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Selling a Vision of Hope: A Refreshing Alternative to Armageddon

Look inside Nissim Dahan's book Selling a Vision of Hope with Google Books.

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Migrants seek new routes into Balkans after formal borders sealed

A refugee hugs a boy next to a border fence at a makeshift camp for migrants and refugees at the Greek-Macedonian border near the village of Idomeni
By Fedja Grulovic IDOMENI, Greece (Reuters) - After weeks stranded at a closed border in northern Greece, migrants and refugees are seeking out new, irregular routes to get into Macedonia, clambering through forests and over hills under the cover of darkness. As dusk fell on Saturday evening, a Reuters witness saw a group of up to 70 people crossing into Macedonia from Greece, at a point where there is no razor wire fence between the two countries. It was roughly a 20 km (12 mile), or four hour walk from Idomeni, a sprawling tent city hosting thousands of refugees and migrants stranded by a cascade of border shutdowns throughout the Balkans in February.

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

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Vision of Hope
Category >> vision of hope
file under: vision of hopeArab Spring 29 Nov 2011 3:54 PM
Gandhi, King and Mandela Posted by Nissim Dahan
 

 

Some of the strongmen of the Middle East are no longer in the picture, but who, and what, will come to replace them?

 

Yesterday's parliamentary elections in Egypt is a case in point. Certainly, there was a sense of hope written on the faces of Egyptians who voted, as perhaps a first step in reclaiming their country. But who did they vote for? Undoubtedly, the Muslim Brotherhood will garner a strong position in the new government. But does that necessarily mean an end to democracy even before it starts?

 

It came as a surprise to some to find out that in recent months, the Muslim Brotherhood has advocated strongly on behalf of foreign investment in Egypt, and on behalf of job creation. Even though there are fears in the air that women's rights are in danger, and that a return to religious fundamentalism is in the offing, still, the Brotherhood, at least for now, doesn't seem to dwell on such things, but focuses its rhetoric on jobs. Is this just a ploy to win elections, or is it the real deal?

 

There is no doubt that ordinary people on the streets of Cairo, and throughout the region, yearn for many of the same things that are sought after the world over, like freedom, dignity and economic security. It would seem to make sense, therefore, that these causes should be at the heart of any successful political campaign, even campaigns conducted by those with leanings toward religious fundamentalism. In other words, to the extent that the people on the street are deeply committed to such things as freedom, democracy and jobs, then to that extent, any political party, regardless of its ideological inclinations, will have no choice but to speak about, and deliver on, the causes which are most important to the people, in order to win elections, and most importantly, to win hearts and minds.

 

That, at least, is the hope for the revolution that some call the Arab Awakening.

 

Of course, there are no guarantees, especially when you're talking about political revolutions. In fact, most times things go badly, before getting any better. But there are things, three things in particular, that may help to move a revolution in the right direction, in a direction that is in line with the aspirations of the people.

 

The first thing that can help bring success to a revolution is to embrace a vision, a vision of hope, that calls for change which is positive, realistic and attainable. For example, if it is freedom and jobs you want, then advocate on behalf of these, because they are within the realm of possibility. And in fact, personal freedom and job creation go hand in hand. Any regime which strives for economic growth and job creation in this globalized world of ours, will  have no choice but to allow some measure of freedom, as a way of instilling a sense of trust among prospective investors. These freedoms may be limited somewhat, as in the case of China, but greater openness is indispensable to economic growth.

 

The second factor that helps to bring success to a revolution is to bring life to a vision of hope using the right tactics, and this involves a strategy of non-violence. You don't want to demonize certain individuals, or certain groups, because this will cause such groups to retreat into their own corners, in preparation for civil war. You want to be inclusive of all people, and advocate on behalf of a vision which is welcoming to all, and which inspires everyone to come together in common purpose. And you want your voice to be heard throughout the land, while shying away from violence, even in the face of violent attacks by the opposition, which for the most part has been the case in places like Egypt and Tunisia. Syria is another matter, but the violence there by the government is so overwhelming, that some violent resistance is inevitable.

 

The third, and perhaps paramount aspect of a successful revolution is to pick leaders in the mold of visionaries like Gandhi, King and Mandela, who inspired their people, and who used non-violence to give substance to the aspirations of the people. They were not motivated by revenge. Gandhi could have turned the people against the British, but he didn't. King had reason to turn against his country, but he didn't. And Mandela could have launched a campaign to turn against the whites, and confiscate their property, but he didn't. Instead, these leaders chose a different path: to advocate on behalf a vision of hope, to give substance to their vision using non-violent means, to be all-inclusive in their approach, and to deliver on promises made so as to give hope for a better future.

 

The Arab Awakening is at a crossroads. We can become entrenched ideologically, and consolidate political power by demonizing one another. Or we can choose instead to embrace a vision of hope, and deliver on that promise with real change, change that capture hearts and minds, and that gives life to the aspirations of the people. The choice is ours and everything we love and hold dear hangs in the balance.

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

file under: vision of hopepeace in the Middle Eastcivil disobiencea new model 28 Jul 2011 12:03 PM
A Day at the Beach Posted by Nissim Dahan
 

A friend of mine brought to my attention a recent article by Ethan Bronner in The New York Times, Where Politics Are Complex, Simple Joys at the Beach. The article describes a group of Israeli women who engage in civil disobedience by sneaking into Israel groups of Palestinian women to enjoy a day at the beach. The Israeli women, who call themselves We Will Not Obey, are willing to break the law to send the message that in their opinion, the occupation, with its attendent legislation, is unjust and should be brought to an end. The Palestinian women are willing to take the heat from their husbands, friends, and families, to enjoy a day at the beach, and to taste a small measure of freedom.

 

While the beach scene may seem idyllic on its face, not everything goes smoothly on such occasions. A Palestinian woman, who has five of her brothers in Israeli prisons, and whose other brother was killed when he entered a settler religious academy armed with a knife, said, "This is all ours," when she first entered Tel Aviv. The Israeli women reminded her, however, that his was their home. Another Palestinian woman admitted that her husband's family did not approve of her visits, "How can you be with the Jews, they ask me, are you a collaborator?"

 

So perhaps the deep seated divide between these two people is still there, only to be temporarily papered over by an occasional act of defiance, an occasional visit to the beach. But something about this story struck me as significant. Perhaps it was the fact that women, and not men, were taking the initiative to defy the law, but in a gentle, and non-violent manner. Women, on the whole, seem to have a keen sense of right and wrong, and are not naturally inclined to obsess over ideological differences. Women have better things to do with their time. They tend to build bridges, not walls.

 

Our daughter gave birth to her fourth child this week. At a moment's notice, my wife and she sprang into action, making the necessary arrangements to bring this child into the world, and to care for her as best they could. For the most part, the men sat back, watched, and marveled at it all.  Who are women, I often ask myself. 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, a vision of Peace, Prosperity and Freedom.

 

There are many instances, around the world, of a disconnect between the policies of government and the aspirations of the people. The majority of Israelis and Palestinians want peace, but their leaders seem disinclined to make the effort. In the Arab world, the man on the street wants a decent job and the personal freedom to live his life as he sees fit. And yet, the powers that be remain committed to a model that is repressive and out of step with the will of the people. In the United States, Republicans and Democrats, who are debating a solution to debt crisis, are willing to play a game of chicken with the full faith and credit of the country, which could wreak economic havoc in the U.S. and around the world.

 

Leaders, on all sides of the fence, get caught up in ideological traps, traps which imprison their thinking, traps which make it difficult to find common ground, and traps which make compromise a dirty word. At a time when global problems require global solutions, narrow-minded ideological positions keep us cooped up in our own little worlds. And it's going to take more than a Day at the Beach for us to enjoy the light of day.

 

One of the Israeli women mentioned Rosa Parks, "...I admire her, because she had the courage to break a law that was not right." Yes, but that was not enough. What was needed was a vision, a big vision of hope. Dr. King was a man possessed of such a vision, a vision of civil rights and equal treatment under the law. Ordinarily, Rosa Parks' refusal to give up her seat on the bus, would have been a non-event. But Dr. King was no ordinary man. He was a man possessed of a vision, a big vision of hope. He saw in Rosa Parks an opportunity to give substance to his vision, and soon enough, the reality on the ground grew to fill up the space created by the vision. Such is the dynamic of change in the world, and such is the prescription for change in the Middle East.

 

So let us enjoy our Day at the Beach. Let us continue to push the envelope, just a tad, and without violence, to get our voices heard. But let us, as well, find the courage and the wisdom to give purpose to our passions. Let us embrace a Vision of Hope, a vision of Peace, Prosperity and Freedom, and let us give substance to that vision by changing peoples' lives for the better, with new realities that speak louder than words, and which help to break the walls of ideological divides.

 

 

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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