the relentless killing of demonstrators in both Libya and Syria. Particularly in Syria, the killing spree by the government seems to know no bounds, and is affecting Turkey directly by the swell of refugees crossing over the border.

 

There is little doubt that Turkish attitudes have changed, as the current harsh realities of the Arab street are factored in. And in fact, as Turkey searches for some measure of stability in the region, is it a wonder that she may look to Israeli in that regard? The ups and downs of Israeli/Turkish relations may well pale by comparison, as compared to the existential threats posed by the "Syrian Spring," with its widespread and far reaching implications for the region as a whole. In short, a strategic partnership with Israel may be a bitter pill to swallow, but may also be the right medicine at the right time.

 

Rumors have it that we will soon see: the appointment of new ambassadors to Tel Aviv and Ankara, a renewal of a strategic partnership between the two countries, an Israeli apology for last year's flotilla fiasco, and official confirmation of the Turkish mediation efforts in the Shalit affair. Much of the progress in this regard has been fostered and encouraged by President Obama and his administration, which is trying to bridge the divide between Washington and Ankara, and which sees a rapprochement between Israel and Turkey as indispensable in this regard.

 

If it is true that the "Syrian Spring" has played a significant role in bringing Turkey and Israel closer together, then this has widespread implications for the region as a whole. There is no doubt that the history of the Middle East is replete with enmity between Israel and much of the Arab world. Rightly or wrongly, and I believe wrongly, Israel and the U.S. have been blamed for much that has gone wrong in that troubled region.

 

However, the "Arab Spring" may have ushered in a new day, a turning point of sorts. Whereas in the past, Israel and the U.S. have served as convenient scapegoats, as a way of diverting attention away from the inadequacy of corrupt and oppressive leadership, today, in light of new realities on the Arab street, Israel and the U.S. may better serve as friends in need, as  partners who may be of help in averting existential threats, and helping to usher in a new age in the Middle East, based on a Vision of Hope for the region, a vision of Peace, Prosperity and Freedom.

 

It would be quite ironic indeed if all this came to pass, but no less ironic than some of the other craziness that takes place on a daily basis in this mysterious place we call the Middle East.

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