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Selling a Vision of Hope: A Refreshing Alternative to Armageddon

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Where Will The Rage Take Us? E-mail
Written by Nissim Dahan   
Wednesday, January 26 2011
Things are heating up in the Middle East. People throughout the region are fed up, and rightfully so. They've had it with the oppressive regimes, the corruption, the lack of economic opportunities, and the denial of human rights. And yet, as the anger continues to mount, and as the possibility of change begins to loom large, we must step back and ask ourselves: Where will the rage take us?


Several possibilities come to mind. The regimes could intensify their response, with violence, and the people on the streets might back down. We've seen this scenario play out time and time again. Alternatively, the government could back down, only to be replaced by new political leaders who resort to the oppressive agendas of the past, in the name of restoring a sense of order. And finally, ideological extremists could sense a power vacuum in the making, and could seize the opportunity to bring about regime change. Such an outcome could easily bring back the oppression, but this time in the guise or religious fanaticism. All these various outcomes would be bad, because they do not adequately address the needs and aspirations of the people.


If we want our rage to count, we have no choice but to focus like a laser beam on what it is we want; and to figure out how we're going to get there. Suppose, for example, we agree on a Vision of Hope for the Middle East, a vision of Peace, Prosperity, and Freedom. These three things, Peace, Prosperity, and Freedom, depend on one another, like the three legs of a three-legged table, each leg supporting the other two, and all three supporting a Vision of Hope:


  • Peace supports Prosperity and Freedom because you must stop the violence to grow the economy, and to institute democratic reforms.


  • Prosperity supports Peace and Freedom because people need to believe that their sacrifices on behalf of peace and democracy will eventually lead to a better economic future.


  • Freedom supports Peace and Prosperity because people will elect leaders who have the political mandates to make the painful concessions for peace, and to institute economic reforms.


Now here's the tricky part. How could we go about realizing a vision of Peace, Prosperity and Freedom? The trick is to find a mechanism that seems non-threatening on its face, but which is calculated to bring about positive change. That way, it may be possible to effectuate change, without having the existing regimes over-react, and without bringing to the fore new oppressors in the making, such as the ideological extremists. My best guess is that business is the key. Business is ideologically neutral. Business can create a neutral pathway to peace. Business creates its own ideological imperative. Once people are making money together, they are much less likely to go at each other's throats. Business can create good paying jobs and the prosperity that results. And finally, once people begin to make a decent living, and once they come to enjoy more peaceful relations with their neighbors, then eventually, the personal freedoms of the individual come to be respected and even protected by the powers that be. Human rights and personal freedoms go hand-in-hand with economic development.


It is difficult to say with certainty that an approach of this sort will work. But it is definitely worth trying, if for no other reason than all the failed attempts that came before. Take China as an example. China is still a dictatorship, there is no doubt. And human rights continue to remain an illusive dream. However, as a strong and vibrant middle class begins to take root, and as people's standard of living begins to improve, there is every reason to believe that the rights and freedoms of the individual will grow in stature, and that the government will eventually have no choice but to accommodate this new reality.


Since economic development is at the heart of what needs to be done in the Middle East, I believe that it would be good to put together a group of top business leaders who will work behind the scenes to promote the peace, and to revitalize the entire region with good paying jobs: jobs which grow our economies, jobs which protect the environment, and jobs which help to weaken the hold of extremist thinking, wherever such thinking is to be found. Eventually, if the stars align just right, and granted it's a big "if," I see the possibility of using a mosaic of mutual self-interest in the Middle East, to create a strategic/economic alliance between the Arab states, Israel, and the U.S., which would usher in the peace, and revitalize the region. It may seem a bit far fetched, given all the turmoil that is brewing even as we speak. But it is precisely the turmoil which may one day give birth to the dream.


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Comments (11)Add Comment
written by GABE1, February 13, 2011
Let me state at the outset that I do not subscribe to the Leftist way of thinking anymore. Having lived part of my life in a communist country, I can relate to what some call "democracy" and "freedom" as that what communism started out to be.

As a accountant and somewhat knowledgeable in the field of economics, I am well aware that you cannot yield water from a stone. Taking it a bit further I cannot foresee any Arab regime, no matter its stripe, being able to create jobs for its ever expanding population where the biggest industry is "oil" with few manufacturing or agricultural enterprises. The ones that do exist are on a small scale and very primitive.

I am not sure but would surmise that your construction business took quite a hit in the USA and that happens to be in a well off country.I am also sure that prices in the USA as in Canada for food and oil have gone through the roof. Poverty has increased and only the social network has been able to prevent a catastrophe.

No different than in the Arab countries save and except the social support system through the government.

So, I am quite interested in your take on how "democracy" and freedom" will create jobs and or better the lives of the population. WHERE IS THE MONEY GOING TO COME FROM?

It is odd that a fruit vendor immolated himself and caused such an uproar or the an intifada was started with a car accident.

Only an overhole of the Arab mentality and its reliance on the religious mantra and embracing of modernity can the Arab world be saved. Oil is running out and in the absence of a change and based on Jihadist sentiment , we may not survive Islam.
written by Nissim Dahan, February 14, 2011

I can understand your skepticism. And actually, I would have to be extremely naive to think that the Middle East could easily be revitalized. There are plenty of obstacles, as you suggest.

However, I think there are reasons for hope as well.

First of all, let's look at your primary question: "Were is the money going to come from?"

The oil producing Arab nations are sitting on approximately three trillion dollars. And that's not counting the money that is still in the ground, in the form of oil reserves.

If, and granted it's a big "if," you can convince some of the leaders that it is in there best interest to invest in job creation, then you may have access to a lot of capital from the Arab states themselves, in addition to Western investment.

For the Arabs, job creation would be a way of staving off some of the threats from within, and it would also be a way for them to diversify their investment holdings, and to tackle some of the environmental threats in the region. Saudi Arabia, for example, could continue making money from oil, but it could also begin to make money from "green" as well, such as water purification, or electric cars, etc.

What other reasons are there for optimism? Israel, for example, is on the cutting edge of scientific research that relates well to the indigenous needs of the region, such as food production, healthcare, green energy, and water purification. In addition, Israel has a growing economy, and a lot of expertise on financing, marketing, product launches, etc.

What if you could partner Arab captial and business knowhow, with Israeli research, technology, and business sense, and what if a partnership of that sort grows into a strategic/economic alliance between the Arab states, the U.S., and Israel, for the purpose of providing security in the region, and creating jobs?

It seems to me that all sides of this equation have reason to come together in common purpose. Israel worries about Iran. Saudi and the gulf states worry about Iran, and about a young population without work. The U.S. and Europe want to secure their oil supplies, and would like to keep Iran's nuclear ambitions in check.

If you put all this together, you have all the ingredients you need to grow the economies, and to secure the region: a young educated work force, tons of capital, research and development, economic knowhow, and the strong motivation to do something to stave off the threats from within and without.

I refer to the situation at hand in the Middle East as a mosaic of mutual self-interest, and I think we can use that to create a strategic/economic alliance between some of the key players, including, the Arab states, Israel, and the U.S.

In terms of your comment that the Arab mentality would need to undergo an overhaul, I would agree with that sentiment. That's why I advocate using An Ideology of Common Sense to speak to one another with common sense, and with a sense of personal dignity. In other words, there is definitely an ideological component to all of this. In fact, to make this thing work, we would have to work on five different levels simultaneously: ideologically, economically, spiritually, diplomatically, and militarily.

The threat, as you suggest, is significant, and therefore, our response must be as well.

I appreciate your comments, and hope that we can continue this dialogue. Feel free to comment as you wish, and to post your articles as well.
written by GABE1, February 15, 2011
It behooves me to state that every time I have been optimistic as in 1993, I have been blindsided by the sheer stupidity of the Arabs. They have never missed to miss an opportunity and are doing so now.

They refused their own country in 1947 and than in 1967 as well as in 2000. Now we see the sheer stupidity in failing to negotiate just to score points on the settlement issue as well as with the UN and having recognition. But that was already tried in 1988 by Arafat(mhrin) without getting a state. But instead of living in peace and prosperity they are instead willing to stick it and kill Jews. Why and I am surprised to see that your optimism has not waned as my has been killed a long time ago with the blowing up buses and most recently the Qassams.

I would like peace but will not sacrifice even one Jew for it. When they are ready let them come.
written by GABE1, February 15, 2011
BTW: I was a member of MEPEACE but have been banned for not being optimistic enough and not singing Kumbaya in unison.
written by Nissim Dahan, February 15, 2011
Gabe, I can appreciate your sense of frustration.

The past has been filled with lost opportunities.

You ask where my optimism comes from. I would like to think that I am optimistic by nature. However, at this point in time, my optimism comes from my perception that there is an alignment emerging today between the self-interest of the key players in the Middle East, and the prospects for peace, prosperity and freedom.

In other words, people actually need one another for a change. It used to be that every nation in the Middle East could play its own game. It was easy to reject this or that. Now, however, the players are forced to come together, in common purpose, not because they necessarily want to, and certainly not because they love one another, but because they may actually need one another to stave off some very common exitential threats.

If the West Bank Palestinians want help with Hamas, they may need Israel. If Israel wants help with Iran, it may have to negotiate peace, in order to form an alliance to meet the Iranian threat. If Saudi needs help with Iran, it may agree to form an alliance with Israel. And the list goes on and on of possible connections of this sort, which I call a mosaic of mutual self-interest, and which can be used to create a strategic/economic alliance between the Arab states, Israel, the U.S., and Europe.

And all of the Arab states are worried about the man on the street. To stave off this threat, they will have to create jobs, and Israel could play a leading role in this regard.

This kind of thing did not exist previously. There is something new on the table. Something we can use to carve out a new future for the region.

I agree that peace should not come at the expense of any one nation. What I'm saying here is that a win/win situation is possible. Not because of what I happen to think. But because conditions on the ground are beginning to speak louder than words.
written by GABE1, February 15, 2011
In 1938 Chamberlain came out with a peace of paper and said-"Peace in our Time"- We know the ending of that pessimistic statement.
In 1993 after Oslo Peres said something similar-"A New Middle East"
Well the Middle East has not changed and only the Sinai, Judea and Samaria and the Golan have kept the pot from completely boiling over.

We are being encircled- Hizbulla in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza and with time in all of Judea and Samaria (if allowed), Jordan being swallowed by Palestinians and Hamas and only with time will we find Egypt going Muslim Brotherhood.

The Middle East is becoming a radicalized Islamist neighborhood.

Sorry, but I see no silver lining. I would like to but I just don't as my worst fears are becoming reality. Only land buffer zones can do that. I do not trust paper that can be used as toilet paper at a time of Arab choosing.
written by GABE1, February 16, 2011
To see what optimism the Arab world and their supporters exude, I would suggest you look at recent comments made by Stewart, Sussan, Samira and Basil on the MEWAR site.

According to them we Jews have no right to be in the Middle East as a people or as a country. That silver lining of yours will just speed up the extinction of Israel.
Is this that gives you hope?
written by GABE1, February 17, 2011
You are right Sussan. Sadly, the Palestinian voice is denied by people who should no better.

Why do some say it is ok to champion the violence of Menachem Begin and Irgun or Lehi, including the assassination of the UN Special Representative Count Folke Bernadotte, the killing of 91 at the King David Hotel Bombing, the assassination of Lord Moyne, the killing of the more than 100 civilians in Deir Yassin.

Yes, we can acknowledge the violence directed against the Jewish community on Palestine in 1921, 1929, 1936-1939. But the violence is understood in the context that Palestinians Arabs were militarily occupied by the British which was cemented by the League of Nations, despite objections of the Palestinian Arabs.

Sussan, the tragedy of this conflict is the failure of us as a collective to empathise with the other. Rightfully so we as a collective empathise with the plight of the Jewish community given millenia of persecution and discrimination. But how is it that some people find it so hard to empathise with Palestinians? or worse still actively try to deny or deligitimise the existence of Palestinians. It is not that hard to emapthise with the plight of Palestinians. Why cannot they walk in the shoes of another? Perhaps they will find the shoes are not so different to their own?

Thanks again Sussan.
written by GABE1, February 17, 2011

Reply by Sussan 1 day ago

Jews always expect everyone to empathize with their plight in WW2. (60 holocaust museums)

The time is long overdue for Israelis to open their eyes and see what they have done to the Palestinians.

Palestinians are the most maligned group in the world, and you Tony, do your bit to keep it this way.

Without Zionism, Palestine would now be a prosperous Arab country with a wonderful tourist industry. This was Palestine's birthright, stolen by the Zionists.

Instead, Palestinians live in poverty and are blamed for every problem Israel experiences.
written by GABE1, February 17, 2011

Israel must stop the terror, the apartheid, the racial superiority state. End the political ans economic slavery, full stop. You are oppressors. Israel has no clue about its oppression and what it's doing is immoral. BASIL KEILANI
written by GABE1, February 17, 2011
It is people like you who are in fact supporting the Islamofascists by their support (indirectly) of them and their silence when Israel and Jews are attacked. But I am ("sure?) that you are loved and still believes that somehow you are being a "HUMANIST".


BTW. My wife was thrown out of Egypt in 1949. She lived in Cairo in the Sakhanin quarters.
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