|file under: Middle East Peace, Demonstrations, Arab Spring||5 May 2012 5:12 PM|
|Change Don't Come Easy||Posted by Nissim Dahan|
Changing the Middle East can become quite frustrating to say the least. Suppose you believe deeply that change is in order. You rally the troops. You take to the streets. You dodge a bullet or two, if you're lucky. And when it's all said and done, new elections are held, the old guard may even be ousted from power, or so you think, and in come a new crop of leaders who leave you guessing as to whether the change that they have in mind is in sync with the change you were hoping for.
What's wrong with this picture?
People are putting their lives on the line, and so far at least, there remain strong doubts as to what it will all mean. There seems to be a dis-connect between the aspirations of the people on the one hand, and the kind of change that is likely to come about on the other.
What do the people on the street want? It's hard to say for sure. Maybe they don't even know. But there are hints. Mohamed Bouazizi, who started it all in Tunisia, wascollege educated and without a job. His was the story of many in the Middle East. He sold fruits and vegetables to support his mother and sister. When the police harassed him, and confiscated his cart, he set himself on fire, and set the Middle East ablaze. What was he telling us in that final act of despair? My guess is that he was saying that he needed a way to support his family, and he needed as well the freedom to live his life as he saw fit.
So it could be said that at the heart of the Arab Spring is a yearning for good paying jobs, and personal freedom.
And yet, as clear as this may be, there is still a gap between the change that people want, and the change that is likely to come about. So how do you bride this gap?
You can't depend on slogans. Slogans come and go, and are subject to the whims and fancies of those who set out to exploit them. You can't depend on violence. Violence begets violence, and you end up with leaders who assume power because it is in their nature to be even more violent than anyone else. You can't just hope that things will work out. Most times, power vacuums are filled in a grab for power, by leaders who are not inclined to listen to their people.
So what can you do to get your voice heard, and to bring about the kind of change you can only imagine? You build a model, a model that inspires a sense of hope, and that delivers on that promise with jobs, with dignity, and with personal freedom. We're not talking about a make-believe model. We're talking about a real model that you can see and touch, a model that will shine as beacon of light, for all to see, and for all to follow.
Want an example? Build a Green Industrial Zone in the most unlikely of places, in Rafah, Gaza, and use it as a new model for the Middle East. Make it an Arab initiative, to be funded by wealthy Arab investors. And let this model resonate with hope on as many levels as possible. If you believe in empowering women, then finance female entrepreneurs so that they can start their own businesses. If you believe in educating young people, then include a vocational school to teach needed skills. If you believe in sustaining the environment, then use state-of-the-art research and technology to address some of the environmental issues endemic to the region, such as: clean water, food production, healthcare
and green energy. Imagine Jews, Christians and Muslims showing up to work, on a daily basis, and building a new Middle East.
If you believe in the rich legacy of Arab dignity and pride, then reclaim it with a new model for the Middle East, one that can be replicated in a bid to revitalize the entire region with jobs, and with the personal freedom to which we are all entitled by virtue of our common humanity. A model of this sort will make very clear what we are fighting for, and how to get there.