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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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President Barack Obama said Thursday the United States is united with Gulf Arab nations in fighting the Islamic State group and sought to reassure them about US overtures to regional rival Iran. In Riyadh for talks hosted by Iran's arch-foe Saudi Arabia, Obama said Washington still had "serious concerns" about Tehran, but insisted no country had an interest in conflict with the Shiite power. Obama, on likely his final presidential visit to America's historic Gulf allies, was in Riyadh seeking to reduce tensions with the Sunni Arab states.

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Tom Marr Show Interview E-mail
Monday, October 01 2007

Listen to, or read the transcript of, Nissim (Nick) Dahan's interview on the Tom Marr Show that aired Thursday, September 20th, 2007. It was a positive discussion focusing on the central themes of Selling a Vision of Hope, the recently published book by Nissim Dahan.

 

Tom Marr Show - WCBM Talkradio 680 - 9/20/2007

 

Note: The transcript has been edited to highlight the main points. Listen to the audio above for the full unedited interview.

 

Tom: What we're going to talk about is...peace on earth and good will to men. The road to bring about world peace must go through the Middle East and must go through Jerusalem. All we ever hear of this area is conflict. Nick has dedicated his life to begin with one small step...a book called Selling a Vision of Hope. Thank you for coming in and spending time at what I call "my kitchen table."

 

Nick: Thanks a lot Tom. I appreciate the opportunity.

 

Tom: I want everyone now to take out a dollar bill. After going to the race track with my friend, I don't have many left over. Now I have one, and you'll see our great symbol the eagle. In one talon he clutches the arrows, and in the other talon he clutches the olive branch. This is what you think can eventually work in this extremely troubled area of the world, and you really think that America and the free world could play a huge role.

 

Nick: Right. We have a presidential election coming up. And a lot of good people are aspiring to lead this country. And the Presidential Seal pictures an eagle holding two things. She holds a cluster of arrows with one talon and an olive branch with the other. The olive branch is the symbol of peace. It became the symbol of peace when Noah was searching for dry land, and he let go a dove, and she came back holding an olive branch with her beak. And that represented God's making a deal with man not to destroy us again. But of course, that doesn't mean we can't end up destroying ourselves.

 

Tom: And the other talon has the arrows, as I mentioned a few minutes ago.

 

Nick: That's true. There's no question that a military presence in the Middle East is going to be required. We will have to fight for our freedom, and for the freedom of others. But what I'm saying is that we can better serve ourselves by positioning the fight within a Vision of Hope. Actually, raising the fight to a higher moral plain and giving the fight a moral clarity of purpose.

 

Tom: That sounds very good. But let's deal in the realistic world of the Middle East. We've got Ahmadinejad here. He is calling for the wiping of Israel off the map. We know it's not going to happen, by the way. He's talking about bombing Israel. By the way, the Israelis wouldn't be talking about bombing Iran in advance. They'd just do it. We have war unleashed in Iraq that we're involved with. We have terrorism around the world. And we have in the Middle East, and even here, but mostly there, tens of thousands of young men who are getting ready for Jihad. You somehow think that investment will help...in them getting jobs...whether truck drivers...or building autos...or assembly plants...or selling insurance or financial services...or whatever, etc. In fact, as you said, "getting a life," that you think most of them would want it. But how do we get them off this kick of Jihad, of wanting to destroy us?

 

Nick: Well, in a way, I know that Ahmadinejad poses a grave threat, and so does ideological extremism. In a way, to defeat this, you have to get into their heads. There's an old saying, "Know your enemy." You have to see what motivates them, and get into their heads, and pick their brains, and come up with a way to beat them at their own game. So if you look at what they're doing. They're being ideological, an ideology of Jihad, of martyrdom, and what have you. So you can trump that with what I call an Ideology of Common Sense. Which I can explain later. Now they are investing money in their people, with madrasas, and health care, and food distribution. So if they're giving charitable handouts, you can trump that with investment. Start a fund for economic development in the Middle East. Create jobs, industrial zones, construction, and so forth. And then they're giving people hope. They're using Ideology and Investment to give their people hope. But hope in what? Hope in martyrdom, in paradise, etc.

 

Tom: Or a theocratic government?

 

Nick: Or Shari'a, or a theocratic world. You can trump that with 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.

 

Tom: But is that why the first chapter is called The Mystery Box?

 

Nick: Right. The Mystery Box is a story that I made up about what would happen if all of a sudden God came and spoke to us and He would say to us to search for the ultimate truth, the meaning of the universe, and I think that the search would probably end up in some common sense notions. To give you three common sense notions...

 

Tom: And I said that a lot of this has to do with common sense, a commodity which is often difficult to peddle in the Middle East.

 

Nick: It is very difficult, but for 90% of people in the Middle East, an Ideology of Common Sense, if it's backed up with Economic Investment, can be used to inspire them with a sense of Hope. Common Sense is like mathematical theorems. The Golden Rule, "Treat others as you would have them treat you," is written into every religion on earth. Why? Because it makes sense. If you don't kill me and I don't kill you, we both live on. It's that type of logic that is at the heart of An Ideology of Common Sense.

 

Tom: But, in these hardened areas...I'm just going to mention Jenin. In Jenin, in Judea and Samaria, or in certain areas like Karachi, in Malaysia, in Riyadh, etc. You have people that aren't about to buy that. But at the same time, you want this investment. To me, that's the mystery box. How you're ever going to get them to divest from hate, and invest in a better tomorrow?

 

Nick: Let met give you a recent example. Last week, for example, the Japanese, who want to start playing a greater part in the Middle East, decided to start an industrial zone in the West Bank. You know. What all of a sudden the Japanese, and an industrial zone in the West Bank?

 

Tom: Doesn't seem like a fit.

 

Nick: Doesn't seem like a fit.

 

Tom: But the world needs labor.

 

Nick: The world needs a lot of things. But the world needs hope, like air to breathe. So you have this situation with Hamas, a little bit on the extremist side, to say the least, and then you have Abbas, that is a little bit more moderate. Invest there. If you speak to one another with common sense and with a sense of personal dignity. Put some money on the table, and give everyone on earth a place at the table, a stake in his future, then you will begin to marginalize the extremists in the eyes of their own people. And if you could do that, they are in a much better position to hold the extremists in check. When we fight the extremists, we actually create martyrs out of them, and actually enhance their power. When their own people begin to turn against them, because they want a life, they can put them in their place, in a much stronger way, even than we can.

 

Tom: The fight against the extremists is necessary.

 

Nick: Absolutely.

 

Tom: The arrows have to be used.

 

Nick: The arrows are half the game.

 

Tom: There may be some people out there who would want to boil us in oil, on both sides, for even suggesting some of this stuff.

 

Nick: I always say that Selling a Vision of Hope is about as close to impossible as you can get. But considering the alternative, what choice do we really have? And precisely because it's so difficult, and such a stretch, that we have to put our energies in that direction. Certainly our nation is investing a lot of blood and treasure in the Middle East. We've already made the commitment. We've made the investment. And now we want a good return on our investment. If we combine our military efforts with an ideological effort, an economic effort, a spiritual effort, a diplomatic effort, and a military effort, if you do all that, then you can fight this fight as a multi-faceted front. Which is what you have to do.

 

Tom: The Marshall Plan after World War II worked. In fact it worked so well that the Germans and the Japanese took our money and ended up competing with us, and I will admit that the Japanese made us make a better car. It helped Europe too. But that was an investment of the American tax dollar, billions of them. But Americans aren't in a mood now to invest their tax dollars in the extremism of the Middle East. We know that they are flowing in billions over there, because of the oil and natural gas. I was in Qatar recently, where the wealth is impossible for me to calculate. In this investment, I hope that you are calling on them, meaning the people of those countries, to pony up with the gelt, to come up with the money themselves. Don't look to get it out of my wallet.

 

Nick: Exactly Tom. I'm not saying that we wouldn't have to invest a little. We will. Especially in some public diplomacy programs that are geared to prop the vision up and to move it forward, like empowering women, and expanding the Peace Corps, and cultural and student exchanges, etc. But let's look at the leaders in Saudi Arabia. In a way, you could say that they made a pact with the devil, and now the devil is after them.

 

Tom: They did make a pact with the devil. And the devil wants to jump over the royal wall, and take over the palace.

 

Nick: That's right. They're funding madrasas which are inculcating young children with hate, and then these young people grow up, filled with hate, and guess what, they're venting their hate against the House of Saud.

 

Tom: They're not working in an assembly plant making $13/hour, and themselves buying a new car.

 

Nick: Exactly. Now if you could take the House of Saud, and they do have money, you're right, and you could convince them that maybe there's a better way to consolidate political support, and to move the Middle East in a stable and proper direction, by investing in a Vision of Hope, it is very conceivable that they will join in with us. In fact, there is a wealthy sheik in the Arab Emirates who just put up 10 billion dollars to promote secular education in the Middle East. Ask yourself, why would a member of the Arab elite invest in secular education?

 

Tom: He is intelligent. But when I just look at the map, they have everything there...healthcare...they're rolling in billions. The women are still awfully oppressed. I look at Pakistan and see tens of thousands of impoverished people who are absolutely fertile for hate, and I just wonder, how do you get the House of Saud to say: "Hey, not madrasas in Pakistan, how about a vocational school?"

 

Nick: Tom, put yourself in the mind of a poor Arab on the street. He looks at the table and sees extremism and charitable handouts. If that's all there is, that's what he's going to buy into. If the West puts an alternative of a job and an ideology that makes sense, now he'll have a choice, and most people will choose a life.

 

Tom: With you, Nick, it's all about product, and in the end, you have a product of a job, an education, and a home, good food on the table, etc. it's a product that will outsell what the extremists and the terrorists are selling, what their product is in the Middle East and other areas.

 

Nick: Basically, you have to beat them at their own game. They are selling a product. They are selling an ideology of hate. You beat that with an Ideology of Common Sense.

Hamas, Hizbullah, and Iran are investing in the welfare of their people charitably. Then you invest in a fund to create a job, industrial zones, vocational schools, and so forth. And they're trying to give people hope in extremist triumph. We want to sell a Vision of Hope-a vision of Peace, Prosperity, and Freedom. We have a better product to sell. When we want to we know how to sell. We have Madison Avenue. We know how to market. We have to diversify our efforts. Yes you need the military, but you have to diversify your efforts to cover all the fronts.

 

Tom: I've read through the Qur'an, and there are very good parts to it. And I've said that when I go after extremists and terrorists, I'm not going after all Muslims. But in the Muslim world, where our enemy is, there's no doubt that women are oppressed. And if you look at the history of the world, women can play a powerful role, but there is unbelievable oppression in that part of the world where our enemy is. I think most women probably know they're oppressed, but some of them don't know. What role would women have to play in all of this, in your Vision of Hope?

 

Nick: Well I'm glad you're asking that. I would empower women. You know, after you Sell a Vision of Hope, you have to support the vision. Empowering women could help to do that, including a media campaign, a student exchange, a cultural exchange, expanding the Peace Corps, and international conferences. But perhaps the most important...

 

Tom: But you've got to get that done in Jenin, Nick. You know, an international conference in Belgium or Switzerland or Baltimore is fine. But if you don't get into those neighborhoods in Jenin, and in the West Bank, and in Karachi,...the product isn't going to sell.

 

Nick: Most people in Iran, which we think of as a fundamentalist regime...I would say that about 80% of the people are secular. Syria is very secular. It's not fundamentalist. Syria could be brought to our side.

 

Tom: The younger Iranians especially, there's a huge internet movement over there. Ahmedinijad...I want to get ill thinking about it. They could actually have a revolution over there, of younger people who want a better life.

 

Nick: And what could start that revolution is the empowerment of the man on the street. That's a very strong force.

 

Tom: Or women.

 

Nick: Or women. Let's talk a little about women. Part of the problem in the Middle East is that women are marginalized, and that's bad because women can exert a moderating force in the Middle East. If women are put down, then the extremism of the ideologue is unchecked. If you empower women, in ways that they deem appropriate, you will have changed the face of the Middle East. Who are women? 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. So how would you empower women? There's a guy who won the Nobel Prize for Peace, a guy named Yunus, that lends money to women. I would empower women in the Middle East by lending money to female entrepreneurs, and promoting women's rights.

 

Tom: If their husbands would allow them to be entrepreneurs.

 

Nick: Well, you want to know the truth? The Prophet Muhammad married a woman named Khadija, who was 15 years older than he was. She was running a bunch of businesses, and was a very wealthy woman. She proposed marriage to him. She helped fund the founding of the new religion. And one of his daughters became the premier theologian of Islam. Muhammad, believe it or not, taught partnership with women, and an empowerment of women's rights. And if we come back to that... which was actually stifled by the tribal customs of the day...

 

Tom: And today!

 

Nick: That's right. But how do you defeat it? You offer a product that stands out and is better.

 

Tom: You're more of an optimist than I am, frankly. Anyone who has listened to the interview really picks up on your common sense here. It's two and two makes four. There's no doubt about it. You're going to take a lot of heat with this venture. Maybe not on the Islamic side, or the Muslim side. You're going to take heat from my side, "Hey, Nick Dahan, this is a pipe dream. This is not going to come true."

 

Nick: Tom, it is a pipe dream. But guess what? If you have a pipe dream and you want to make it real, what do you need? There's one thing you need. You need dollars and cents. Actually, cents I would spell "s-e-n-s-e." It is a pipe dream. OK. But we can make it real with investment. We can make it real with an ideological framework that appeals to people. We can make it real with a diplomatic effort to prop up the Vision of Hope, with a series of programs that are designed to bolster the vision. We can make it real with a military campaign, but position the military campaign within a Vision of Hope. We're fighting now, but some people wonder: "What are we fighting for?" We weren't wondering that in World War II. People had a pretty clear idea of what we were fighting for. We have to clarify the fight, as clear as it was in World War II.

 

Tom: I knew what we were fighting for in World War II. I, as an individual now, and believe me, when it comes to education, I am an ambassador without portfolio. I had a hard time getting out of high school. Never spent a minute in a college classroom in my life. But I do know what we're fighting for. And I do know that it's not about you, and it's not about me. It's about our children, and our grandchildren.

 

Nick: Exactly.

 

Tom: Our forbears defeated Nazi Germany, and Imperial Japan, in a world war. We're now in another world war. And if we don't win this one, it's over.

 

Nick: You're right Tom. You're bringing up the Marshall Plan. People tell me that in the Marshall Plan we defeated the enemy and then we invested. At one time countries like Japan and Germany were ideological nightmares for the West. So too with Russia and India and China. Ideological nightmares. Then people started making money and all of a sudden the ideological rhetoric is toned down considerably. Now here, you cannot win territory and then invest, because it's not about territory. It's a war of ideas. It's about winning hearts and minds. As you fight here, you also have to invest. Simultaneously invest and fight, but fight within a Vision of Hope.

 

Tom: The fire has spread, and I think it's a forest fire. And my friend Nick Dahan thinks he has a way to put the fire out, and to plant some fruit at the same time. I think you've done some great work here. This is your first interview. But it's a long journey. I hope that you're right that this could work. But we may not be around to see the fruits of it. But again it's not about us, me and you.

 

Nick: Well it's like you said before, a long journey starts with the first step. And we do have a long road ahead of us. But we will have to walk that path. I believe that Selling a Vision of Hope could help us by giving us a direction to bring a semblance of order to the Middle East, and to actually partner with the Middle East in a way that can sustain itself for generations.

 

Tom: What do you say to someone who says that all this has been tried before and it doesn't work? Or the rejection you will get from those who normally support you and from the other side?

 

Nick: Well, there are hints of what I'm saying that have been tried here and there. But there hasn't really been a coordinated effort to come up with an Ideology of Common Sense, which is actually believing in what makes sense. Instead of believing in what we want to believe, we believe in what makes sense. I think that's the way God talks to us.

 

Tom: Do you think you have the snowball at the top of the hill maybe?

 

Nick: Well, I believe that this will capture the public imagination. I say in my book that the extremists will not be able to capture the public imagination once people begin to imagine a better life for themselves. So I think it is like a snowball. If you give people a new ideological framework. If you show people you're investing in them, in their welfare. If you give them a hope that makes some sense, like Peace, Prosperity, and Freedom. They will listen. They are people like you and me.

 

Tom: But don't you worry sometimes about our own fellow Americans who would rather you and I be talking about Paris Hilton and OJ, and who would rather listen to that than what we've been talking about?

 

Nick: Well, OJ's pretty interesting. I can't deny it. It's hard to compete with OJ.

 

Tom: But what I'm talking about, and I'm talking about our fellow Americans...the radio consultants are saying to me, if they had the editorial control which I contractually have, they would say to me, "Don't talk about that." But I'm in a position to tell them, "Go fly a kite." Yesterday, hour after hour, major media outlets were concentrating about a guy in a car...You would never get that kind of time to talk about this vision. That kind of bothers me as well.

 

Nick: It's true that sometimes it's hard to get people's attention. But I think that Americans are pretty smart. Deep in their hearts they know that there's a growing threat out there. It's a menacing threat. They want the candidates to come up with a plan that addresses that threat in a logical and reasonable way. And Americans, I think, will listen. And if you can inspire them with a Vision of Hope, there's no one better than Americans, and this country, to Sell a Vision of Hope. That's really what our whole history has been about. It's time to do that in a big way. If we're going to have a global economy, make it a global economy. Give everyone on earth a place at the table, a stake in his or her future. If you're going to come together technologically, come together ideologically.

 

Tom: You know, the funny thing is...I'm not a religious person at all, but I believe that the lesson of the Tower of Babel was just that...no one could agree on anything.

 

Nick: That's a good example Tom. There was a movie about Babel very recently.

 

Tom: Right...different languages and that. But internationally now, even though the language is there, the globe is so tiny, we can't be fortress America, and put big walls up. Although I'm in favor of a fence. In Israel the fence has stopped the terrorists from coming in. But electronically, the report you just heard came in on e-mail, and it takes just a second.

 

Nick: Well, people can talk to one another, Tom, because of the technology. The question now is what do they have to say to each other?

 

Tom: This is the beginning of a journey, and I hope to go a long way with you on it.

 

Nick: Thanks Tom. I really appreciate it.

 

Tom: And your lovely wife, who speaks so beautifully, and is enchanting, must, must, take part in the next show.

 

Nick: Maybe she'll take the next step.

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