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Selling a Vision of Hope: A Refreshing Alternative to Armageddon

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Vision of Hope
Category >> economic development
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 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: Saudi Arabiaglobal warmingenvironmenteconomic developmentcommon sense 28 Jun 2008 12:37 PM
Global Warming: The Beginning of the End, or perhaps a New Beginning? Posted by Nissim Dahan
There is as we speak, a growing awareness about Global Warming, and a growing controversy about the dangers it poses, and the possible solutions which could address those dangers. Some believe that Global Warming is the end of life as we know it, and others dismiss it as environmental quackery. To my mind, however, there is enough scientific evidence of the threat of Global Warming, such that the risk of not doing anything about it, is far greater than the risk of doing something, and later finding out that is wasn't really necessary to do so. In other words, the risk posed by Global Warming is so great, that it is worth doing something about it, even if we're not exactly sure that the problem really exists.

 

I don't want to bother you with all the scientific data. Al Gore and his colleagues can certainly do a better job of that. That being said, I watched a show on TV a couple of days ago on the National Geographic channel. The scientists there pointed out that the polar ice caps used to be the size of the U.S. until recently, and are now about 2/3 of the size they once were. If they continue to melt at present rates, they could disappear by the year 2050, which is right around the corner, and the sea level could rise by as much as 20 feet, which would flood approximately 60% of humanity.

 

Global Warming is not just an environmental issue. It is an issue with ideological dimensions. It is a problem that brings into sharp focus what is important in life, and what we, as a species, will choose as our collective destiny. Yes, we are now charged with the onerous task of choosing our own destiny.

 

Some 150 years ago, relatively a bleep in the history of man, we decided, as part and parcel of the Industrial Revolution, to run our economies on fossil fuels. Could that decision have been a wrong turn taken by man as he made his way through the annals of history; a mistaken direction? And is it time now to retrace our steps and to find the right path once again? And is it just possible that Global Warming will force us, once and for all, to decide what is important in life, and to organize ourselves around principles which make more sense, which will bring more justice, and which will sustain us on this good earth?

 

If it is indeed true, as is quickly becoming apparent, that Global Warming, if left unchecked, will bring us storms and floods on the scale of those described in the story of  Noah, then we have no choice but to rethink our priorities, to use our God-given Common Sense, and to reorganize ourselves ideologically, economically, and environmentally, in a more sensible and sustainable manner.

 

Strange as it may seem, Global Warming, the ultimate threat to our existence as a species, can also be the impetus for the kind of change that can better assure our long term survival.  If we take the threat seriously, we will conform our behavior to the dictates of Common Sense, as opposed to the lure of greed, and reorganize ourselves consistent with a Vision of Hope, thus averting the abyss, and building a new future for ourselves, one based on justice and sustainability.

 

Common Sense suggests that in a world of limited resources, that the need for a sustainable environment trumps short-sighted economic policies which leave vast economic disparities, ideological extremisms, and environmental wastelands, in their wake. Common sense suggests that we in the industrialized world owe it to future generations to move toward green technology and renewable energy, and that we do so by creating good paying jobs around the world, which are aimed at producing green products which will protect and sustain the environment.

 

Such jobs will help to mitigate economic disparities, will help to neutralize ideological extremism, will help to clean up and sustain the earth, and will inspire people with a sense of hope by showing them a way out of the clutches of extreme poverty. Investment in green technology jobs by the Western world, and even by the Arab world, will have the added benefit of conferring to the investor countries, and their people, a sense of spiritual awakening, and restoring in them a sense of purpose and hope.

 

All this may seem like just talk, but talk which is persuasive can lead to action. As an example of where we need to go; the Japanese car company, Honda, just came up with a car, "Clarity," which runs on a hydrogen fuel cell, with zero carbon emissions, just water vapor. And as you may know, Japan is investing heavily in developing industrial zones in the West Bank. Let me ask you this: Why can't a plant to build this car be built in the West Bank? Why can't Palestinian, Israeli, and Japanese business people collaborate, for a change, to make this happen? Why can't Palestinian workers be hired and trained to produce a product that can help to protect the earth? Why can't Saudi financing be used to finance the project as a way of converting oil profits to green profits, and as a way of neutralizing extremism?

 

Why? Why? Why? If it makes sense, and if it is now time to make sense of our lives,  then why don't we at least just give it a try?

file under: transitionpeacemoderate majorityfrom hate to hopeforeign policyeconomic developmentcommon sensecharitable investment 28 May 2008 6:34 PM
If you were Barack Obama, how would you Sell a Vision of Hope for the Middle East? Posted by Nissim Dahan
Given the choice, most voters would rather forget about the Middle East. With so many pressing problems here at home, it is hard to keep worrying about that precarious place. But the Middle East is not easily forgotten. In the first place, our oil supply, which continues to fuel our economy until we find feasible alternatives, requires a measure of stability in the region. And in the second place, John McCain has stated repeatedly that the threat of Islamic extremism is the transcendent issue of our time. So how should Senator Obama speak about the Middle East, so as to inspire Americans with a sense of hope in that regard, and so as to meet the challenges he will face from Republicans on this important issue?

 

Americans are responding enthusiastically to Senator Obama's call for hope and change. Along these same lines, there is no reason why a message of hope and change cannot include the Middle East as well. In fact, Senator Obama would be well advised to give substance to his message of hope and change by selling Americans, and people around the world, on a Vision of Hope for the Middle East. In a very real sense, if people can become inspired with hope when it comes to the precarious Middle East, then they could definitely become inspired about a whole host of other issues, which are a lot less contentious. So let the Middle East be the test for the possibility of hope.

 

Keeping all this in mind, how would you go about inspiring people with a Vision of Hope for the Middle East?

 

Selling a Vision of Hope has five parts to it, like the five fingers of your hand:

 

The thumb is for Ideology:  The world, which is increasingly becoming globalized economically and technologically, is ready for a new ideological framework-an Ideology of Common Sense-based on universal principles of common sense;  by which we speak to one another with common sense and with a sense of personal dignity. Instead of believing what we want to believe, it is time to start believing in what makes sense. In a more perfect world, common sense will inspire our thinking and inform our speech. How do wed begin to come together?  In our fractured world, common sense is the common denominator.

 

The index finger if for Investment: We should invest in one another to create good paying jobs which inspire a sense of hope, which protect the environment, and which help to neutralize ideological extremism. If the West is good at anything it is making and investing money. Why not use this strength as part of our strategic arsenal to promote the peace and to defeat extremism? We can use public and private funds to create an International Fund for Economic Development in the Middle East, under the banner, "We stand ready to invest in you, if you are ready to invest in yourselves." Good paying jobs there could create good paying jobs here at home, by opening up new markets for our goods and services. And with green technology jobs, we could help convert oil profits into green profits, and begin to clean up the environment as well.

 

The middle finger is for Hope: We could use an Ideology of Common Sense along with some well placed Investment Dollars to sell a Vision of Hope-a vision of Peace, Prosperity, and Freedom-on the Arab street, in the Muslim world, and in the world as a whole. Einstein came up with E=mc2. Thankfully, the formula for world peace is a lot simpler: Ideology plus Investment equals Hope, and with hope, all things are possible, even the impossible dream of peace.

 

The ring finger is for Public Diplomacy: Once you sell a Vision of Hope, it becomes important to sustain the vision, by launching a series of Public Diplomacy Programs which are specifically designed to prop the vision up and to carry it forward, such as: a Media Campaign, a program to Empower Women, a Student Exchange, a Cultural Exchange, an expanded version of the Peace Corps, and a series of International Conferences on economics, religion, and education.

 

Take, for example, the program to Empower Women. Empower women in the Middle East, 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.

 

The pinky is for the willingness to Fight: If we already have to fight against ideological extremism, and we do, then we should fight, and fight hard, but we should position the fight within a Vision of Hope. We should elevate the fight on the ground to a higher moral plain, by giving the fight a moral clarity of purpose. People will fight harder once they know what they're fighting for. We're not fighting a war against terror. We're fighting a war to realize a Vision of Hope. There's a big difference.

 

 

By speaking this way, Senator Obama will neutralize any attempt to cast him as soft on terror, while at the same time inspiring a sense of hope for the Middle East. In effect, he will empower our nation to face the ideological extremists head on. Selling a Vision of Hope is a way of beating the extremists at their own game, of doing what they do only better, of co-opting their strategy and thereby marginalizing them in the eyes of their own people.

 

If the extremists are ideological about violent Jihad, we will be ideological about Common Sense. If they invest peanuts in charitable handouts, we will invest some serious dollars in jobs. If they sell a vision of hope for 72 virgins, or martyrdom, or paradise, or a caliphate, or what have you, we will sell a Vision of Hope for Peace, Prosperity, and Freedom.

 

At every turn, we will cut them off at the pass, and beat them at their own game. We will marginalize them in the eyes of their own people. They will become pariahs in the midst and will come to know the loneliness of being out of step with the will of the people. The will of the people will not be deterred. In the final analysis, the ideological extremists will not be able to capture the public's imagination, once people begin to imagine the possibility of a better life for themselves.

 

Ask yourself this: Where will peace ultimately come from? When all is said and done, peace will come from the heart and the mind of the man on the street. We can win his mind by speaking to him with Common Sense and with a sense of personal dignity. We can win his heart by investing in him-by giving him a place at the table, a stake in his future. And we can win the peace by selling him on a Vision of Hope. Give the man on the street a sense of hope and you will have turned the corner on world peace. Nothing less will suffice, and nothing more is needed.

 

As Barack Obama is suggesting, start with a vision, a big Vision of Hope. Give it some substance on the ground. And soon enough, the reality on the ground will fill up the space created by the vision. Such is the dynamic for change in the world, and such is the prescription for change in the Middle East. This may well be the time, before time runs out, to dream the impossible, and to make the impossible come true.

 

For more information, please visit our website at www.sellingavisionofhope.org

file under: Saudi Arabiapeacenational defensemoneymoderate majorityhuman rightsglobal warmingfrom hate to hopeeconomic development 5 May 2008 9:12 PM
ISRAEL@60: A Light Unto The Nations? Posted by Nissim Dahan
Sixty years have passed since the founding of the State of Israel, and it is fitting, therefore, to look back and to assess. Since her founding, the expectation was that the Jewish State would become "A Light Unto the Nations," in keeping with biblical prophesies to that effect. Has this hope been realized, or has Israel failed to measure up to the hopes of its founders?

 

In many respects, the light of Israel has shined brightly for the world to behold. Due in large part to the boundless courage of her defenders, she came into being out of the ashes of the Holocaust, and in spite of a concerted and protracted effort to destroy her. She nurtured and sustained a vibrant democracy even in the face of persistent and existential threats to her security. She prospered economically using very few natural resources, save the natural resourcefulness of her citizenry. She successfully absorbed disproportionately high numbers of refugees with open and loving arms. She has pioneered untold advances in science and technology, while holding fast to a love of art and culture. In these, and many other ways, Israel's accomplishments can be considered A Light Unto The Nations.

 

And yet, Israel's history remains a mixed bag of good and bad, as is the case with almost all nations on earth. Each accomplishment is offset by a detriment of sorts. True, she has met the security challenges forcefully, but at the expense of occupying and subduing a neighboring population which feels hopeless and dispossessed. True, she has prospered economically, but at the expense of an increasingly wider gap between the haves and the have-nots. True, she maintains a vibrant democracy, but at the expense of a contentious vying for power between secular and religious Jews, and between the Jewish majority and the Arab minority within its borders.

 

At every turn, each success is countered by an equally significant threat, either from within, or from without. It is as if the path to Israel's perfection is lined with a multitude of impediments, like a ship passing in the night through treacherous waters teeming with hidden mines and explosives. In this regard, Israel's light does not always shine as a beacon of hope, but as the light of a lighthouse, pointing to unseen dangers, and lighting the way toward a safe passage.

 

The threats to Israel, as she turns 60, are the threats we all face in this increasingly globalized world: How do we usher in an age of peace in the face of ideological extremism which is hell bent on war? How do we defend our way of life, when extremist elements are aligning to take that life away? How do we empower the dispossessed with a Vision of Hope for the future, when that vision seems to be slipping away? How do we close the gap between the wealthy few, and the impoverished many? How do we prosper economically while protecting the health and sanctity of our environment? How do we defend ourselves militarily without dashing the hopes and aspirations of the innocent? How do we advance scientifically and technologically without losing sight of the values and emotions which make us human?

 

The answer to these and other questions rests in the promise that Israel offers as she forges ahead toward the next 60 years. And the answer she comes up with can shine a light for others to follow. And what would that answer look like? It's not all that complicated: Israel will use her technology, her knowledge, her drive, and her inclination toward business, to partner with Arab entrepreneurs, to solicit Saudi investment, to hire and train Arab workers, to produce green technology products, to clean the earth, and to safeguard our place upon it. The answer is staring us in the face, if we care to look; Good- paying jobs, aimed at green technology products, with the ultimate goals of: revitalizing the stagnant economies of the Middle East, conditioning people for peace, neutralizing the effects of extremist ideology, protecting the environment, and giving the impoverished and the dispossessed a helping hand out of the clutches of extreme poverty and hopelessness. All this can be done, believe it or not, while enabling all concerned to turn a healthy profit.

 

With God's help, Israel will continue to shine her light unto the nations. Every once in a while her light will shine with pride; the pride born of success. But more often than not, Israel will have no choice but to face the same challenges that all nations now face in this, the 21st century. And in that struggle, she will continue to shine her light, to point to the dangers which lie ahead, and to point to solutions which are effective, equitable, and just. In this manner, Israel will truly fulfill her destiny to shine as A Light Unto The Nations.

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