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Selling a Vision of Hope: A Refreshing Alternative to Armageddon

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Vision of Hope
Category >> Demonstrations
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 hopeeconomic developmentDemonstrationsa new model for the Middle East 3 Jun 2011 4:30 PM
A New Model for the Middle East Posted by Nissim Dahan
The Mubarak model is out. The extremists, however, are ready, willing and able to put their model in place. It is important, therefore, for those who seek freedom to put a new model on the table, one that inspires a sense of hope, one that competes effectively for hearts and minds, and one that points to the possibility of peace, prosperity and freedom, on the Arab street, in the Muslim world, and in the world as a whole.


And what will this new model look like? It will look like a Green Industrial Zone between Israel and Gaza, which creates some 200,000 jobs, and which will bear witness to the miracle of Jews, Christians and Muslims working together, side by side, for the sake of a brighter future.


And why will a Green Industrial Zone make any difference now, when so many other such projects have been tried before? Because the Arab Spring is a game changer. Because the man on the street has found his courage, and is crying out for two things: a job, and the personal freedom to live his life as he sees fit. Because the Arab leadership is running out of time, and running out of options. Because at this particular point in time, when so much is at stake, there is a hint of an alignment between the self-interest of some of the key players in the region, and the best interests of the region as a whole. Because the leaders may actually need one another for a change, to stave off some very common existential threats; namely the threat of a nuclear Iran, and the threat of the man on the street. And because these common threats could be used to forge a security/economic alliance between the Arab States, Israel, Europe and the U.S. to provide security, and to revitalize the entire region with good paying jobs.


And who would be willing to build a Green Industrial Zone between Israel and Gaza? Wealthy and powerful people, who would never have said yes before, may be willing to give it a shot this time around. People like Stef Wertheimer, a multi-billionaire in Israel, who sold his business, Iscar, to Warren Buffet, and who enjoys building Industrial Zones where Jews and Arabs work together. People like Warren Buffet and Bill Gates, who have partnered together in philanthropy, and who may see this project as giving needed direction to U.S. foreign policy, and creating American jobs in the process. People like the Saudis, who have the cash, thank God, and who may see job creation as a way of restoring Arab pride, and bringing about positive change in a gradual and moderate manner, instead of dealing with revolution at their doorstep. People like Hamas, who may still hate Israel's guts, but who may partner with her, nonetheless, in order to create the jobs that the people are demanding. And even Israel, which needs something like this to break the paralysis of the peace process, and which would prefer an industrial zone on her border, as opposed to launching sites for missiles.


And why a Green Industrial Zone in particular? Because a project of this sort would provide the answer to the three greatest questions of our time: How do we grow our economies? How do we protect the environment? And how do we weaken the hold of extremist thinking? And the answers are simple enough: We grow our economies by investing in one another to create good paying jobs. We protect the environment by using business to address the environmental issues endemic to the region, such as water shortages and the like. And we weaken the hold of extremist thinking b giving the man on the street a place at the table, a stake in his future. 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.


And why will one, single, solitary project of this sort make any difference to the collective future of mankind? Because at a time when the whole world is looking for answers, and looking for ways to revitalize itself, this particular project will put together all the pieces of a solution to our most intractable problems, will package those pieces in the most attractive way possible, and will allow us to sell the man on the street on a Vision of Hope for the future. As such, a single, solitary project will capture the world's imagination, and will attract additional investment dollars, for other such projects, and what begins as a single, solitary, project could well blossom into a movement for change.


Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus, in Montgomery, Alabama. Normally a non-event. But Marin Luther King was no ordinary man. He was a man with a vision, a big vision of hope for America, a vision of equal rights and justice under the law. He saw in Rosa Parks a way to breathe life into his vision. And soon enough, the reality on the ground grew to fill up the space created by the vision, a vision of hope. Such is the dynamic of change in the world, and such is the prescription for change in the Middle East.

file under: vision of hopepeace in the Middle EastPalestineIsraelDemonstrations 6 Apr 2011 3:59 PM
Yes or No to Peace? Posted by Nissim Dahan
Peace between Israel and Palestine is becoming even more important now than ever before. There are, however, forces at work which are pushing the peace process forward, and others which are holding it back.


Both Netanyahu and Abbas are coming under considerable pressure to show some measure of progress on the peace front. Abbas has expressed his intent to seek UN recognition of a Palestinian state, based on the 1967 borders, in September 2011. Presumably, if such recognition were to be given, then a Palestinian state would come into being without resolving such contentious issues as the status of Jerusalem, and the "right of return" of the refugees. If Israel refuses to recognize Palestine, or refuses to cooperate in implementing the U.N. mandate, then Israel could find itself further isolated in the international community, with the resulting calls for Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS). And yet, without Israel's cooperation, it is hard to see how a Palestinian state could emerge and become viable.


Abbas, and the Palestinian Authority for that matter, are also under a great deal of pressure to move forward on peace. Fattah, the political faction in the West Bank, and Hamas, which controls Gaza, find themselves vying for power on an existential level. Much of the economic and institutional gains that have been achieved by Fayyad in the West Bank could be undermined by a Hamas takeover of the West Bank. Such a takeover is seen by much of the West Bank leadership as a dead end for their aspirations to build a free and prosperous Palestine. The dismal conditions in Gaza do not bode well for a Palestine run by Hamas. It is reasonable, therefore, to assume that Abbas sees a peace deal with Israel as something which would give Fattah some measure of credibility in the eyes of his people, and as a way of consolidating political opposition to Hamas. On the other hand, Hamas could easily portray the search for peace as a sign of weakness on the part of Fattah. Alternatively, reconciliation between Fattah and Hamas, which remains unlikely, could lead to a sharing of power, and a more united approach in finalizing a deal with Israel.


The current unrest on the Arab street increases the pressure on Netanyahu and Abbas to negotiate a peace agreement. No one really knows who in the Middle East will end up assuming the reigns of powers. However, it is more likely than not, at least in some of the Arab countries, that the new leaders will be more responsive to the aspirations of the people. For example, for 30 years Israel could count on Mubarak of Egypt to keep the peace, even a cold peace at that. Now, however, with Mubarak out of the picture, the new leadership will probably take the will of the people more seriously. And if the people demand justice for Palestinians, then Egypt, and other Arab states, will reflect that attitude in their dealings with Israel, and with the West. A peace deal would therefore make relations much easier between Israel and her newly-constituted neighbors, and also between the Middle East and the West.


And of course, much of the West's obsession with the Middle East is about the oil. The free flow of oil is indispensable to Western economies. Therefore, to the extent that a peace deal between Israel and Palestine fulfills the aspirations of the man on the street, and takes away the convenient tool that extremists use to inflame passions, and improves relations between Arab States and the West, then to that extent, the free flow of oil will be assured, and the West can take comfort in being able to run its economic engines.


As if these considerations weren't enough, there is one more reason to push the peace process forward at this particular time. It could well be argued that under the right circumstances, Israel could end up playing a major role in revitalizing the Middle East with good paying jobs. The people on the street want two things in particular: decent jobs and the freedom to live their lives as they wish. To a great extent, these two noble aspirations are what Israel is all about. As an example, of the three judges who recently convicted President Katzav of rape, two are women, and the chief judge is an Israeli Arab. Where else in the Middle East would such a thing be possible?


Many choose to see Israel as the problem in the Middle East. But in reality, Israel is the solution for the Middle East. Israel has precisely what the Middle East needs. A peace deal between Israel and Palestine will help to neutralize at least some of the hate, and will open the door to allow Israel to partner with her neighbors to revitalize the region consistent with the will of the people.


Therefore, we call upon Netanyahu and Abbas to rise to the occasion and to leave no stone unturned in their quest for peace. No doubt there is a long history of failure in this regard. And no doubt there will be bitter pills to swallow on both sides of this conflict. However, the circumstances on the ground, even as we speak, all point to the possibility of a new beginning, a chance for peaceful co-existence, and the prospects for a new Middle East, where peace, prosperity and freedom reign supreme, and a Vision of Hope is finally allowed to take hold.



file under: vision of hopeMiddle East Peaceeconomic developmentDemonstrations 24 Mar 2011 5:01 PM
Half Measures with No Clear Vision in Sight Posted by Nissim Dahan
Where is the vision? Where are we heading? And how do we get there?


For some reason, when it comes to the Middle East, people the world over seem to content themselves with half measures and short-sighted thinking. We feel good about doing something, anything for that matter, even if it has little bearing on the problem at hand, or no chance of bringing about a long term solution.


Take, as an example, the current military campaign in Libya, which is being undertaken by France, England and the U.S. We are targeting military installations, pursuant to authorization from the U.N. Security Council and the Arab League, ostensibly to stop Gadhafi from killing his own people. Sounds good, right? But as they say, the devil is in the details. Why aren't we attacking other dictators who are similarly killing their own people? How will a strictly air campaign prevent Gadhafi from killing his people? Isn't regime change our ultimate goal? How will an air campaign bring about regime change? And if Gadhafi steps down, who will take his place, and to what end?


And the Libya affair is not an isolated example of lack of vision and lack of direction. With our blood and treasure heavily invested in Afghanistan and Iraq, we still don't have even a hint of peace and stability in those nations. With a sanction regime imposed on Iran, we still see Iran pursuing its nuclear weapon ambitions with impunity, as well as its ambitions to remake the Middle East as it sees fit. And with the mounting pressure being exerted on the whole of the Middle East by the man on the street, we still don't have a sense that the change that is coming will be in keeping with the aspirations of the people, and with the best interests of the region as a whole.


So what is missing in the puzzle we call the Middle East? What is missing is a vision, and a reasonable way of giving substance to the vision. And without a vision, and a solid plan of action, the best made plans of mice and men will drift aimlessly in the winds of change.


What is needed is a vision, a Vision of Hope, a vision of Peace, Prosperity and Freedom. It doesn't have to be that vision in particular, although such a vision would address most of what people aspire to, but it should be a vision which brings together all the pieces of a possible solution to our most intractable problems, which packages those pieces in the most attractive way possible, and which allows us to sell that vision to the man on the street. A vision of that sort, a vision which captures hearts and minds, would buy us time to make the necessary changes to give substance to the vision. When the man on the street, who fumes with anger even as we speak, comes to believe that he is being offered a place at the table, a stake in his future, then he may settle down, at least for a while, comforted in the belief that his dreams for the future may one day become real.


And who do we need most of all, to give substance to a Vision of Hope, a vision of Peace, Prosperity and Freedom? Well we have plenty of politicians out there, talking up a storm. And we have academics galore, arguing this and that, back and forth, and back again. And of course, we have our diplomats, ever so careful in the words they choose, going about here and there, making their presence known. But if we really want to get something done, if we choose to move from words to deeds, then we will have no choice but to get the business community in on the game, so as to create good paying jobs; jobs which grow our economies, jobs which protect our environment, and jobs which help to weaken the hold of extremist thinking.


Instead of half measures and short-sighted thinking, we owe it to ourselves, and to future generations, to put in place a new model for the Middle East, by inspiring the world's top business leaders, Billionaires for Peace, to push the peace process forward from behind the scenes, and to revitalize the entire region with good paying jobs, moderate candidates, and requisite institutions, for the sake of global peace, prosperity and freedom. 


There is a real opportunity now to make something happen in the Middle East, something that could change the world for the better, and something that will breathe life into the people there and beyond. But nothing good will happen, if all we look for is the quick fix. What is needed is a vision which puts it all together, and the willingness to do what it takes to make real what is now only a dream.


Please join us, with your comments.
file under: vision of hopepeace in the Middle EastDemonstrationsbillionaires for peace 4 Mar 2011 4:24 PM
Doing Justice to the Martyrs Posted by Nissim Dahan

It's one thing to bring about a revolution; it's quite another to bring about revolutionary change.


There are people dying, even as we speak, on the streets of the Middle East.  Mohammed Bouazizi of Tunisia set himself on fire, and in one fell swoop, set the entire region ablaze. But to what end?


Like Martin Luther King, the man on the street has a dream. And his dream is not all that difficult to fathom. He wants the dignity of a decent job, and the freedom to live his life as he wishes. Are these aspirations in the cards for him, or will his dream be left in the dust, in the flurry of competing agendas?


One can only imagine what must be happening now behind closed doors, in the halls of political power; what promises are being made; what deals are being cut. When the dust settles, will the voices of the dead be heard?


Several possibilities come to mind. The old guard may find a way to reassert its grip on power, only in a new guise. Alternatively, the ideological extremists, who believe what they want to believe, could use the ballot box to gain control, only to impose a new regime of oppressive rule. Iran, after all, enjoyed a few months of democratic rule, after the fall of the Shah, only to usher in the Ayatollahs, who had a different idea in mind. One man, one vote, one time. Or so the motto goes. And finally, although there are no guarantees, it may actually be possible, this time around, to institute revolutionary change, the change that gives life to the aspirations of the people, and that does justice to the legacy of the dead.


What can be done to give substance to the hopes of the people? Three things. First, we should recognize the opportunity that exists for meaningful change. Second, we should embrace a vision which allows us to take advantage of that opportunity. And third, we should find a mechanism that allows us to give substance to the vision. In this way, we can finally make real what is now only a dream.


The opportunity that exists for real change in the Middle East comes from the fact that many of the key players are beginning to worry about the same kinds of things, and may actually need one another for a change, to stave off these very common existential threats. "The enemy of my enemy is my friend." For example, many Arab leaders worry about two things in particular: the threat from a nuclear Iran, and the threat from the man on the street. These common threats could point to common interests, what I call a mosaic of mutual self-interest, which could in turn be used to create a strategic/economic alliance between the Arab states, Israel, the U.S., and Europe. The alliance will focus primarily on two things: providing security for the region and creating good paying jobs; jobs which grow our economies, jobs which protect the environment, and jobs which weaken the hold of extremist thinking.


What sort of a vision will be required to take advantage of the opportunity that exists for real change? It should be a Vision of Hope for the Middle East, a vision of Peace, Prosperity and Freedom. It will be a vision which puts together all the pieces of a possible solution to our most intractable problems-the Economy, the Environment and Extremism-which packages those pieces in the most attractive way possible, and which allows us to sell that package to the man on the street. It will be a vision which inspires a sense of hope, and which delivers on that promise by giving everyone in the region a place at the table, a stake in his or her future. And it will be a vision which is complete, in that it addresses all the needs and aspirations of the people, from every point of view possible.


And what mechanism can best give substance to a Vision of Hope? Certainly, political leaders will be needed, who recognize the needs and aspirations of the people, and who know how to translate those intangibles into hard realities. But in addition, and perhaps even more importantly, business leaders will be needed as well, Billionaires for Peace, who will work behind the scenes to push the peace process forward, and to revitalize the entire region with good paying jobs, moderate candidates and requisite institutions. These visionaries will put in place a new model for the Middle East, a model that inspires a sense of hope, and that delivers on that promise.


More than any other group, it is perhaps the business community which is best positioned, most qualified, and most inclined to turn the Middle East around, and to do justice to the memory of the dead, by giving life to the aspirations of the living.



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