People the world over cry out for “freedom,” but how often do we sit down and think about what it really means to be free?

Over the years, different people the world over embraced different interpretations of “freedom.”

Janice Joplin used to sing of freedom as “…nothing left to lose.” Is that what it means to be free? Or is that the state of mind that is needed to put everything on the line, and to venture forth in search of freedom?

The framers of the U.S. Constitution thought of freedom as conferring certain inalienable rights to the citizenry, such as freedom of religion, speech, a free press, free assembly, and free association.

On January 6, 1941, President Roosevelt spoke of the four fundamental freedoms that people “everywhere in the world” are entitled to: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear.

However you define it, the notion of freedom has captured hearts and minds of people in all four corners of the world. And still somehow, it is often difficult to define what exactly it means to be free. Yet we realize, as we fight for freedom, that it is important to understand what it is to be free, so that at the end of the day, we know what it is we’re looking for, and recognize what it is when we finally find it.

Certainly there is a role for government to play in assuring to their people the basic right of freedom. Liberty is enhanced to the extent that governments undo the shackles of oppressive rule, external control, interference, regulation, etc. Freedom also grows as a person comes to believe that he is the master of his destiny and that he can make the decisions to chart his course in life, without excessive and unreasonable interference from government. And of course, freedom connotes a fundamental respect for human life, and the protection of a person’s right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

However, just as government can play its role, the individual himself has a role to play as well, in fighting for and sustaining a sense of personal freedom. It could well be argued that the greatest freedom of all is the freedom to think. Rene Descartes famously said, “I think, therefore I am.” Inherent in the human condition, and our existence as free human beings, is our ability to think, and I would add, our ability to think clearly, with common sense and personal dignity, unhampered by the biases, suspicions, prejudices and superstitions which are thrust upon us, at an early age, by the societies we find ourselves.

As we search for freedom in such diverse places as the Middle East, or the Far East, or the West, or wherever the need arises; if it is really freedom we’re after, and if we dare to be true to ourselves, then we have no choice but to let go of past prejudices and wrong-headed thinking, in favor of what makes sense, and what promises hope for the future.

Our challenge, as freedom fighters, is not an easy one. All too often, we are called upon to put everything on the line, in hope of finding something that may never be found. But perhaps the greatest challenge of all, as we seek our freedom, and the freedom of others, is to break the chains that bind us to the thinking of the past, and that keep us imprisoned in the psychological cages that we have built for ourselves. If we find the courage and the wisdom to break these chains of the mind, then, and only then, will we shine the light on the path to freedom.

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Comment by Nissim Dahan on October 11, 2011 at 5:27am
Either Things Are Different or They're Not
written by Nissim Dahan, October 09, 2011

First and foremost, thank you for you well wishes. I trust you had an easy fast, and I wish you and your family, and all our readers out there, a happy and healthy New Year.

I realize that hints of what I'm proposing have been tried in the past. And yes, they didn't work to bring peace.

The only reason I think that they may work now is because the Arabs and Israelis are running out of options.

My entire premise is based on the fact that when you run out of options, what was distasteful before may become more palatable.

I realize that the Arab world is torn. Many would like to go back to the days of old, and to demonize Israel, and to use her as a convenient diversion from inadequate leadership, corruption, and oppression.

But that option may no longer be feasible. Yes, there is latent hatred of the Jewish state, which has been inclucated in the young for generations. And you see it flair up in places like Egypt.

However, the vast majority of people will not buy into the notion that all their woes step from Israel and the Jews.

There are intelligent Arabs throughout the Middle East, who see things as they are, and who communicate with one another over the internet.

That does not mean that they are lovers of Israel, or that they welcome the prospect of peace.

However, if Israel, and the West for that matter, inspire the people with a vision of hope, and begin to deliver on that promise with jobs, and with Green Industrial Zones, then I believe, and it can only be a belief at this time, Gabe, that a great many will respond favorably, and will warm up to the idea over time.

Yes, I understand that Israel has helped with the employment situation. But it's not enough. I'm not talking about employment in a vacuum. I'm talking about using the project on the ground to inspire in people sense of hope for the future. I'm not talking about a well intentioned project here and there. I'm talking about a movement for change.

Imagine, Gabe, 300,000 Jews, Christians, and Muslims reporting for work in Raffah, and working to solve some of the environmental issues endemic to the region, such as clean water, new agriculural techniques, health care, green energy, etc.

Nothing like that has ever been tried.

If you can pull it off, and granted it's a big if, then the whole world will respond, and the project could be replicated throughout the region, and throughout the world for that matter, and people around the world will come to believe that there is a way out of this rut that we've dug for ourselves. Yes, it's pie in the sky, until something real happens. But unless we at least try to make it real, even on a limited basis, then we can never honestly say that it couldn't have worked.

As far as I can tell, we don't have a lot of other options.
Comment by Nissim Dahan on October 11, 2011 at 5:26am
written by GABE1, October 07, 2011

Comment by Nissim Dahan on October 11, 2011 at 5:26am
written by GABE1, October 07, 2011

for the umpteenth time-It will never work and it was already tried.

Between 1967 and 2000 both Gaza and Judea and Samaria Arabs were prosperous and there were Green Industrial Zones in many border areas.


I have been telling you my version of what happened since 1993 (Oslo) and now is your turn to give me specifics and not some pie in the sky-Now is Different- which I am not buying and neither is anyone else. Why is the unemployment in Gaza and Judea and Samaria so HIGH. 33 years in between and there should have been miracles as the settlers in Gaza have demonstrated.

Yes talk is cheap but I do not see any action in the past 5-10 on the part of the Arabs that are supposedly funding this. I do not see them warming to Israel to persuade the population that now is different and they need partners.

SO PLEASE SHOW ME. PLEASE NO- I BELIEVE IT-with some feet on the ground reasoning.

Do not take my word for it and look up unemployment statistics for that period and compare it to before the 6 day war.
Comment by Nissim Dahan on October 11, 2011 at 5:25am
Boot Camp
written by Nissim Dahan, October 07, 2011

A boot camp approach is not a bad idea for the inner cities as well as the Middle East.

Army training does a lot of good for young Israelis, and the same approach could create win/win scenarios in other contexts.

But it should not be about punishment. It should be about learning the skills that one needs to compete in this globalized world of ours.

For example, a great many Arma bases have been closed in the U.S. If you could take these, staff them properly with unemployed teachers, and create a decent environment for young people to live, away from the dismal conditions of some of our inner-cities, then perhaps you could do some good for our young people. Give them a sense of hope. Prepare them for a decent job. And deliver on that promise with a job when they finish their training.

The same approach could apply in the Middle East. When you build a Green Industrial Zone in a place like Raffah Gaza, part of that could include a training center for young people. You provide a safe environment for them, and teach them the skills they need for decent jobs. You deliver on that promise with jobs that grow the economy, that address environmental needs, and that weaken the hold of extremist thinking.

Yes, it may seem that I'm smoking something, but I'd like to believe that I'm seeing things for what they are. And I would argue that only this type of approach is likely to work both here in our cities, and in the Middle East as well.

You keep saying that the terrorists cannot be reformed because they are motivated by religious conviction.

You're probably right. Most of them cannot be reformed. They will have to be fought head on.

But I'm not really talking about them. I'm talking about the 85% or 90% of the people who want a life. The are not terrorists. They may sympathize with some of the terrorists, but they remain open to suggestion.

Gabe, if a young Arab looks at the table and sees only an ideology of extremism and a charitable handout, then that's what he's going to buy into because that's all there is.

But if he looks at the table and sees an ideology that makes more sense, and a job, then now there is a choice, and most people will choose a life, and will help you fight against those who would take that life away.

It's up to the West, including Israel, to put that choice on the table.

And I'm not talking about talk. Talk is cheap. Use Arab capital to builda Green Industrial Zone in Raffah, Gaza, using state-of-the-art green technology, and such a project will talk louder than words, and will resonate around the world, and will inspire a sense of hope, and will attract worldwide attention and additional investment dollars. Such a project can then be replicated throughout the region, creaating millions of jobs, including Western jobs, so that what begins as a single solitary project could blossom into a movement for change.

Such is the dynamic of change in the world, and such is the prescription for change in the Middle East, and in our inner cities.

It is not brain surgery, but is does make sense, and it might just work.
Comment by Nissim Dahan on October 11, 2011 at 5:24am
written by GABE1, October 06, 2011

Lets not take the reply to what I have pointed out to the level of absurdity. No one is suggesting killing anyone. That is the Arab answer to everything from honour, to disagreeing to being different.


In the 1070's when that touchy feely human engineering wore off the Canadian Government was fooling around with a solution that I think may have worked. It was originally tried by the British in Autralia as well as in Newfoundland in Canada.

The plan was very simple. Instead of incarceration you send these people not to good jobs but to the Northern Territories were they would work, learn skills and contend with the harsh conditions (Sort of like Booth Camp)

It was discarded when the Left and the "professors" started squeeling about Human Right of these Criminals. That option was never tried other than in the USSR in the Gulags (But that was politically motivated)

Terrorist are a different breed as they are motivated by religion so good jobs or not they will not relent so the only way is to eliminate them the way they live-VIOLENTLY with Prejudice.

You are soft on terrorism. Inspire the man on the street-MY FOOT. Neither you not the millions of Dollars and neither promises of money growing on trees will change a religion based on murder.

You are Dreaming in Technicolor.

Looks like MEWAR has has banished one of the only bright lights there
and YOU are talking of Freedom of Speech. BULLCRAP.
Comment by Nissim Dahan on October 6, 2011 at 9:20pm
Take Our Inner Cities
written by Nissim Dahan, October 06, 2011

Some of our inner cities have some of the same problems as you see in the Middle East, although there are differences.

Let's take Baltimore as an example.

You're right to say that the welfare system hasn't worked. And certainly drug dealers are running rampant and killing each other left and right. And the education system leaves a lot to be desired. And we have some 60,000 heroine addicts, some of whom have been that way for generations. In short, it's a real mess.

Now, what would you do to make things better. Would you seal off the area, keep the inner cities separate and isololated, and call it a day?

Would you go in there and kill everyone that looks like he's trouble.

Would you go on living your own life and write the inner cities off as permantly disfunctional?

I don't think that any of that will work, and I don't think that we can afford to ignore the problem.

My answer for the inner cities is similar to my prescription for the Middle East: Confron the bad guys head on, with top notch law enforcement, but in addition, show the young people that a better life is in the offing. Educate them properly, and do what the hell you have to do to make sure that a decent job is in the wings for them.

Instead of paying out welfare, and keeping them institutionally dependent, use that money to subsidize an employer to hire them, on the condition that if they do well, he will give them permanant employment. So, for example, if the going hourly wage is $12/hour, the employer would pay $6/hour and an additional $6 would be paid by the government, in liu of a welfare payment.

You fight against crime with one hand, even as you invest in the youth of tomorrow with the other.

You think that I'm some sort of softy when it comes to crime and terrorism. I don't think of myself that way. I want to win the war on crime and on terrorism. Where we part company is how to do that. You seem to suggest that we leave these people to their own devises, and fight them when we have to. You discount any notion that a deal could be cut in this regard.

I also want to win this fight. I contend, however, that just as in the battlefield, you have to use all the weapons at your disposal. Yes we have guns and tanks and all sorts of military hardware galore. But we have another weapon as well, one that may be most effective of all.

If you can inspire the man on the street with a Vision of Hope, and deliver on that promise with a job, then given the choice, he will choose a life, and will help you fight those who would take that life away.

For me, that is common sense. Fighting and investing are two sides of the same coin. Each strengths the other.
Comment by Nissim Dahan on October 6, 2011 at 9:19pm
written by GABE1, October 05, 2011

I guess you are still a throwback to the late 1960's. The prevailing theory of social engineering at that time was that we will reform them with love and hugs and support. When the 1970's rolled around this idea was debunked and discarded. But here you are trying to revive it.

Murderers got lighter sentences as did pedophiles and rapists. The idea was that proper support and education will reform them and they can return to society as productive members. Well, it did not work and crime skyrocketed.

Welfare safety nets only created more welfare bums. Lighter sentences only created more criminal. The youth offender act only created more victims of teachers and the populace as there was no one to take responsibility for their actions.

Yes good people exist as they existed in Germany but they will not confront the "minority of evil" (I believe that there is a majority for evil)

Lets use Common Sense, but first I need to see it and so far you have not persuaded me that your common sense is in fact common sense and bribes and appeasement more likely describes you "plan"
Comment by Nissim Dahan on October 5, 2011 at 9:05pm
An Akshan for Peace
written by Nissim Dahan, October 05, 2011

I guess I do have a stubborn streak running through me. But I would like to think that there are certain things that are worth being stubborn about.

For example, I am particularly stubborn about not letting the extremists to set the agenda. In effect, when they do what they do, and when they say what they say, and when they threaten us as they do, if we react to that in a way that empowers them, then they win.

It is important, in this light, to differentiate the 10% or 15% of the Muslims world which has been radicalized, and the 85% to 90% who still remain open to suggestion, and who are wishing for a better life, including a decent job, and the personal freedom to live their lives as they see fit.

And Gabe, don't tell me that such people do not exist because I meet them on a regular basis.

Now, if we choose to empower these people, as a way of winning hearts and minds, and if we are being held back by the extremists, then in effect, they win. They're calling the shots, which is exactly what they want.

If on the other hand we dare to defy the extremists, and go about empowering the man on the street, in ways that make sense, then we win, or at least are much more likely to succeed in our mission to weaken the hold of extremist thinking.

There are two ways to kill an extremists. One way is to shoot him in the head. Sometimes it's necessary, but not always effective. If you kill one, another pops up, even more emboldened by the prospect of becoming a martyr.

The best was to kill an extremist, however, is to kill him in the imagination of his people. Once people come to believe that the extremist is out of step with the will of the people, then he has no choice but to hide in the shadows, because the people are not there to back him up.

More than anything, this is a war of ideas, a war for hearts and minds. If you don't fight it this way, then guess what, you lose.

You have two hands to fight with. With one hand you hold your gun. With the other hand you invest to create jobs. That way you're hitting the extremists coming and going.

I am also stubborn about the prospects for peace. I stubbornly believe that peace is possible, even against all odds. And why do I feel this way? I'll tell you Gabe. Because what the hell is the alternative? War?

And this time around, it will be a war to beat all wars. You mention Hitler and Stalin. Bad guys to say the least. However, this time around it could actually be worse.

All the pieces are falling in place to make the prospect of world war even more realistic: a nuclear Iran, a Middle East that is falling apart, a loss of security in a region that supplies much of the world's oil, emerging nations who need that oil, and may be willing to fight for it, a bankrupt U.S., Europe falling apart financially, high unemployment rates throughout the West, potential for economic collapse, global warming, etc.

How many more risks can you ask for?

So therefore, using our God-given common sense, if there is an idea out there that has even the slightest chance of working, to avert such a calamity, why shouldn't we at least consider it, and give it a shot, even against all odds, when the alternative is a dead end for sure?
Comment by Nissim Dahan on October 5, 2011 at 9:04pm
written by GABE1, October 04, 2011

I am retired and certainly would not want a job where my life is put on the line daily.

Do you know the meaning of AKSHAN? That my friend is you, as no matter how many times one proves how unworkable and nonsensical your ideas are, you agree and yet tell me why it will work. You seem to have a problem with current history and rationalizing something does not change reality. Your take on the Greenhouses is simply unbelievable but you just toss it to the side and claim that times are a changing (Did not Bob Dylan sing that in the 196o's) Close to 50 years post tells us that he was mistaken. Nothing changes. You may have an agenda but your children and/or grandchildren will have a different outlook and hopefully will see the errors of their father's/grandfather's thinking.

Different Times- Please!!!!! Show me how?????Tibet is free, Lebanon is a Democracy that took over a Hizbulla tyranny that was post Democracy. Please!!!!!

Economically Germany was thriving financially under the Nazis, SO WHAT HAPPENED? Over 20 million dead. Russia under Stalin was financially 10 times better off than under the Tsar and about 10-15 million dead, But you are dazzling us with a theory that is discredited.

That is the definition of AKSHAN.
Comment by Nissim Dahan on October 4, 2011 at 9:32pm
Let's Talk Hot Houses
written by Nissim Dahan, October 04, 2011

People always bring up the Hot Houses in Gaza as an example of why my idea won't work.

My answer to them is that while Hamas was able to destroy these facilities, they could not destroy the idea of building them.

As you recall, when the Hot Houses were operating, they employed some 5000 to 6000 Palestinians to grow fruits and vegetables which were then sold thoughout Europe.

These fruits and vegetables were grown using state-of-the-art technology developed in Isael, and the production process was supervised by Jews.

When Sharon decided to vacate Gaza, Mr. Wofenson organized a bunch of contributors to put up the money to buy the Hot Houses and to donate them to the Palestinian Authority.

After Israel left Gaza, Hamas came on the scene and destroyed all the facilities.

So on the one hand, one can say that the Hot Houses were a bad idea. On the other, however, one could also say that they did creae thousand of jobs, that they did product excellent fruits and vegetables, and that they did bring pride and profits to the Palestinian people.

Why were they destroyed by Hamas? Just to show that anything Israeli was not welcomed.

So why do I believe that a Green Industrial Zone in Raffah is a good idea? For the same reason that Wolfenson thought it was a good idea to buy the Hot Houses. Because it was the right thing to do, and the only thing that had a chance of working.

So why would it work this time around? Because now is a different time, and a solution of this sort is the right idea at the right time.

Timing is everything.

Hamas is losing its popularity big time.

The West Bank economy is growing big time.

Hamas needs to create jobs even as we speak, if it hopes to hold on to its power.

Therefore, it may be possible, and I stress "may," to sit down with Hamas, and to convince them to sign up for a Green Industrial Zone, and to agree to protect it, and to agree to support it in every way imaginable.

They may say yes, and they may say no. But it's worth a try.

A "no" can become a "yes" under the right circumstances.

The Hot Houses turned out to be a big fat "no". A Green Industrial Zone, under the current circumstances, considering the Arab Spring, and considering the economic boom in the West Bank, and considering Hamas' precarious plight, could become a "yes" at this point in time.

And the Arab capital on the line, this could be accomplished with minimum risk, and perhaps, maximum results.

Gabe, you say to build a school in Gaza. I say Okay, let's do it. But in effect, Gabe, my Green Industrial Zone is a school. It is a grand school, which puts people to work, and teaches them how to work, and how to live with one another, and how to humanize one another in each other's eyes, and how to get along, and how to make a better life for themselves, and how to live in peace for a change, etc., etc., etc.

I'm talking about a school with one hell lab experiment taking place on school grounds. I'm talking about a new model for the Middle East. I'm talking about something that can work, not with talk, but with action on the ground, and proven results in the business arena.

We would bring you along to plan the economics and to keep track of the accounting.


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