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Selling a Vision of Hope: A Refreshing Alternative to Armageddon

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Category >> a new model for the Middle East
file under: Visionaires for PeaceMiddle East PeaceGreen Industrial Zonea new model for the Middle East 18 Jan 2012 11:44 AM
Green Industrial Zones: A New Model for the Middle East Posted by Nissim Dahan


The following conversation took place between me, myself and I; three people I happen to know quite well:


What is your answer for the Middle East?


I would use Arab and Western capital and knowhow to build a Green Industrial Zone in Rafah, Gaza; where Gaza, Egypt and Israel converge, and where 300,000 Jews, Christians and Muslims would show up to work on a daily basis.


Why Rafah in particular? Isn't that a tough neighborhood, to say the least?


Rafah is the "wild west" of the Middle East. But because it's such a tough place, is why you want to build it there. Like Frank Sinatra sang about New York City, "If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere..."


Why a Green Industrial Zone? Why not a plain old, run-of-the-mill industrial zone?


Because we're not just building an industrial zone. We're building a new model for the Middle East, a model for positive change in that troubled region. We want to inspire a sense of hope, and deliver on that promise with jobs: jobs which grow our economies, jobs which protect the environment, and jobs which help weaken the hold of extremist thinking. By focusing the project on the environment, and by working to improve the human condition, on issues such as clean water, food production, healthcare and green energy, we are more likely to garner worldwide attention and additional investment dollars. As such, we could replicate the project throughout the Middle East, in a bid to revitalize the entire region with jobs. What begins as a single solitary project could well blossom into a movement for change.


How about Hamas? Wouldn't they just blow up the place?


Even Hamas needs to create jobs. It's one thing to get elected. It's quite another to govern. As Hamas, or the Muslim Brotherhood, undertake to govern, and as they take note of what is happening on the Arab street even as we speak, they may come to the realization that job creation is in their interest as they attempt to consolidate political power. Therefore, while they may not agree to peace, they may agree to protect our Green Industrial Zone, as a way of inspiring the man on the street, and delivering on that promise with jobs.


What makes you think that wealthy Arabs and Westerners would likely invest in such a venture?


For the first time, in a long time, Arab, Israeli and Western leaders are facing some very common existential threats, namely, the prospect of a nuclear Iran, and the fury of the man on the street. These common existential threats, what we call a mosaic of mutual self-interest, could be leveraged into a strategic/economic alliance between the Arab states, Israel, the U.S., and Europe, with two purposes in mind: to provide security in the region, and to use Arab and Western capital and knowhow to revitalize the region with jobs. Millions of Western jobs could also be created in the process as we open up a new market for our goods and services.



Where would you get the green technology to run a Green Industrial Zone?


As it happens, counties like Israel offer quite a bit in this regard. My friend in the Technion, for example, just invented a way of engineering fruits and vegetables that are draught resistant and that use 70% less water. Imagine the possibilities for feeding people in places like the Middle East and Africa. And Israel would likely cooperate because she would much prefer to see positive change occurring in the Middle East, so that an already tough neighborhood does not become even more so.


Where would you find the workers with the necessary skills to handle green jobs?


We would build a vocational school, as part of our Green Industrial Zone, to train young workers, and to equip them with the necessary skills. We would also invest in female entrepreneurs and promote women's rights.


Why women in particular?


Empower Muslim women in ways that they deem appropriate, and you will have changed the face of the Middle East. Who are women? 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.


Do you really believe that a new model of this sort is even possible?


Maybe, maybe not. However, some of the key players in the Middle East are quickly running out of good options. They may choose to join in, not because they necessarily love one another, or because they want peace, or because they want a better world for their children. No, none of that crap. They may join in because they're running out of options, as the old model that has been put in place is falling apart. The writing is on the wall for all the business and political leaders in the Middle East. We see the energy in the hearts and minds of young people. We either find a way to marshal that energy and point it in a positive direction, or it will all explode in our collective faces.


How long will it all take?


A new Middle East may take generations to pull off. However, the plans for the industrial zone in Rafah already exist. A wealthy industrialist in Israel, Stef Wertheimer, already drew them up, and was ready to break ground, when the second Intifada broke out in the year 2000, and the plans were scrapped. We could use those plans, put some serious capital behind them, and launch the project immediately with Caterpillar tractors showing up to clear the land. Even this first step would inspire a sense of hope, and would buy us time to effectuate positive chance gradually, as opposed to dealing with revolutionary change on our doorsteps.



A Green Industrial Zone in a wild and crazy place like Rafah will resonate with hope, and will deliver on that promise with jobs. It will be the model which answers 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? As such, it will capture the world's imagination and be replicated in a bid to revitalize the entire region with jobs and personal freedoms. It will restore the rich legacy of Arab pride and dignity. It will bring stability where chaos now reigns. And it will point to a place where, for a change, everybody wins.


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: 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.

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.

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