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Selling a Vision of Hope: A Refreshing Alternative to Armageddon

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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.

file under: Saudi Arabiapeacemoneyglobal warmingfrom hate to hopeeconomic development 14 Apr 2008 7:48 PM
A Recipe for Peace Pie Posted by Nissim Dahan
  • 1 Nanotechnology Research Department at an Israeli University
  • 1 state of the art Green Technology Product
  • 1 Industrial Zone in the Palestinian West Bank
  • 1 mid-size Factory Building
  • Several Palestinian and Israeli Entrepreneurs (preferably of the male and female variety)
  • 200 Palestinian workers (preferably of the "peace-loving" variety)
  • Several Saudi Investors
  • 1 Marketing Firm with hunger in its belly
  • 1 Public Relations Firm with the guts to think big
  • Several Media Outlets (with time on their hands for some good news, for a change)


Baking Directions:

  1. Start by convincing the powers that be at a reputable university in Israel, to use the green technology research of the Department of Nanotechnology, to develop a product that can be used to promote peace and generate profits.
  2. Persuade the university to cooperate in launching and marketing a state of the art green technology product which can help to clean up the environment in some significant and noteworthy manner.
  3. Pick a favorable industrial zone in the West Bank, one that is currently being developed as we speak (preferably one where relative calm prevails).
  4. Persuade a group of Israeli and Palestinian Entrepreneurs to work together, for a change, to produce and market a green product. Remind them that the University gets its cut.
  5. Good luck with this one: Try to convince several open-minded Saudis that it is in their best interest to finance the project. Here are a few arguments you can use: Saudi oil could run out one of these days; so why not diversify your investments with Green Technology, which the world is hungry for? It will be good PR for The Kingdom to show that oil profits are being used to create green profits. Good paying jobs will help neutralize extremism which is good for business. The hold of ideological extremists on the public's imagination will weaken as people begin to imagine a better life for themselves. You never know when extremism will turn around and bite you in the ass (Remember, Bin Laden is not exactly a friend of the family). Blah, blah, blah, etc.
  6. Once everything is in place, hire and train some 200 Palestinian workers to produce the green product that will help clean up the world. Pay them well. Give them the respect they deserve. And remind them on a daily basis the teachings on non-violence of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King. (Make sure to take out plenty of liability insurance just in case.)
  7. Hire an excellent marketing firm to promote the sale of the product.
  8. Hire an excellent PR firm to show to the world that peace is possible, and that it starts with good paying jobs.
  9. Rally the people on the street, and the leaders behind closed doors, to advocate on behalf of peace through good paying jobs.
  10. Use the media attention and public interest to raise more money: for more projects, for more jobs, for more profits, and for more protection of the environment.

Let me ask you this: Do you think this pie will be any good? Do you have any idea where some of these ingredients may be? Do you think it's time to start baking instead of just talking? Are you willing to try the first bite?

file under: vision of hopetransitionSaudi Arabiapeacemoneyglobal warmingfrom hate to hopeeconomic development 5 Feb 2008 9:01 PM
The Hamsa and the Businessman Posted by Nissim Dahan
Most of you probably know what a Hamsa is. Right? For those who don't; it is a good luck symbol, in the shape of a hand, which has been around as part of Arab and Jewish cultures for centuries. Most Hamsas feature an "eye" to protect from the "evil eye." And in recent times, a great many feature a "dove" to symbolize peace.


What would you say is the evil that we need protection from in this day and age? For what it's worth, today's evil is the evil of ideological extremism. And I'm not just talking about extremist religious fundamentalism. I'm talking about all kinds of ideological extremes, including the belief that we should keep our economies running on fossil fuels, even at the expense of cooking ourselves to death.


As some of you know, I am a strong believer in Selling a Vision of Hope, as the antidote to some of the insanity we see swirling around us. As you look at the five fingers of the hand of the Hamsa, think of the five aspects of Selling a Vision of Hope:


1. The thumb is for Ideology: Instead of believing what you want to believe, start believing in what makes sense. Use an Ideology of Common Sense to speak to one another with Common Sense and with a sense of personal dignity.


2. The index finger is for Investment: 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." Invest in projects which inspire a sense of hope, which create jobs, and which protect the environment."


3. The middle finger is for Hope: 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.


4. The ring finger is for Public Diplomacy: Once you sell a Vision of Hope, you sustain the Hope by launching a series of Public Diplomacy Programs which are specifically designed to prop a Vision of Hope 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.


5. The pinky is for the willingness to Fight: When necessary, and it will be necessary, fight, and fight hard, against the forces of extremism, wherever they may be found, but position the fight within a Vision of Hope. Raise 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 the hell they're fighting for. For example, we are not fighting a "war against terror." We are fighting a war to realize a Vision of Hope. There's a big difference.


That's pretty much it. Now let me ask you this: If you want to give some substance to Selling a Vision of Hope, what kind of project would you recommend? I need your advice. What kind of project would say to the world that a Vision of Hope could be made real if people choose to make it so?


Here's one idea. See what you think. We get a consortium of Arab and Israeli businesspeople to build a factory on the West Bank. They get funding from Saudi Arabia, believe it or not. They hire and train local Palestinian workers to produce a product which is especially suited to protect the environment. For example, they could produce a long lasting battery to power cars. You pull into a gas station and switch out your battery, instead of filling up on gas. The research for this product comes from a leading university in Israel, or elsewhere, which specializes in green technology. The project is successful, and attracts more money, for more projects, for more jobs, and for more eco-friendly products.


Why would the Saudis fund such a project, you may well ask, especially since it promotes green technology? Here are a few possible reasons: The Saudis could use some good PR for a change. They would be using oil profits to protect the earth, and to stabilize the region with good paying jobs. What a concept! They would diversify their investments, and made good money, by getting in on the ground floor of technology that the entire world wants. Good jobs would help neutralize some of the ideological rhetoric, as in the case of China, and India. As people begin to make a living, and begin to imagine a better life, the allure of extremism will diminish. Business has a way of creating its own ideological imperative. Eventually, this effort could pave the way for substantive peace, not just BS, which would bless the House of Saud with a good measure of peace of mind. Everybody wins, even the earth, except maybe the extremists.


So what do you think? Any chance of making something happen along these lines? Are we overlooking anything? Are we on to something, or just spinning our wheels? A penny for you thoughts.

file under: moneyeconomic developmentcharitable investment 1 Nov 2007 11:53 AM
Big Money Posted by Nissim Dahan
I just shook hands with the third wealthiest man in the U.S., who is also the sixth wealthiest man in the world. I'm not kidding. I was tempted never to wash my hands again; but my wife nixed that idea, and quick. He seemed like a nice enough guy; someone you'd invite over for coffee and cake. But he's a nice guy who just happens to be sitting on over 30 billion dollars.


There is a lot of money out there. My dad says that in the United States alone, we have some 3 ½ trillion dollars sitting in charitable foundations. That's "trillion" as in "one thousand billion."


So the question is: Why can't we use some of that money to solve some of our big ticket problems like: the Middle East, Global Warming, our Inner Cities, World Hunger and Disease, etc.? Well, the truth is that some charitable money is going to those worthwhile causes; but not in any sort of a concerted way. Right now, each charity, and each foundation, has to decide how to invest its money. It is difficult at times to coordinate all these various charitable entitles to move in one direction. Each organization does its own thing; as it has a right to do. So what is the problem?


It doesn't take a genius to see that the world is coming together; or becoming "flat" as Tom Friedman suggests. For good or for bad, the world, by the process we call "globalization," is coming together technologically and economically. What does this mean? It means, among other things, that as the world comes together globally, global problems will emerge, problems which will require global solutions, solutions which will entail global funding. And so, the solitary efforts of charitable foundations and institutions, noble as they may be in and of themselves, may not suffice to handle the global challenges which lie at our doorstep.


Think about the links of a chain. Each link, by itself, is of limited utility. But connect the links together, and now you have a chain that can be used to pull a heavy object in any given direction. It's like that with charitable giving. If every charity and every foundation invests privately, as it sees fit, then the good that is done is spread around randomly, but not necessarily in a common direction. And so, big global problems, which cry out for massive funding, like Global Warming or the Middle East, remain unattended. The money that is available is being spread too thin to make a difference where it really counts. This doesn't mean that no good is being done. It just means that some major global problems are being left by the wayside.


How do we get wealthy people to invest globally? It's not easy, but there is hope. The problem is that making money is not easy. It often takes one hell of an ego to amass one hell of a fortune. Some people who are very wealthy have such big egos, that it is often difficult to fit more than one of them into a single room. So how would you get them to coordinate their charitable efforts so as to tackle some of the big ticket problems like the Middle East, Global Warming, Hunger, and Disease?


You guessed it: If you could somehow sell the wealthy of the world on a Vision of Hope, easier said than done, then you may be able to convince them to prioritize differently, to concentrate their efforts, and to subsume some of their personal pet projects into the realm of the greater good.


There are a few shining examples which stand out in this regard. Bill Gates, a computer genius and business titan, gets married, and decides, all of a sudden, to change the face of healthcare in Africa, and the face of education, in America. And he and Melinda have enough money, enough compassion, and enough vision, to actually make a difference. Then Warren Buffett comes along, an investment icon, and looks for a legacy that is worthy of his good name. He is taken in by Bill and Melinda, and guess what; he turns over his money to them, to further their lofty goals for the betterment of mankind.


There is hope in the world, with people like Bill, Melinda, and Warren. It is up to us to give substance to that hope, by spreading the word, and spreading the wealth within the broader context of a Vision of Hope. That way we can connect our various links together, and begin pulling in the same direction.