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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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Shalom USA Radio Interview E-mail
Monday, October 29 2007

On September 23rd, 2007, Nissim (Nick) Dahan was interviewed by Jay Bernstein & Larry Cohen, and took calls from the listeners of the weekly radio show. Listen to this inspiring and thought provoking conversation. A transcript is also available.

 

Shalom USA Interview - WWLG AM 1380 - 9/23/2007

 

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

 

Jay: I?m very pleased to welcome to the program? he?s here with us live, Nick Dahan, the president and founder of Selling a Vision of Hope, which is a very ambitious and thoughtful plan for dealing with the number one problem in the world, I would say, the problem of Muslim extremism and terror associated with that. Nick?s unbelievable website, which is full of information about his ideas, can be found at www.sellingavisionofhope.org. Nick, thank you so much for being here with us.

Nick: Thanks very much Jay.

 

Jay: I?m sure many of our listeners recognize your last name. Your father is so prominent here in Baltimore, so philanthropic, your father and your mother. But for those who don?t know you and the family, why don?t you tell us a little about yourself.

Nick: Well, actually I was born in Israel. Our family goes back some two hundred years in Israel. In fact, the parents of my grandmother were the first sixty families to start
Tel Aviv.

 

Jay: The famous picture where you see those people standing at the sand dunes?

 

Nick: That?s right. Their name was Mizrahi and they were one of the first families. My dad was a very strong patriot for the state of Israel, and now he?s a big philanthropist in the Baltimore region. He fought in three wars, and helped to found the state of Israel. And I?ve been living here since age seven. I?m an attorney. I don?t practice law, but for the last thirty years, I?ve been a builder, having built some twelve hundred custom homes in the Baltimore Metropolitan area.

 

Jay: And not just building homes, but obviously spending a whole lot of time building a whole vision for really, a whole different kind of world. As I mentioned to you before, I went to the website the other day, and it's clear that this is something you've spent a tremendous amount of time on, developing your ideas and articulating them, and having them laid out in a very logical manner. What is it that led you to devote so much time and resources to such an ambitious plan?

 

Nick: Well, actually, we've brought the building business to a close, more or less. I'm in a semi-retirement situation. So I wanted to do something that could make a difference. And to me, like you say, this is the defining issue of our time. And I felt that we're pouring a lot of blood and treasure into the Middle East and we seem to be getting nowhere fast. There has to be something more structured, more concise, more all-inclusive... a more multi-faceted approach to resolve the problem. And I think that's what we should do.

 

Jay: So what you're thinking about...we'll get to the details in a moment...You're coming up with a plan you'd like to see implemented, not just by America, but a plan for the West to deal with this world-wide challenge.

 

Nick: Yes. It's a project my wife and I founded called Selling a Vision of Hope. It's intended to promote peace in the Middle East. And it has three parts to it: One is to Sell a Vision of Hope. The second is to Support a Vision of Hope. And the third, when necessary, is to fight for a Vision of Hope.

 

Jay: Now, the common theme to everything you just said is Hope. And you have a formula for that. The formula you suggest is an Ideology of Common Sense, plus Investment Dollars, results in Hope.

 

Nick: That's right.

 

Jay: Once there's hope, there's a chance for things to change around. So let me first ask you about what you refer to as the Ideology of Common Sense.

 

Nick: You know, an ideology is a belief system. And so, an Ideology of Common Sense is believing in what makes sense. There have been scores of ideologies in the past which ended up on the ash heap of bad ideas. The trouble is that the conflicts over those bad ideas have left behind millions of corpses in their wake. Therefore, it's time for a new ideology. I call it an Ideology of Common Sense. It's a new framework for rational discourse. It's a way of talking to one another with common sense and with a sense of personal dignity. It is, in effect, taking universal notions of common sense, and raising them up to ideological status.

 

Jay: And those universal notions you suggest are such notions as The Golden Mean: that the truth is somewhere in the middle between extremes, The Golden Rule: do on to others as you would have done to yourself, and The Greatest Good: the greatest good for the greatest number of people. All wonderful ideas, but my question to you Nick is what about those groups, those religions, those sects out there, that don't buy into those values, that don't believe in the truth being in the middle, but believe in extremism, that don't believe in The Golden Rule? How do we sell that to them?

 

Nick: I will answer that. First let me show you how those three principles, I call them the 3 G's, come up to the formula Ideology plus Investment equals Hope. The Golden Rule, which, by the way, is written into every religion on earth-Treat others as you would have them treat you-would have us treat each other well by Investing in one another. The Golden Mean, which Maimonides talked about, and Muhammad talked about, and Aristotle talked about, which says that the truth is in the middle of two extremes, would have us think straight by using common sense as our Ideology. And The Greatest Good, which is-Do the greatest good for the greatest number-would have us maximize justice by organizing ourselves around a Vision of Hope. So as Thomas Jefferson might have put is, "We find this truth to be self-evident: Ideology plus Investment equals Hope."

 

Now Jay, to answer your question, when you look at the scriptures of all the major religions, surprisingly you'll find that while we might think that common sense is very subjective, actually notions of common sense, like the 3 G's that we were talking about, are universal. They are universally accepted as being true. True, some groups can deviate from them. But the principles are there.

 

Jay: And some of those groups, unfortunately, may say, "Yes, I believe in The Golden Rule, but only for my group." In other words, "Do unto others as I would have done to myself, but only as to my religion, my sect." The challenge is to get these groups to universalize these ideas.

 

Nick: What you do, in effect, is that you empower moderates around the world. There is no question that there is a group of extremists that are very difficult to convince. Those you may actually have to fight; but an effective way of fighting them is to empower the moderates: with an Ideology of Common Sense, and with money on the table, and giving everybody a place at the table, a stake in his or her future. Then you will capture their imagination. I write one think in my book, which is, "The extremist will not be able to capture the public imagination, once people begin to imagine a better life for themselves."

 

Larry: Now Nick, there are many people who would say that Israel and the Jewish people have already taken your thoughts. It wasn't long ago, when we offered 98% of the West Bank to the Palestinians. I guess the question is: How many times Do we have to offer...Israel would again say, we want peace, what can we do...and yet it doesn't seem that the other side wants peace?

 

Nick: It's true what you say, Larry. Barak and Clinton in the year 2000 offered a very generous offer, something that came very close to what Palestinians had been demanding. But you know, sometimes, Larry, people rush to the peace table. And when you rush to the peace table, you make a lot of empty gestures, and a lot of empty promises, because people are not conditioned for peace. In the Middle East, on the contrary, they're conditioned for hatred.

 

Jay: It's certainly true that one of the problems with the Barak offer was: there had been no effort made to prepare the people for something less than the maximum recovery, compared to Israel, which had already decided that it was ready to compromise.

 

Nick: You have to invest in people, ideologically and economically, in order to condition them for peace. Once you give a person hope, he can embrace the possibility of peace.

 

Jay: Well let me ask you about that part of it. You talk a lot about the economic incentives part of it. Many people would say: The Palestinians have been the recipients of more aid per capita, maybe than any other people in the world... maybe than any other people in history. Yet, we do not see a change in behavior and in thinking. Can economic incentives really turn things around?

 

Nick: First of all, Jay, I think it may be more accurate to say that the Palestinian leaders have been the recipients of a great deal of aid. I don't know how much of that has trickled down to the people. But take the Japanese, for example. Last week they decide to initiate an industrial zone in the West Bank. Here's how something like this could work. You start investing ideologically and economically in the West Bank, which is hopefully a little bit more moderate. People in Gaza start saying to Hamas, "Hey, where's our share?" And believe it or not, they can squeeze the extremists a lot better than we can. When we fight the extremists we actually augment their power, because of the notion of martyrdom, and so forth. When their own people squeeze them, they can squeeze them effectively without those negative repercussions.

 

Jay: We have a couple of callers with questions for Nick. Let's start with Sara. Welcome to Shalom U.S.A.

 

Sara: Hi. I just wanted to say that the West is not standing up to Ahmadinejad. Hitler killed sixty-two million people. We're going to be sacrificing millions of people by not standing up and al-Assad is not different than Ahmadinejad.

 

Jay: Well I agree with that, and we all hope and pray that the West will wake up to that threat as soon as possible. Did you have a question for Mr. Dahan?

 

Sara: I did not at the present time.

 

Jay: Well thank you for your call. Nick, it's interesting, I do want to put that question to you. When you look at the leadership in Iran, maybe the Iranian people as well, I don't know, but again, you look at the extremism...One could say: "Does' common sense work?" In fact, one of the big concerns about Ahmadinejad and the Iranian threat is: God forbid, they might be willing to use nuclear weapons; not be deterred, because they see that as part of some religious apocalyptic vision. So, how does one deal with some of these religiously inspired ideologues?

 

Nick: I agree with Sara that we're not doing enough to avoid the ultimate catastrophe, and that true, that's where we're heading, an ultimate catastrophe. But you can deal with it by Selling a Vision of Hope, believe it or not. What you do is create a new ideology. You put money on the table, and start investing. And you fight. But you position the fight within a Vision of Hope. You raise the fight on the ground to a higher moral plain, by giving the fight a moral clarity of purpose.

 

In World War II people knew what they were fighting for. Now, with all the talk, we're actually being drawn away from the fight. You have to be at least as smart, and at least as committed as the extremists are, in order to defeat them. Now, if you see what they're doing; they're very much selling their own vision of hope. It's really a vision of catastrophe. They are being ideological about Jihad; you be ideological about Common Sense. They're investing in social welfare programs; you create jobs, with industrial zones. They sell hope for Islamic resurgence; you sell a Vision of Hope-a Vision of Peace, Prosperity, and Freedom. Every where they turn you have to confront them, and then you will avoid the ultimate catastrophe.

 

Jay: Let's go to Freda. Freda. Welcome to Shalom U.S.A.

 

Freda: Moderates in Lebanon, they're being killed off one by one. And America has just rearmed Hezbollah. And, there are moderates in Iran. If they could, they would have to get rid of Ahmadinejad. When you're under a dictatorship...

 

Jay: Freda, we have a lot of calls waiting, what is your question for Mr. Dahan?

 

Freda: Your dream is a dream, because you're dealing with dictatorships that have such might, that they quell all kinds of moderates.

 

Jay: Thank you very much for your call. Are you being too na?ve?

 

Nick: I am being a little bit na?ve. I will be the first to agree that this is a pipe dream. But guess what: What makes a pipe dream real? It is dollars and cents. And I spell cents:

s-e-n-s-e. But the point I'm saying to you is: we know we're heading toward a destruction. Is it too na?ve to expect that maybe we could try to shift this march in a slightly different direction? And that maybe we could make a difference if people come together? Like you said, 80% of Iran is secular, and the vast majority of Syria is secular. If the west is good at anything it is making and investing money. Why not to use this as part of our strategic arsenal to defeat the ideological extremists?

 

Jay: Our guest is Nick Dahan. Let's go to Scott. Welcome to Shalom U.S.A.

 

Scott: Good morning gentlemen. Good morning Nick. I think you've got a great idea and I really would be the first to appreciate all that your family has done in this community; things that people don't even know about. I appreciate all the charity that your family has done. I just want to raise a point: I don't think it's fair to compare this to the Japanese situation after World War II. Remember, we had beaten the Japanese into submission. And I don't think this vision will work until the Palestinians are literally beaten into submission.

 

Nick: I agree with you that in World War II we defeated the enemy and then we invested in the enemy. And then ideological crazies in Japan and Germany became more moderate and democratic. Here you have to do it differently. You have to fight as you invest, and invest as you fight, because you're not winning territory; you're winning a war of ideas. In order to win a war of ideas, you have to show that your ideas are better, and you're willing to show that you're investing in those ideas.

 

Jay: Let's go to Barbara. Welcome to Shalom U.S.A.

 

Barbara: Yes, I'm concerned that Israel has made investments, in applying The Golden Rule. They've invested in scholarships. They invested in job opportunities. They invested in giving up Gush Katif, which is a tremendous investment for peace, and to show good will. And I think that while I respect Mr. Dahan's position because he does have a good heart, and his family has contributed wonderful things to our community, and for Israel...

 

But I think you have to base common sense on reality. Instead of 3 G's, I would say the

2 G's: one G would be for Goodness. You have to deal with people who have a sense of moral values and ethical responsibility. And you have to have the G for Godliness. As people who have compassion, forgiveness...for loving and existing with their neighbors. And this does not exist in spite of everything that Israel put forth as good will gestures.

 

Nick: Well, I would agree with you that the challenge is almost insurmountable. But I think we lose nothing by trying. Remember, there are twenty-two Arab countries. Perhaps Selling a Vision of Hope would be most difficult between Israel and the Palestinians. Ultimately that would have to be resolved as well. But you could start with a lot of more moderate Arab countries, and start investing. Revitalize the economy of the Middle East. Give people hope. You could even use a lot of Arab money to do this. Because Saudi Arabia made a pact with the devil and now the devil is after them. They may actually be inspired to invest in a more moderate approach, and eventually, people in Israel and the Palestinians would be influenced by those ideas for the better.

 

Jay: Thanks for joining us...

 

Nick: I appreciate the opportunity, Jay and Larry, and if people would register, and even if you agree or don't agree, write on the Forum, write on the Blog, that would be a blessing to at least get a dialogue going... even if you don't agree with some of the ideas.

 

Larry: Rabbi Herman is on the line. Rabbi Herman, you have one minute.

 

Rabbi Herman: One minute for a rabbi is tough to do. A happy New Year to you, and especially your parents; whom I know well. They should be well in the New Year. Nick, it's a wonderful idea but you sound a lot like Shimon Peres, and Shimon Peres did more for the Palestinians than the Palestinians did for themselves. With Gush Katif, they turned over the infrastructure. He raised 400 million dollars from the Jewish community to build the infrastructure there, and it was evacuated and left by the Israelis. Now we're receiving Kassam rockets every day in appreciation for our efforts. So the question is: how could this be better than what Prime Minister Peres did?

 

Nick: Well, actually Shimon Peres is a great man. If you look at his history, he helped Israel a lot in very tangible ways, in also bringing weapons and armaments. But it is time now to Sell a Vision of Hope. I think it can work even though it seems very unlikely to do so.

Comments (1)Add Comment
Naivity over Extremism
written by vkatz, January 10, 2008
This transcript of Mr. Dahan's appearance on Shalom USA is telling of how jaded we in the American Jewish community have become. Mr. Dahan is promoting brotherhood, compassion, empathy; and for what? This crazy dream of peace. Anyone who's visited Israel knows what kind of paradise that region would be if only there were peace.

Not one caller was receptive to Mr. Dahan's vision. One caller even suggested "beating the Palestinians into submission." Only a diseased mind and a vengeful heart promulgates such nonsense. The time for bloodshed is over. Haven't we learned that the more we retaliate, the stronger Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran, Al Qaeda, and all the other extremists become.

Mr. Dahan is right, the ONLY way to defeat this cycle of violence is to sway the man on the street; the average Palestinian, armed with hope, is the only antidote to the affliction of terrorism.
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