Lebanon, Pity the Nation That Never Was Part III

Part III: How to Send a Country to Hell, Modern Finance in the Hands of Warlords

This is the last installment of a three-part series on Lebanon. In the opening lines of part one I quote the country’s  current President Michel Aoun begging the West for a financial bailout as the country was, in his words, going to hell. In part one, I also chronicled the country’s tribal history that was full of bloodshed and mistrust under five centuries of Ottoman repression. In part II, I explored its modern history as a republic created by the French, which threw its varying tribes into an era of chaos, civil war, and subjugation to regional powers that reflected the Arab stages of development of “the warrior archetype.”  In the last part of this series, I’ll take a closer look at the forces that have been at play for the last decade in Lebanon’s politics and its economy that led to the current existential crisis. Its noteworthy to point that since I started writing part I, the Lebanese currency has devalued by another 10% plunging a greater percentage of the population into poverty and famine, while its politicians continue to refuse to meet the demands for transparency made by the international community as a condition for aid.

Hariri

As part of the post-civil war reconstruction effort, Prime Minister Rafik Hariri set a new and modern course for Lebanon as a prosperous oasis on the Mediterranean. Foreign investment in the country reached new heights and most of it was coming from rich Arab Gulf states. His private foundation, backed by the Saudis sponsored thousands of young Lebanese students to study abroad with the condition they return home and contribute to the reconstruction effort and beyond. He strengthened the judiciary that clamped down on illegal drug trade. He underwrote projects that modernized Lebanon’s infrastructure from highways and roads to public hospitals and schools. He moved freely among world leaders. He made Lebanon a very attractive target for investors from all over the globe. He sought the advice of Lee Kuan Yew, the founder of modern-day Singapore on how to make Lebanon the Singapore of the Middle East. He erased the sectarian and religious barriers through his determination to bring prosperity to the entire country.  Hariri was a modern-day Phoenician who brought peace to Lebanon through prosperity.

All these expensive projects however, saddled Lebanon with an enormous amount of national debt and with Hariri’s assassination, the road to the continued prosperity of Lebanon became a bumpy one. While the years immediately after his death saw a reduction in the rate of increase of national debt, the huge capital inflows that he had attracted in the past began to dwindle. Money flowed into the country at a slower pace, but as long as it came in, fears about the resilience of the economy and the country’s ability to service its debt were tempered. Money flowed from tourism, foreign aid and remittance from the millions of Lebanese living abroad. But the biggest capital inflows remained those that came from the goodwill of Gulf Arab states that bankrolled the country’s operations by strengthening the reserves of its central bank and kept the holders of its international debt happy.

All was well and the big can of debt was kicked down the road until 2012 when things began to change. Hezbollah began to steer sectarian tensions after the US Treasury named it as a terrorist and criminal organization effecting its free movement of capital and funding from its allies like Iran. Hezbollah had also strong armed the Lebanese Parliament to amend the constitution which lowered its veto power to one-third. Lebanon and all its official acts were now effectively at the mercy of Hezbollah or any minority parliamentarian block that can stop anything from moving forward without a supermajority vote. The US designation came after the Arab Spring that descended much of the region, including neighboring Syria into chaos. During the Syrian civil war, Hezbollah fought on the side of the Assad regime which used chemical weapons against its own people. Both Syria and Hezbollah were allied with Iran, the Sunni world’s archenemy which also sent fighters to defend Assad showing in no uncertain terms who Hezbollah’s allies were and where its loyalties lie.

Iran by default had become the mouthpiece for the Shia Arabs and through its proxies like Hezbollah and Assad and the newly empowered Shia in Iraq, it sought to shift regional loyalties away from the mostly Sunni Gulf states.  After seeing Iran’s and Syria’s power grow through Hezbollah’s political and military influence on Lebanon, the Gulf states’ hopes for the country’s continued prosperity faded and they stopped their financial support for its central bank. Soon thereafter, tourism and investment in the private sector from the Gulf came to a slow halt as well. This loss of revenue resulted in budget deficits that outpaced GDP growth almost every year since. Throughout this chaos, Lebanon was without a president for more than two years until 2016 when a candidate that was acceptable to Hezbollah was confirmed, sealing the fate of the nation. It quickly became apparent that the new President, Michel Aoun was nothing more than a puppet of Hezbollah. Under his presidency, the most important national posts such as the Ministry of Finance went to Hezbollah politicians.

Financial Engineering in the Hands of Warlords

If there’s anyone to blame for Lebanon’s current financial mess, it’s not the head of its central bank as much as it is the Minister of finance, Hezbollah’s Ali Hassan Khalil who held the position for an unprecedented 6-year term. Before his party plunged the country into mayhem, Lebanon’s annual fiscal deficit was on a steady decline for almost a decade. This improved the country’s global credit rating and its ability to refinance its older debt at much lower rates.  Under Khalil’s care however, annual deficits grew back to near record levels, except this time the rich Arab states were not there to prop up the appearance of financial stability.

Lebanon GDP-Debt ratio

The US Treasury action that has effectively cutoff Hezbollah’s finances had become a major threat to its stability. Khalil turned his attention towards the country’s banking sector that had shown exceptional resilience since its founding.  If the country’s treasury could not be propped by Arab friends, then it will be propped by debt underwritten by the West and by deposits made by expatriates that were concealed in sexy packages that promised unimaginable returns. Surely for an institution that survived a two-decade civil war and saw Lebanon through reconstruction, selling government bonds to the world was not much of a challenge. Before Hezbollah took the over the reins, Lebanon’s bond rating was at B with a stable outlook. This allowed the head of Lebanon’s central bank, Riad Salame, the ability to issue debt and sell it on the international bond markets at reasonable rates.

Salame was well versed in the ways of modern finance. Before taking the post as central banker, he had been an investment banker with Merrill Lynch in Beirut and Paris. Since ascending to the position, he had been on the board of the IMF and many global banking organizations. He rose to global prominence in 2008 and became known as the genius banker who saved Lebanon from the effects of the 2008 financial crisis for not participating in the speculative financial instruments that brought the world to its knees. Hezbollah couldn’t have asked for a more perfect candidate to hide behind as they manipulated the country’s finances.

How the Scam Worked:

  1. Lebanon’s Ministry of Finance issued US denominated Eurobonds, which the central bank swapped for treasury bills denominated in Lebanese Pounds. The appearance of risk was muted as this move reduced the cost of debt service on old loans while alleviating the pressure on the devaluation of the Lebanese Pound which had been pegged at 1,500 to the dollar for decades.
  1. Lebanon’s banking secrecy laws allowed for impropriety behavior on the part of depositors or borrowers to be veiled behind a wall of secrecy. This provided the perfect cover for financial crimes.  Through financial engineering the methods of which are yet to be disclosed, the central bank found a new lifeline. Suddenly it empowered its member banks to offer high returns on dollar deposits. While saving accounts and CDs were returning less than 1% or 2% all over the world, dollar deposits in Lebanese banks were returning anywhere from 12 – 16%. The higher the deposit and the longer the term, the higher the return.  Rational evaluation of this phenomenon was thrown out the window as animal spirits and greed brought in Billions in hard currency to the strapped Lebanese economy and its government, and it was all justified by Salame credibility as a banking genius on the world stage.

This scam continued undetected for years until liquidity began to dry up in late 2019 when banks began to impose capital controls on their depositors. Shortly thereafter the government announced that it will be defaulting on its March 2020 Eurobond payment of $1.2 billion, the first government default of its kind in the country’s history. Efforts to renegotiate any debt required an audit of the central bank and full transparency on government spending. Hezbollah did not allow either of these things to happen. To them, this wasn’t about respecting modern institutions and the covenants that made the world economy function. It was all about revenge against the West for its actions, pure and simple. It was after this realization that the world woke up and recognize that Lebanon under Hezbollah only has the superfluous appearances of a functioning country. The Lebanese government had been running a nationally protected Ponzi scheme within its banking system for years.

This is when the modern world woke up to the fact that Lebanon cannot be held to the same standards of accountability that most sovereign nations adhere to. And under Hezbollah’s influence Lebanon’s fortunes and goodwill have been reversed. A year and half have passed since the default and the government still refuses to show its books risking the lives of its people and plunging half of its population below the poverty line. The country’s credit rating stands at D or SD which are both the lowest rating possible with only a dark outlook. Today, the Lebanese pound trades at more than 20,000 to the dollars, a 90% devaluation in purchasing power that has left many families hungry and destitute. The country has been without a government since the resignation of the last prime minister a day after the massive explosion that leveled half of Beirut. The IMF, the World Bank and Western donors are insisting on transparency from the country’s leaders, who refuse to agree to any such terms while their citizens stand in bread lines for hours only to realize that the Lebanese Pound has devalued even more just in the time they’ve been in line. As Hezbollah waits for Western bankers to blink, they continue to plunge Lebanon into a darker abyss with no workable end in sight.  Maybe this is what they and their masters in Tehran have wanted all along.

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Governance that Fits

On the cultural development scale of Spiral Dynamics, what the Beirut explosion, the Coronavirus and the banking crises have done to Lebanon is expose the essence of Modern-day values of the third level psychosocial system of development.  This form of feudalism dressed in an Armani suit is tricky if not outright dangerous. It uses the tools from higher modern values such as the power of global finance and a vacuous system of democracy to manipulate power and reinforce the feudalistic systems and keep it in place for the long term. Lebanon today remains a collection of loose sectarian tribes boasting of how great it is to be Lebanese without ever knowing what true nationalism is. Sadly, even as starvation knocks at many doors, most citizens refuse to acknowledge this failed stage of cultural development.  A true nation derives its values from seeing a bright future based on collaboration and inclusion, not from its deterministic and feudalistic past. It is the belief in an abstract concept of the institutions that treat everyone equally and afford equal opportunities. It transcends loyalty to the religious sect or the tribal Za’eem. It separates religion from state, and it empowers the institutions not the charismatic warlord or head of a certain religious sect.

SD Org structure

As I described in part I of this series, the transition from the third stage of development to the next stage where democracy begins, is the toughest transition in human history. It comes after everybody lays beaten and bloodied. That’s when the culture collectively acknowledges that there must be a better way as it begins to work toward building the foundation for institutions based on the rule of law. This becomes the corner stone of nations. Unfortunately, the window to build a new national platform for Lebanon has passed. It should have been the first priority in the Taif Agreement that ended the civil war. Mutual coexistence is essentially national reconciliation which never materialized. Sadly, without the needed dialog among the different tribes about what nationalism means to all Lebanese, the country defaulted back into the old sectarian divide with loyalties to regional powers, and local sectarian leaders, not the nation. The confluence of these 3 crises has descended Lebanon to unprecedented levels of despair. Conditions are even worse than they were during the two-decade civil war, which, in my opinion, has never ended. It only transformed into an armistice of angry tribes agreeing to disagree while they carve bigger and bigger pieces of the political pie to expand their feudalistic powers.

For a culture that loves rhetoric, no Lebanese will ever acknowledge that Lebanon was never a country. Pride runs deep in the heart of every Lebanese, including me. It must be that Phoenician blood that courses through our veins. But the Phoenicians were an enterprising civilization; a loose collection of city states, each with its own commerce God (Ba’el) and issues of governance never imposed the will of one city on another. Absent true national reconciliation, what awaits Lebanon is Balkanization. It’s future points to a loose collection of city-states based on sectarianism and commerce until such time as when the various tribes outgrow such design and believe in a greater common purpose for a true republic governed by the modern tools of democracy and absent the influence of so many outsiders.

 

Lebanon, Pity the Nation that Never Was Part II

Part II of a III Part Series: Post Independence Chaos

When the colonial administrative era of Lebanon came to an end, it came to the entire region not just to Lebanon. This was a post-colonial age that saw the League of Nations give way to The United Nations where every newly established country had a voice and a seat at the world’s table. This was also the age of extreme chaos for the entire region, and Lebanon’s fate has been tied to that of the region since its independence. It felt as if the Western world had abruptly given up its drive to shape the region’s fledgling nations and hand their responsibilities back to local leaders. For the French the choice for their replacement of the rule of law was governance in the form of a republic. The British favored the handing of power to Monarchs who safeguarded their colonial interest while taking care of the needs of their constituents.

The Strongman Cometh

Based on our Functional Democracy model, a Benevolent Monarchy would have been the ideal form of governance that fits for most of the region which would have favored the British model. But the world underestimated the level of bottled-up rage the Arab street had from centuries of repression. No form of governance was going to restrict their individual expression and the right for self-determination. The 1940s and early 1950s witnessed the dawn of a new age unincumbered by five centuries of Ottomans brutality and free from the rule of the West. Arabs were experiencing personal empowerment in its rawest form. This was the ascendence of the Arab Warrior culturewide to the Third stage of development in our model and no Monarchy or Democracy was going come in their way.

Red Org structure:Startified Democracy

This became evident very quickly as military leaders and revolutionaries throughout the region rose and toppled whatever remained of Western form of rule.  Mohammed Naguib and Gamal Abdel Nasser were the first Arab revolutionaries to topple the Alawite Monarchy of Egypt and Sudan followed shortly by the toppling of the Hashemite Monarchy in Iraq and the numerous military coups that defined Syria in that period of time.

 

There was a deep desire among the people to create a unique and modern Arab state, led by warriors and pioneers who honored the evolutionary stages they were going through. A leader who spoke to the masses regionwide, one who can unite Arab tribes under one identity, but more importantly one who can fight what most Arabs considered a foreign entity on their land, the State of Israel. Into that void stepped Egypt’s new president. Nasser was a charismatic leader who introduced a series of socialist reforms in Egypt. After nationalizing the Suez Canal, and successfully fending off France, Israel and the UK from reclaiming its control back to the West, he was instantly propelled into the regional spotlight as the ideal strongman who can stand up to foreign oppression.

Nasser, Arafat, Assad

Arab pride was real and it was expressing itself through the strongman archetype regionwide. It was empowering the peasant class as equally the intellectual class and Nassar’s rhetoric made it reach fever pitch. No sooner than the Hashemite monarchy was toppled, Nasser announced that any retributions against the Iraqi revolutionaries will be considered an attack on Arab sovereignty. In 1958 Syrian revolutionaries steered by the socialist ideologies of the Pan-Arabian Ba’ath party, proposed a union with Egypt and Nasser welcomed the Syrians into the newly formed United Arab Republic. The union only lasted for a few short years, but behind the scenes, Nasser continued to influence Arab leaders in the region to unite behind the Arab cause. The power structure was clear; at the top of the new Arab leadership structure was Nasser, the big strong man, and below him were the satellite Arab countries led by smaller strongmen who will make the dream of the new Arab nation a reality. Anyone who didn’t fall in line was considered weak an unpatriotic to the new cause.

No Country for Weak Men

Two years after Lebanon’s independence, major existential crisis began to define this country that by then was a haphazard band of tribes forced to coexist under one flag. These types of crises would have challenged mature democracies due to their existential nature that continue to challenge the notion that a one person one vote democracy can survive in a sea of nothing but strongmen who wish to hold on to power to themselves. First came the Palestinian refugee crisis in 1948, which immediately tested the strength of the national government. There was little to be tested. Instead of the country’s political leaders working together to design a system for the refugees to assimilate into the culture, or engage in a regional or global dialogue on the Palestinian issue, they found themselves at the mercy of the much bigger cultural wave led by Nasser. The ideologies that defined Nasser’s brand of pan-Arabism were called Nasserism and they had taken the world by storm. They formed a foundation for how the nations of the Third World can liberate themselves from their colonial past and institute socialist or communist programs to help them reach freedom. This was how the Middle East fell into the divide of the Cold War, and most of the Arab street fell for Nasserism.

The Lebanese street, however, was divided in its support for Nasser. The Maronites, and by extension all Christians thought of it as an extension of communism while the Muslim factions, including the Druze supported it wholeheartedly.  When Lebanese president Camile Chamoun, a Maronite and an advocate of a strong independent Lebanon, resisted Nasser’s invitation to join the greater Arab cause, he began to destabilize the country from behind the scenes. He sent financial and military aid to his supporters in an attempt to weaken Chamoun’s leadership and further divide the country. No room for weak men, and to Nasser, any Arab leader who resisted Nasserism was to be made into a weak pariah. After Lebanon refused to take an active role in the 1967 war against Israel, Nasser looked to punish those who were responsible for the loss in the war and he looked to Lebanon. If Lebanese leaders were too weak to fight Israel, then there needed to be a stronger Arab presence to its north that could. Nasser put pressure on his Lebanese allies and brokered the 1969 Cairo Agreement which prevented Lebanese authorities from intervening in how Palestinian refugee camps were being operated throughout Lebanon. Suddenly a new strongman, Yasser Arafat rose to power and began to create a state within a state.  Within a few short years the political calculus in Lebanon shifted to favor those who supported the PLO and the greater Arab struggle against Israel.

Chammoun Shehab, Helou

For the few short decades that followed, Lebanon’s Maronite leaders walked the tight rope between supporting a strong independent Lebanon, and playing the moderate role in being passive supporters of the greater Arab cause. As long as no one questioned the movement of Palestinians inside Lebanon, all was well. During this period the country experienced the greatest economic growth that came to define modern day Lebanon. Beirut became the Paris of the East, and Lebanon the Switzerland of the Levant. The Lebanese banking system, which in later years became the country’s downfall, was only rivaled by that of Switzerland due to its banking secrecy laws. Every wealthy investor who couldn’t hide his money in Swiss banks, was able to do it in Lebanese banks. With oil revenues flooding the region, Lebanon quickly became the modern financial capital of the Middle East. But eventually the tensions between Christians who fought against the idea of a strong Palestinian presence in Lebanon reached a breaking point with the non-Christians who supported it. This resulted in Lebanon’s civil war that started in 1975 and lasted till 1990.

Before the civil war however, the regional dynamics began to change. After the sudden death of Nasser in 1970, the role of keeping Lebanon weak and divided shifted to a less diplomatic and more brutal Pan Arabist, Hafez Assad in Syria. Assad rose to power as a Ba’athist and by the time he became president in 1971, had appointed himself as the sole defender of Arabs against Israel.  Years before ascending to the Syrian presidency, as a commander in the Syrian Army, Assad offered protection to a Lebanese fugitive by the name of Suleiman Frangieh, who was wanted in Lebanon for murdering several people. Frangieh, being a Maronite and a member of a political family who himself had high ambitions, had returned to Lebanon after the country issued a general amnesty. After a decade or so in Parliament Frangieh ran for President, and with pressure from Syria’s Pan Arabists, he won the presidency and presided over the early years of Lebanon’s civil war.  It was time to pay back the piper. Frangieh called on Assad to send in a few army units to stop advances by the Palestinians and their allies.

With the blessings of Saudi Arabia, Assad’s army moved into Lebanon as peacemakers, but ended up being occupiers who changed loyalties on the two sides of the conflict for no other purpose than to keep Lebanon divided and under its control.  Assad crushed the Palestinians and their allies as well as the Christians whenever he felt that the power of one was becoming a challenge to Syria’s presence in Lebanon. The Syrians became occupiers in every sense of the word. The peacemaker who was invited in became the occupier who never left. Syrian soldiers robbed Lebanon of everything from wholesale supplies and merchandise at their checkpoints to nice cars driven by Lebanese citizens. The Kleptocracy was eye opening. The Syrians pillaged everything in sight and no one could stop them. They ripped out the entire infrastructure of train tracks and stations that were built by the Ottomans and sold them to the Pakistanis. Their generals penetrated the banking system and forced bankers to cash checks from accounts that had no funds, which forced several banks into insolvency. The joke around Syrian families with a large number of children was that half of them were conceived to go into the army. That is the same army that claimed to defend the Arab world without firing a single shot into Israel or the Golan Heights after losing the territory in the 1967 war and failing to reclaim it in the 1973 war. The Syrian army’s sole focus became the constant intimidation and subjugation of its much smaller neighbor through any means possible.

Lebanon became Syria’s cash-cow, and Assad moved to formalized his country’s domination of it by giving it a “special relationship” designation through the 1989 Taif Agreement which brought an end the civil war. It made Lebanon officially into an Arab state with a special orientation towards Syria. It called for the disarming of all militias, except for Hezbollah, the Shia group that appointed itself the “resistance force” against Israel. The accord also expanded the number of parliamentary seats from 99 to 128, and reordered the Christian majority from a 6:5 ratio to a an even 1:1 ratio with majority of the added seats going to the historically underrepresented Shias. The agreement also moved some of the executive responsibilities from the office of the president to the office of the Prime Minister. The Saudi’s appointed Rafik Hariri, A Sunni Lebanese self-made Billionaire who accumulated most of his wealth through Saudi construction projects.

In later years Hariri became Lebanon’s Prime Minister who undertook the project of reconstruction. Hariri quickly became a nationally beloved figure who was admired by Christians, Druze and Sunnis, but was regarded with suspicion by the Shia who were now allied with the Syrians.  There were two essential parts of the Taif Agreement that Hariri sought to fulfil during his many terms as Prime Minister.

  1. The negotiated withdrawal of the Syrian army.
  2. The implementation of national reconciliations measures among the feuding tribes called “mutual coexistence.”

It was the failure of both of these measures that brought Lebanon closer to where it is today. Hariri walked a tight rope between keeping the Syrians happy and attempting to negotiate their withdrawal. Hafez Assad’s attention during this period shifted from physical occupation of the country, to controlling part of its resources, business activities and its intelligence apparatus. Corrupt business practices are part of doing business anywhere in the Middle East and Assad and his kleptocrats became a permanent part of the tapestry.

However, after the death of Hafez Assad in 2000, things took a turn for the worse for Lebanon, Assad was succeeded by his son Bashar who lacked the political savvy and the long-term vision of his father. The son immediately began to make unreasonable demands on Hariri and the Lebanese government. Any move by Hariri to reclaim Lebanese sovereignty was met by disdain and contempt.  Assad the son took the army withdrawal off the table as his henchmen began to intimidate Hariri. All this came to a deadly head when Hariri’s motorcade was blown up in downtown Beirut killing him and many of his aids and a past minister. Years later, a report by a special UN tribunal found Hezbollah responsible for the massacre, but the brutal act immediately brought demands from the majority of Lebanese for the Syrian army to withdrawal. A few months later, the Syrian army ended its 3-decade occupation and began to empower its proxy Hezbollah to extend its reign of terror.

In part III I will examine Lebanon’s fall into the hands of Hezbollah and its proxies, Syria and Iran and the current economic and debt crisis that seems to have no end in sight.   

 

 

Lebanon, Pity the Nation That Never Was

PART I: Bloody tribal history meets Western style democracy

By Said Elias Dawlabani

Disclosure: I was born in Lebanon into a Christian family, but my religious denomination precludes me and tens of thousands like me from holding elected office in the country. This exclusion is not in the country’s constitution. Until such time as when my sect develops its own strong man and proves to be worthy of being called warlords, we will remain on the margins of Lebanon’s political establishment.    

Maronite Cathedral next to Sunni Mosque in Downtown Beirut

Maronite Cathedral next to Sunni Mosque in Downtown Beirut

Today, Lebanon is experiencing a trifecta of events that, in the words of its President are sending the country to hell. It started with the collapse of the banking sector in October 2019, got further exacerbated by the global pandemic, then came the massive explosion at the port of Beirut last summer that destroyed half of the city. With these existential calamities piling on the top of each other, the country with no meaningful help in sight, has downshifted to the worst mode of survival where famine is knocking at the door of most Lebanese families. But not so for its political class and their cronies. The President’s statement would have been more accurate if it were slightly amended to say “me and my gang of criminals are sending the country to hell, unless foreign money keeps our scheme going.”

It’s not the massive explosion at the port or the Coronavirus that are descending Lebanon into the abyss.  It is the world finally waking up and realizing that underneath the façade of what looks like a modern nation, the country is anything but. Lebanon is run mostly by tribes and warlords of different ethnic and religious compositions with loyalties to outside powers that have very little to do with making Lebanon a strong sovereign state. They amount to nothing more than criminal gangs competing for resources. The occasional alliance of feuding political families appears as an act of national unity when in reality it’s merely an ad hoc arrangement among clans to beat out other clans competing for resources and political power.

BACKGROUND

Lebanon was an remains the place where persecuted minorities from the greater region seek shelter and safety. Be it in the mountains where conquering armies dared not to climb, or the safety by numbers present within the confines of one’s own religious sect. These tribal values are an anthropologist’s dream preserved in the haphazard design of most Lebanese communities.

The old dusty roads that connect this ancient land are a journey through that history that bears witness to the country’s modern identity. As you drive through the lush greens of the Bekaa valley, you see a church steeple on the horizon. That is a Christian village. You pass it in a blink of an eye then you drive a few short miles through another patch of green in slightly different hue before you see a Minaret of a Mosque. You’re approaching a Muslim village. The scene repeats several times before you start looking closer at the names of the churches and the mosques and realize you have counted at least 7 or 8 different Christian and Muslim denominations in less than an hour into your journey.  These villages make for the classic case of how form follows function. The design is a mosaic of modern apartment buildings that house several generations of the same family and old huts bunched together for safety under the spell of a common belief system. These are modern tribes living in constant fear of each other with a safe distance between them and only interact with one another for simple trade or whenever a common threat arises.

The Bloody history of Maronites and Druze. The 1860 slaughter

The Bloody history of Maronites and Druze. The 1860 slaughter

History books on Lebanon are full of bloody stories of how clans within the same religion don’t trust others from different denominations. As recently as a hundred years ago, the Maronites Christians had deep mistrust of the Greek Orthodox Christians. The Sunnis Muslims didn’t trust the Shia Muslims. The Druze who are neither Muslim nor Christian, are known for their quick slaughter of Catholics and Maronites the minute the winds of ignorance blow from the nearby mountains. This is not folklore. These were the realities that defined the feudal history of Lebanon. The Ottoman Turks who ruled the region for five hundred years more often than not condoned tribal slaughter which forced Christians to seek protection from the Vatican and other Western countries. Over the centuries, the French emerged as the protectors of the Maronites, the Russians were the protectors of the Greek Orthodox Christians, and the British were the protectors of the Druze.[i]

The brutality of the Ottomans kept most of the region under repression for five hundred years. The Turks were the masters of the divide and conquer strategy that prevented tribal harmony from taking root. They corroded the culture’s capacity to develop resilience and prevented it from reaching higher levels of development. Those are all prerequisite stages of cultural development that encourage tribes to subordinate their belief systems into higher values that define peaceful co-existence, inclusion and harmony often identified with the ideal of one nation under one flag.

Proclamation of Greater Lebanon 1920 in 1920. Photo by Photo12/Getty

Proclamation of Greater Lebanon in 1920. Photo by Photo12/Getty

After the Ottoman Empire crumbled, France and Britain administered parts of the region hoping to make it look like the West. Lebanon, they thought, with its highly educated populous that openly assimilated Western values will easily welcome a Western style democracy.   After a few short decades the French, taking the advice of their Lebanese allies, carved out parts of Syria and added them to what had historically been Mount Lebanon to form what is known today as the modern-day Republic of Lebanon. In their Western worldview, the French attempted to capture the religious and tribal character of the past in order to design a constitution for this newly formed democracy. The result was the allocation of political power based on the confessional composition of the country.  The French, of course favored their historic protectorates, the Maronites and placed their religious and civic leaders in charge of the final demarcations of borders. What influenced that design were two major factors that have shaped much of the country’s political dysfunction since its independence:

  1. After the Ottomans caused the Great Famine of 1915-1918 in Mount Lebanon which killed half of its population, Maronite leaders wanted to make sure such an existential threat does not surface again. They sought to include land with rich soil where they can grow food for their new country. This would be territory that was historically a part of Syria. The French offered the soil-rich section north of Mount Lebanon called Wadi al Nasara, (the Valley of the Christians) which was mostly populated by the Greek Orthodox sect.[ii] Thinking that their tribal foes will eventually compete with them for power the Maronite bishops argued against that plan. Instead, they picked the areas where the uneducated and underrepresented Shia peasants lived. This territory included much of Southern Lebanon and the Bekaa valley that are part of the country today. These were the simplistic, often uninformed tribalistic views that had no place in the design of a modern nation. The fallacy that any segment of society will remain uninformed and primitive in a modern democracy sealed the country’s fate. It is the rise of Lebanon’s Shia today to claim their share of power that is at the heart of its multiple crisis.
  1. As soon as the country received its independence, it was thrown into a series of existential crisis that would have made modern democracies crumble. While the country has had a few periods of prosperity and peaceful coexistence among its people, its modern history has been defined by the failure of its governing systems that are not congruent with the tribal and feudal values of its leaders and their followers.

 

To get a better idea of where the country is today, it is important to view its past from a developmental lens of cultural and political evolution that examines the imposition of Western models of governance. The development model that has been at the heart of my work for the last two decades, places Lebanon’s predominant values at the second and third levels of development. Of the various metrics that measure factors that determine what constitutes a modern-day nation, Lebanon resoundingly qualifies as a failed state. It’s a half-baked 20th century French colonial experiment that ignored history, culture, geography and tribal loyalties that have dotted the region for millennia. More importantly, it ignored the sequential developmental stages that a culture must go through to develop the necessary resilience before it can become a thriving democracy.

This chart is a derivation of the Spiral Dynamics Framework and its applications to Large Scale Systems Change. For further details on real case studies in South Africa and the Middle East please read Elza Maalouf's book Emerge! The Rise of Functional Democracy and the Future of the Middle East and Don Beck's book  The Crucible; Forging South Africa's Future. Both available on Amazon and other book sellers.

This chart is a derivation of the Spiral Dynamics Framework and its applications to Large Scale Systems Change. For further details on real case studies in South Africa and the Middle East please read Elza Maalouf’s book Emerge! The Rise of Functional Democracy and the Future of the Middle East and Don Beck’s book The Crucible; Forging South Africa’s Future. Both available on Amazon and other book sellers.

To the West, it was all about modernization that ignores these indigenous challenges that determine the natural evolution of a culture up the ladder of development. When viewed from our Functional Democracy framework, modernization tends to skip or minimize the necessary hard work on the lower levels that have historically been a prerequisite for national cohesion and nation building.  When designing from the stratified approach to cultural emergence, (governance that fits the culture), the general rule of thumb is to design a governing system that is no more than one stage of development above the culture’s dominant value systems and beliefs. More importantly the content of that design needs to be informed by the unique motivations and aspirations of that local culture. This is what the creators of the model, Don Beck and Elza Maalouf of The Center for Human Emergence Middle East call the Indigenous Intelligence. A closer look at the values and levels of development of the French, places their ideas on democracy at the 5th and 6th level of development, which is two to three stages above Lebanon’s value systems center of gravity. Additionally, their design of the country’s constitution only gave surface attention to Lebanon’s Indigenous Intelligence that should have come from all the tribal and religious leaders of the country, not just the Maronites.

In our model, political form must follow the function it’s supposed to serve, which was also overlooked by the French. While many argue that Lebanon with its modern educational institutions and free market economy, should be ranked among liberal democracies, a look at its cultural composition tells us otherwise. Tribal and religious loyalties today still outrank any loyalty to such abstract concepts like democracy or nationalism. Essentially what the French had done is remove ancient boundaries that served historically as physical barriers that separated feuding tribes without focusing first on helping tribal leaders develop institutional capacities necessary to define the core of what it is to be a Lebanese patriot serving one flag in a system of one person one vote. By overlooking this crucial stage of cultural development, the French let loose the warlords who saw the opportunity to plunder the entire country as spoils for their tribes and their henchmen.

Under the Functional Democracy model, the toughest stage of cultural and political evolution is the transition from stage 3 to stage 4 of development. Western democracy begins at stage 4, but when the model is adopted to a culture that is in any lower stages of development, different forms of governance have to be applied. The hope is to help the culture eventually reach stage 4 that is unique to its own people. However, getting to that stage has always been difficult due to the nature of what comes before it. Stage 3 has proven to be the bloodiest stage of development in the history of humanity. For centuries it was thought of as the only way to govern. It was historically represented by charismatic and feared leaders like Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan. In later manifestations it represented itself as the entry stages into level 4 of development under the guise of religion. The Crusaders and Muhammad’s conquering armies are two good examples. Today, any leader who’s considered a strongman is a representative of that level of development. This third level has defined the exploitive nature of past empires. It’s all about subjugating “the other” through any means possible. To the victor belonged the spoils in human and material toll. Bloodshed and violence define many generations until eventually the collective conscious is fully exhausted and becomes incapable of empowering anything that causes bloodshed. (More on this lost opportunity for Lebanon in Part II). That is when a culture and its bloodied leaders begin to develop the awareness that there has to be a better way. The transition to that better way is the most crucial transition in human history as power moves from being vested in the hands of the charismatic, often male egocentric warrior to being vested in the institutions of the culture. Leaders centered in stage 4 are always aware of the brutal memories and the determination to never again return to the brutality of the third level. It is at this stage that the foundation stones of a modern nation are built. Without having the bloody lessons from stage 3 incorporated into the collective awareness of the culture, that foundation sits on shaky grounds.

In addition to the French ignoring Lebanon’s prerequisite stages of development, and its own internal struggles, they designed a constitution that removed the next stage of development: the strong man image who can stand tall in the region among other Arabs leaders who identified with the modern warrior archetype. Absent that, Lebanese leaders were being viewed as weak. For the exception of religious institutions, no one in the region understood or even respected the abstract idea of institutions that form the cornerstone of democracy. Because of that perceived weakness the country was taken full advantage of as it became a proxy for regional powers who fought their ideological and sectarian battles while politicians either acted in allegiance to regional powers or looked for financial incentives that made them and their cronies into Billionaires while turning a blind eye as their country was being plundered.

In Part II I’ll examine Lebanon’s post-independence days leading up to the current crisis which seems to have no end in sight

[i] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Lebanon#Sectarian_conflict:_European_Powers_begin_to_intervene Retrieved April 20, 2021.

[ii] https://www.thenationalnews.com/world/lebanons-dark-days-of-hunger-the-great-famine-of-1915-18-1.70379 Retrieved April 21, 2021.

 

A Summary of Islamic History Through the Lens of Spiral Dynamics

Islamic History on Spiral EDITED

Author’s note: This piece began as an answer to a post on a Spiral Dynamics online forum regarding the value systems history of Islam and a corresponding image depicting its evolutionary movement along the Spiral.  The image accompanying the narrative was from a PowerPoint presentation from a 4-hour workshop. The original slides were moved to Apple’s Keynote program and in the process, many of the lines, bars and text in the graph were distorted creating some confusion. The image above is from the original PPT which preserved much of the graph according to the findings. Also note that the timeline is not proportionately chronological. It is intended to pinpoint what Clare W. Graves called “the appearance of significant Existential Problems, NOT the clock! The purpose of this supplemental post, is to provide a more comparative East/West analysis and to address the dynamics of the last century that are at the heart of the Western conflict with Islam.

The image and the accompanying narrative account for less than 10% of the workshop which focuses primary on how to help Islam evolve from its current arrested stages of development, and more specifically the Middle East. The full whole-systems approach to that issue is detailed in Elza Maalouf’s book Emerge! The Rise of Functional Democracy and the Future of the Middle East.  While the post received many comments and was shared widely, the historic narrative is usually used as a background to inform the design of future systems based on the region’s current Life Conditions.

While many of my colleagues continue to question whether Islam was ever at Orange-Green, and insist on judging it based on the last 100 years, to me this is nothing more the furtherance of a centuries-old Western pattern of repression and the refusal to acknowledge that a more advanced culture might have existed prior to the European Renaissance. It started at least 5 centuries before Islam in 48 BC when Julius Caesar burned down the Library of Alexandria. Libraries are essential building blocks of the Blue system upon which Orange capacities are built.  In today’s standards, that library would be many times the size of the largest library in the world-the Library of Congress. Imagine where the region would be today had it not been for the brutality of the West.

I urge my European friends to stop using pop psychology to help them feel better about Europe’s own colonial past and its bloody battles within its own tribes over the centuries in order to process the trauma and blame what can’t be processed on “the other.” That other is made up of groups who don’t fall into the European worldview including the way Islam has manifested over the last 100 years. While Islam in parts of the MENA region might be going through a dark phase after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, it’s worth remembering that Europe’s own dark ages, according to most historians lasted for 10 centuries.

The workshop from which this information comes represents a summary of Elza’s 240-page book and her background as an attorney in Lebanon who studied the history of Islam, Sharia Law, the Quran, Al Hadith, and Nahjul Balagha. In addition, there is over a decade worth of research and applications at the Center for Human Emergence Middle East (CHE-ME) that shapes all that knowledge into a value systems-informed narrative.  A prerequisite for our activities at the CHE-ME is the full acknowledgment of our own shadow issues and that of Islam in the region. This is the elephant in the room that many leaders in the Middle East ignore, and many in the West project unfairly on Islam, while doing very little to address their own failures to design effective systems that ensure the proper assimilation of Muslim migrants.

It is important to acknowledge that with the fall of the Ottoman Empire, and the Arab rebellion against its rule, Islamic Renaissance effectively came to an end. The Arabs reclaimed Sunni Islam from the Turks, and brought it back to its original home, the two holy cities of Mecca and Medina.  This shift and the absence of Ottoman expansion is often overlooked from a developmental standpoint as the Arabian Peninsula had remained historically close to the tribalistic Purple values that existed since the days of Hijra. Ottoman expansion on the other hand, reached deep into Europe, evolving the religion into higher value systems in more inclusive ways that lasted beyond Al-Ghazali.  After the end of WWI, modern-day Turkey moved towards a secular form of governance under the Kamalists reforms, while Saudi Arabia remained under the influence of Wahhabism, an Islamic doctrine that has been described as ultraconservative and fundamental. Wahhabism, also known as Salafism, in a modern-day context, has a value systems profile that is centered in Red and a closed-system theocratic Blue that ruled over a predominantly Purple tribalistic landscape.  It sought to crush the “deviant sectarian movement of the religion” and emphasized the principle of Tawhid or monotheism, dismissing other offshoots of Islam as idolatries.

What the Wahhabis sought to do with Sunni Islam would be equivalent to the Church wanting to undo all the evolutionary stages of Christianity and bring it back to the days of the Spanish Inquisition.  The Wahhabis and the Saudi royal family have had a power-sharing arrangement since the 18th century. In the 20th century, revenues from oil in the kingdom were the catalyst that provided for the spread of firebrand Sunni teachings throughout the region and the world.  The Saudi royal family looking to self-preservation, looked the other way while allocating billions in their annual budgets to the building and staffing of Wahhabi and Salafi mosques around the world.

To demonstrate the larger context in which all this is being presented, in 2006 the CHE-ME set out to perform a detailed value-systems analysis of how Jordan was successfully addressing its Muslim extremism. We discovered that King Abdullah II, was a man whose life was shaped by both the East and the West. He was a direct descendent of the Prophet Mohamed, and was educated in the US and the UK from his early years. He was also commissioned as a second Lieutenant in the British Army before ascending to the throne.  His Western education combined with his tribal Indigenous Intelligence provided him with the needed pragmatism to implement religious reforms without bringing the ire of the Wahhabis. He had initiated a kingdom-wide program that essentially reversed the way in which the Wahhabis recruited Imams.  The king put in place a qualifying criterion that required all Imams to have post-secondary education and be in the top 5% of their class. This essentially moved the needle in the Muslim clergy community in Jordan from Red/arrested Blue that was out of touch with modern Life Conditions to an open Blue-Orange state that is commensurate with local Life Conditions and in harmony with the rest of the world.  These findings formed the foundation for a new way of thinking: If Imams could be taught to see the higher value systems in their scripture, the world will be a much better place for it. This became the basis for most of the presentations Dr. Beck, Elza and I made in the US and in Europe. From the 2011 Global Counter Terrorism conference in Paris, to meetings at the State Department. Dr. Beck sent Karl Rove, President Bush’s senior advisor many memos on our findings in the hopes that it becomes a new awareness for how we address the deeper layers of conflict and terrorism.

As we surveyed local Islamic outreach organizations in Europe and the US, we discovered that most of the Mosques that had the potential to foment hate speech and inspire terrorist activities were led by firebrand Salafi Imams who preached the Wahhabi doctrine of Tawhid that made infidels out of innocent next-door neighbors.  What we had advocated form in Paris and in Washington was a Spirally-informed approach inspired by what Jordan had done. We proposed a professional licensing system for Imams as a way to change the content of Islamic scripture from Red and closed Blue to an open Blue and Orange content right from the Quran, which contained sayings that spanned the entire spiral from Purple to Turquoise. We ultimately discovered that many leaders in the West don’t have the capacity to understand the Spiral. In addition, the West’s naïve understanding of freedom of speech, prevented many from accepting our advice which allowed for the hate speech that inspired terrorist actions to continue.

In 2008, the CHE-ME sought funding for a project with the goal of mapping out the Quran on the Spiral. Similar to what Dr. Beck had done in creating the Stratified Democracy model, we sought to stratify Islamic scripture according to keywords and phrases that correspond to each level of development. Our primary objective was to separate heavy doctrinaire Blue and destructive Red from the rest of the Quran and offer our findings to world leaders as basis for training new Imams who held the key to a new Islamic Renaissance. The stratification process would utilize the vMEME Bar Code system that Dr. Kevin Kells created at the center for the purpose of value-matching content to community or country profile. Unfortunately, those plans fell apart as the financial crisis dried up most of the funding we were counting on. I’m still hopeful that an academic institution takes on this ambitious project which I believe will have a profound impact on the future of Islam.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The New Frontier in Geopolitics: Understanding the Indigenous Intelligence:

Indigenous Intelligence Experts

Indigenous Intelligence Experts

In my book Emerge! I spent a considerable amount of time articulating the importance of understanding the local intelligence, what motivates people, their value preferences and worldviews. If the US is to be respected as an effective facilitator of change, we have to understand this social science concept. Below is my description of it from my book Emerge!
Indigenous Intelligence is one of the most crucial elements of the MEMEtocracy model. Throughout his career, Beck has emphasized the importance of working with people who know the culture of the country they are working in. It wasn’t until I teamed up with him to create the CHE-Mideast that I discovered the need to further define his thinking on this particular subject. For someone who was born in Lebanon, I noticed certain events, behaviors, and phenomena in Middle Eastern cultures that were missed by most of my highly intelligent Western friends. This pattern of things lost or missed in translation kept repeating in higher frequency as our work progressed, making it necessary for me to conduct research into this area.
I began to develop my model after much analysis of field data and assessment of why development problems persist in spite of all the good intentions behind foreign aid and the noble work of non-governmental organizations.
Often the term “indigenous” is associated with native minorities and cultures of the developing world that have been marginalized by progress. In this context, I was looking to redefine the meaning of indigenous to include the “unique value-systems expression” of the complex intelligences within each culture. Those indigenous intelligences can offer their countries, and the world community creative solutions that meet the challenges facing our world today.
As I looked into the field of social sciences, nothing identified the general subject of local cultural knowledge as a separate and distinct field of intelligence or an area worthy of acknowledgment with its own unique characteristics. An Internet search for the term revealed results for a business entity organized to provide Native American veterans with jobs in consulting services. After spending many days in research and failing to find any definitive writings on the subject, I turned to the work of Howard Gardner as a last resort.
Gardner, a Harvard developmental psychologist, had pioneered the field of multiple intelligences. In his 1983 book Theory of Multiple Intelligences, he outlined a total of eight types of intelligences that included the original measure of cognitive intelligence. Since then, Gardner has updated his original findings to include many applications, but at the time I conducted my research this pioneer had not included the field of local cultural intelligence as a factor in his influential research the way Beck and I viewed it.
Based on my field experience and the extensive research I conducted in the areas of social psychology and world cultures, I came to define “indigenous intelligence” as follows:
Indigenous Intelligence (II) is the multidimensional capacity of an individual or a group in a specific society to interpret its value-system’s complexity to non-natives. It is represented in a cross section of any given society, from the Millennial Generation to women, community leaders and elders of the tribe. Unlike other intelligences, it provides rich and actionable culturally fit answers, to why certain individuals or groups act in certain ways. Why do they have certain preferences, priorities, beliefs and worldviews and why solutions need to be tailored for their specific value-structures.
Indigenous Intelligence informs governance by assessing the life conditions of the people and the challenges they face. II paints a more complete picture of the obstacles facing stakeholders in a society, not just the elite and the privileged. It always finds opportunities in the challenges facing a certain society and finds a silver lining through creative thinking. Economic development that is informed by II places the uniqueness of people’s capacities into a long-term development scheme that makes the culture move at an accelerated pace while building resilience and self-reliance at every stage.

Indigenous Intelligence Experts (IIEs)
Indigenous Intelligence is manifested in individuals as well as groups that are experts who exhibit the following characteristics:

• They are most likely natives of the territory who speak the language, know the customs, and understand the culture and the many subcultures within it.
• Their thinking is an open-system with high cognitive abilities. They can speak with ease to tribal leaders in their same colloquial tongue as well as to a national or Western politician and be fully aware of the value-structure distinctions of what is being said.
• He/she is shaped by the first-hand experience of his/her own transition from being zealots and flamethrowers. He/she has earned his/her dues in becoming a conciliator and pragmatist who thinks about future generations and their well being, rather than having a need for revenge, instant gratification, and traditional allegiances.
• IIEs, instinctively discern the complex patterns of their society by identifying developmental gaps and allowing for the process to evolve naturally. This is in stark contrast of how the West paints other societies with broad strokes through their people’s own prism of values, missing much of the local nuances.
• They understand the value-systems meaning of history through first-hand experience and can help Western organizations become more efficient in their fieldwork.
• They understand the complexity and the uniqueness of the indigenous challenges that brought the culture to its current status of desolation.
• They’re strategic and systemic in their thinking and believe in efforts that can be sustainable and resilient for generations to come.
• They look at Western organizations’ objectives for peace and prosperity and help them channel their efforts in order not to offend local stakeholders with historic grievances, while at the same time providing culturally-honed plans for distributing resources where they’re most needed.
• They are servant leaders who realize that functional alignment with the needs of their society is at the top of their agenda.

IIEs open the door to a culture from the inside in societies that would otherwise be hesitant to disclose any information to outsiders. They can move freely through the various value systems within their culture, knowing how to uncover the challenges facing the culture and repair the expression of every local vMEME (Value Systems Meme). In parts of the Middle East that have seen war and have gone through the Arab Spring, many IIEs gain respect due to their activism and sacrifice. At times these people served time in jail for their views and actions. The rest of the culture witnessed with admiration their transformation from tribal and feudal lords to pragmatic leaders and conciliators. They live in two worlds and cater to the traditional needs of the tribe while expressing with clarity and vision, the future needs of their nation.
In an intra-conflict they are the ones who most understand the different positions within their own party or clan because they shared that same journey. When it comes to inter-conflict issues, they understand the motivation and value systems of the enemy through pragmatic lenses, and they interpret the actions and decision making of their opponents through strategic thinking.

Nafiz Al Rifae Integral Design Architect  (IDA)

Nafiz Al Rifae Integral Design Architect (IDA)

IIEs become the primary source for information in creating what we call Indigenous Design. The concept of Indigenous Design emerged at the same time when I was doing research on the Indigenous Intelligence concept. Because IIEs bring a richer and more resilient perspective to our attention, the nature of what we design has to reflect the uniqueness of the culture. This data becomes the blueprint that informs the design scheme that is specific to each society. It defines the content of each development program based on local need, and made more sustainable by the global knowledge of Integral Design Architects (IDAs). Indigenous Design is the fundamental component that makes the MEMEtocracy blueprint actionable.
In creating the blueprint for MEMEtocracy IIEs are the primary source of information for the Integral Design Architects who chart the large-scale scheme for the culture. It is only through the data that the IIEs gather from their societies that a large scale design expert can support a Seventh-Level Yellow politician or business leader to design functional solutions and create open systems for Purple, Red, Blue, and Orange. This is the uniqueness of the Indigenous Design approach. Data on local cultural trends collected by IIEs become memes that determine the indigenous content of every vMEME (Value Systems Meme). This, in turn, determines the meme stack of the entire society for which we are designing a functional system for governance. While IDAs can work in any given culture and continue to provide the big picture design, the presence of IIEs is an integral part of the MEMEtocracy framework. They are the only ones who understand the mindsets and belief systems of their own culture.

An Evolutionary Journey through Arab Governance, Past, Present and Future

By: Elza S. Maalouf, President and co-founder of CHE Mideast and author of the upcoming book:  Emerge; A New Paradigm on Conflict Resolution

Introduction

The Arab Spring continues its bloody rumble through different parts of the Middle East. It has toppled dictators and democratically elected governments alike. It has shattered the dreams of those who thought democracy was just a few tweets away and has fueled the ambitions of Islamists to rise to power. Would this so-called spring blossom into a mature manifestation of modern day nations or would it lead to a deep freeze that will continue to marginalize and radicalize the region for decades to come? Would these revolutions end in democratic regimes that will enable the Arab world to join the world community of Nations away from terrorism and with respect for human rights?

primavera_araba_leaders
It is important to point that more than three years have passed since the start of the Arab Spring and no visible change in how people are governed in the rebellious countries has taken place.  A closer examination of the intricate dynamics in the region might uncover a narrative that is not as simple as just ousting the dictator who’s in charge. Western leaders not aware of the Memetic structures and historic patterns in the Middle East might conclude that the outcome of Arab revolutions will resemble that of other revolutions in the world.
Brief History of the Middle East

Today’s dictatorships and autocratic rule in the Arab world are symptomatic of greater hurdles the region must overcome as it seeks more advanced developmental stages. Indeed the cultural development map of he Middle East looks vastly different than that of Europe and the West. While Europe fought for religious reformation, and the entire West was fully engulfed in the industrial revolution, experimenting with science, building institutions and developing their value systems based on scientific inquiry, the Middle East faded into the background. It seems that somewhere along the line, Arab cultural development process was arrested. This is the same culture that gave the world science, numerals, mathematics, and astronomy.  What were the factors that blocked the continued emergence of this region? And what internal and external conditions contributed to its prolonged entrapment?
In the history of the region there is a number of critical phases of development that should be examined in order to provide a better understanding of how the current developments will play out. Prior to the dawn of Islam, tribal conquest was at its pinnacle and warrior kings dominated the vast nomadic deserts. The rise of the Prophet Mohammad ushered in a new religion that imposed order upon these tribes through a Godly guidance and a lifestyle adherence to certain rituals that provided a guide to daily living. For a few centuries after the establishment of Islam science, philosophy and astronomical exploration thrived wherever the values of Islam were present. But, much like Christianity that was adopted by the Romans to impose passive measures on the masses and give the growing religion a cover of conquest, the Ottomans took on the mantle of Islam to quell its growing influence and spread through the cover of religion throughout their empire.

The ruling style of the Ottomans could be summed up in one sentence and that is the exploitation of people and resources in the region. For close to six hundred years there was no national platform that would have concentrated movements towards upward emergence.  At its zenith the Ottoman Empire covered a vast geographic area that spread from the Arabian Gulf to southeastern Europe with influence as far as Spain and North Africa.  By the mid 1800’s the Ottoman unaware of the shortcomings of their patchy and decentralized political platform, could not maintain control over some of their territories. The industrialization of European culture helped them gain military superiority over the Ottomans by adopting technological advancements into modern warfare while the Ottomans struggled to gain a competitive technological edge. It took less than 50 years for the Ottomans to lose their vast territory. This hollow and obsolete structure of power came crashing down by the end of WWI reducing the size of the empire to modern-day Turkey and leaving an entire region of tribes with little skills for modern self-reliance in the hands of Western Colonialists.
The West, primarily England and France placed the region under colonial mandates for a few decades and assumed that once a few charismatic leaders had an understanding of how Western democracies operate, the region will be in good hands. Accordingly, the Middle East was carved into arbitrary countries with artificial boundaries that had no alignment to tribal or clannish allegiance but favored the colonialists’ best interest. With these newly formed countries recognized by The League of Nations and later the UN, the territories were left to their own devices after a relatively short period of administrative guardianship ignoring thousands of years of tribal and ancestral history in the process. Initially, Western powers appointed kings thought to have historic ties to the land to set the region on the road to progress.  As these mandates came to an end, kingdoms started to crop up all over the Middle East. Tunisia had King Mohammad VIII, Libya had King Muhammad Idris as-Senussi, Egypt had King Farouk, and the pattern of arbitrary kingdom-ships spread through the rest of the region including Syria, Iraq and Alhijaz, which is now Saudi Arabia.
To the tribal masses in the region, the imposition of monarchies by the west was paramount to a return to Ottoman rule. The monarchs simply were not in step with the changing needs of their subjects. In the 1940’s and 50’s a new meme was sweeping through the tribal and feudal masses on the Arab street. They were becoming spellbound by the Arab intellectual elite who preached Stalin-style Marxism and the powerful effect it had on toppling monarchies. Several charismatic leaders making false promises for better lives were able to capture the hearts and minds of the people and in very short order overthrew the monarchs. The results were the absolute dictatorships of Saddam Hussein, Hafez Assad, Gamal Abdel Nasser, Zein al Abeddine and Moamar Al Ghaddafi.
The circumstances that further arrested emergence of the region was the discovery of oil before the development of institutions and the creation of economic policies that would have properly distributed the wealth from oil revenues. In comparing the differences between a less developed culture of an oil rich country in the Middle East to another oil-rich country with developed institutions like Norway one can see the vast difference in how money is perceived through the prism of value systems. In the former, the money went to extended royal circles, the merchant class, dictators and their cronies, while in the latter, no more than 6% of oil revenue is put into the economy and the rest is invested in a National wealth fund to support future generations of Norwegians. It was only recently that a visionary ruler like King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia took on the mantle of creating a long-term vision for a national development program that goes beyond the age of oil.

Manifesto of a Dictator.  In order to understand how effective the current revolutions will be, it is paramount to assess the damage and the impressions that these decades of dictatorships left on the collective Psyche of Arab the masses. The Modus Operandi of a Middle Eastern dictator went something like this:

  • First: Convince the people that the primary reason for their misery is the presence of the State of Israel and build a regional political alliance that confirms the myth.This belief was pounded into the psyche of every man woman and child on the Arab street for more than 5 decades. Projecting the collective misery on the “evil enemy” worked well as a relief valve through which pent up anger was channeled. This ideology was spread further by firebrand Imams who with the help of their leaders propagated the US as greatest evil adding to their repression by blindly supporting Israel. It is worth noting that the Arabs collectively have abused the Palestinian cause and used it for political and monetary gain more than anyone else. Palestinian refugees were kept in dire conditions in camps by their own leaders and Arab politicians. As this ideology festered into a pathology every extremist wanting to start an Al-Qaeda-like chapter from Detroit to the Philippines invoked the Palestinian cause.
  • Second: Suspend most if not all civil liberties and impose emergency laws under the guise that the government must be able to insure peace and that must be in absence of any right to due process.These controls instilled horror into any free thinkers who dared to speak against the regimes as they were hauled off to prison never to be heard from again. The governments made sure that everyone knew about the fate of these so-called infidels and the fear of speaking out spread at a systemic level.
  • Third: Feed the masses carefully selected propaganda and inject it into an antiquated educational system that serves to praise the leader for preserving Arab dignity and safety and warn against the adoption of Western values.Of all dictatorial policies, this was the most damaging to the development of long term capacities of Arab culture as education and the expansion of the mind was a dangerous thing in the eyes of the dictator. The UNDP reported in 2006 that the region suffers from rates of illiteracy that are as high as 80%. On average the entire Arab world produces less than one tenth of the scientific papers per capita compared to developed countries. The basic institutions that build human capacities simply do not exist.
  • Fourth: Build a military and a ruling class whose primary goal is to keep the dictator in power.This was a common and very pervasive policy that insured the anchoring of the regime especially if a country is rich in natural resources or receives foreign aid. In most cases, absent a national development plan, working for the regime was the only opportunity to earn a good living. The knowledge that this privilege could be taken away at the first sign of descent kept many loyal to the regime for many generations and created an internal division that might prolong the demise of a dictator when such time comes.  This was seen in Tahrir Square and is being repeatedly played out daily on the streets of Damascus, Tripoli, Yemen and Bahrain.

Anatomy of the Arab Spring

The unawareness for the need to innovate was one of the biggest flaws in a Middle Eastern dictator’s platform. The tapping of phone lines and eavesdropping on conversations were things the young generations easily outsmarted.  These young men and women, children of Google, Facebook, Skype and Yahoo, were communicating with people all over the world, exchanging love songs and freedom filled ideas and dreams. The barrier of fear that their parents experienced with dictators had disappeared with  Gen Y and the Millennia generation as they were able to witness and experience freedom over cyberspace.  The news of young Abou Azizi setting himself on fire in Tunisia created the perfect storm that mobilized young people from Tunisia and Egypt and on to Yemen, Syria, Bahrain and Iraq.
Political experts and analysts have offered many trajectories on how the Arab spring will evolve without having the deep understanding of the underlying cultural tectonic plates that are at play.  A factor that is rarely considered by Western governments and political advisers are the Memetic profiles of the Arabs that are rising in these cultures which were shaped by the chaotic, repressive and passive history of the region. Dr. Don E. Beck, a renowned developmental theorist points out that the next natural step after revolution is the disintegration of a culture. This is based on many years of research and experience in global hot spots. As events unfold Beck’s views become more confirmed. Yes, indeed the short-term future of the region might not look as bright and euphoric as Tahrir Square looked on the day Mubarak stepped down, but a few decades from now elements of uniquely Arab democratic institutions will be emerging.
Today, more than 2 years have passed after Ghaddafi death, Libya has become a hotbed for Al Qaeda factions from all over the region. very little provides a sense of direction on Libya’s road to democracy.  Are these rebels capable or ready to produce a democratic Constitution that will replace the Green book, Ghaddafi’s bible?  His ouster was a good start on the path to organizing and structuring Libyan society, which is now centered in tribal and exploitative value-systems. Since cultures cannot skip a developmental stage they have to go through the pangs of nation building to raise themselves to a place where everyone is equal under the law.
For Syria the patterns of emergence are becoming even more violent than Libya, especially that Assad has gained favor with Western powers by agreeing to the dismantlement of chemical weapons and regaining the upper hand in the war.  Still, NATO does not want to meddle with Syria’s protector and benefactor, Iran. Military interference could lead to a regional conflict between Shias and Sunnis considering that Syria, Iran and Hezbollah form the Shia Crescent in the region. Assad, the son, so far has followed in the same butcher footsteps of his father and shows no signs of relinquishing power. The collapse of the Syrian regime will have dire ramifications on Lebanon, Jordan and Israel as the only organized movements that can fill the power vacuum is the Muslim Brotherhood which, in Syria, is far more radicalized than it is in Egypt. If Syria should fall into the hands of groups that are deemed terrorists by the West, The issue of refugee resettlement could cause political and social collapse in smaller neighboring countries like Lebanon and Jordan.
In Iraq a natural disintegration has taken place a few years after the coalition’s invasion. The Kurds in the north have formed their semi-autonomous state with oil revenues coming to the coffers of the tribal government of the two main tribes, the Talibanis and Barazanis. Baghdad and its surrounding areas are becoming the stronghold for Sunnis, while the south including Basra, and the two main Shia holy cities of Najaf and Karbalaa are very much influenced by Iran as they become a Shia stronghold.
It is fair to say that the whole region continues the search for  new identity, which will take time in order for it to forge a coherent platform. The collective, much like the individual search for identity, must go through the dark night of the soul and that will be a long and painful process.

Stratified-Democracy

An Emergence-Prone Manifesto

Fortunately, this is all happening during the age of the Internet where access to knowledge and the help of integrally informed political allies can speed things along the road to establishing viable and productive Arab states. In light of these realities and in designing for that profound shift that must take place we at the Center for human Emergence Middle East would outline the following plan of action:

 

  • Building a Viable Palestinian State: First and foremost the issue of Israel/Palestine is of critical importance as it occupies a deep place in the collective Arab psyche. When most of these Nations were gaining their independence they came to view Israel as the entity that deprived Palestinians of Nationhood. Right or wrong this is how Israel is viewed in the Arab world. The elements of a Palestine Design Conference on our website outlines a development plan that will put Palestine on the road to independence.  
  • Pursue A Stratified Approach to Arab Democracy: Based on principles of what we call Natural Design. We can accomplish this by pursuing the following 3 objectives:

1. Conduct a region-wide study of the profiles of the citizens in the country seeking democracy. This step starts by assessing each individual country’s history, religion, topography, and cultural evolution. Who are the Egyptians, the Tunisians, the Libyans and the Syrians etc..? How have the historic events mentioned in this article shaped their cultural evolution?  What is their psychological makeup?

2. Identifying each country’s zones of synergy: These are the respective sources of national wealth, be it natural resources or human capital, active or dormant. This will form the basis for a viable private sector that can provide jobs that fit the landscape and various capacities of the citizens. From building cement factories and designing sustainable agricultural models for laborers to creating the most advanced hi-tech research and development companies.

3. Designing Forms of Governance that work. This will be the painstaking process that will take years to evolve into a coherent platform for governance. Now we can talk about what form of democracy fits those citizens who live in such dynamic landscape, and what form of institutions are needed. Would a centralized form of democracy for this stage of development fit better than a multi-party democracy? Would a monarchy like that of Saudi Arabia with varying degrees of openness be a transitional fit for a few decades? All this should happen with an enlightened co-leadership that can create an overarching goal for a patriotic national cause that brings forth the state into the community of nations and that Shia, Sunni and Christians alike within that nation can rally behind.

  • Alter US Foreign Policy and base it on Natural Design. A bold declaration in new US foreign policy should be made towards making a conscious effort in balancing America’s values and our strategic and economic interests in the region.  Sadly, we are faced with a tradition of mistrust towards the United States in the Arab world, as it’s often seen protecting the two things closest to it; oil and Israel. Some of that mistrust and anger is justified and some just stems from the Arab street projecting their aggression onto the West.
  • Align with and Empower Regional Nations of Influence: The US and NATO should call on the major power brokers in the region like Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Morocco and now Egypt to help facilitate the stage for them to play a more assertive role in brokering political deals in return for security guarantees. This type of regional leadership should be encouraged especially when it comes from another Muslim country on which far enemy projections aren’t made.
  • Pursue a Systemic Approach to Economic Development:The West should team up with Arab Gulf States to help in the economic development of emerging Arab democracies. Along with the IMF, the World Bank and the respective countries that are being rebuilt, the leaders in charge of these development plans should have an “ecosystem” approach to development that address the causes of corrupt business practices. The Arab Spring is signaling the birth of Industrial Age values that were postponed under the Ottomans but are now emerging simultaneously with the information and knowledge age. This must be promoted through responsible corporate practices, and matched by transparency in governments that believe in their people as their ultimate national strength. To affect real and lasting change, a plan similar to the Marshall Plan in its ambition must be undertaken and tailored to fit the tribal and feudal mindsets that are prevalent in the region.  

The Start of the Journey
The road to cultural emergence in the Middle East is filled with so many false starts initiated by leaders who used their charisma and Iron fists to overcompensate for the lack of complexity or a developmental roadmap for their countries. Today, the long awaited battle for self-determination has begun. This revolution is led by a globalized Arab youth who have answered the call while being fully aware of the consequences. Thus the Hero sets out on a path filled with hope, and all the perils that a culture has to experience on such a mythological journey.

 

Israeli-Palestinian Peace Revisited

As President Obama visits Israel and the West Bank, we here at The Center for Human Emergence Middle East are encouraged by his words that the Palestinians deserve to have an independent state of their own free from Israeli control. We are also reminded that past negotiations have not brought about the peaceful solutions we all wish to have. In our many years of working on both sides of the conflict we came to the understanding that in order for negotiations to succeed, both sides of the table, -people, politicians and cultures- have to have the internal capacitates to follow through on the negotiated agreements. This realization spoke to us loud and clear in 2005 when we started the Build Palestine Initiative aimed at building the capacities of the Palestinian people, their institutions and their resolve to build a nation through institutions and not through the barrel of a gun.
So, 2 ½ years after the initial posting of our call for President Obama to convene a design summit, we find ourselves urging the administration again to recognize that prudent negotiations will only result in lasting peace after the asymmetry in the capacities of both sides is leveled.

Israel Map

Today, the design conference we called for has taken on a whole new meaning in light of the Arab Spring, and should be used by our Administration as a template to identify the needs of every newly liberated Arab country. Below is the reposting of the initial call for a design conference.

DESIGN CONFERENCE for Palestine/Israel
To break the cycle of failed “Peace Negotiations”
The Israeli/Palestinian conflict is a collision of “tectonic plates” — deep values system codes — that have created a logjam. It is this underlying logjam that generates continual surface-level blockages that erupt in conflict.
We propose a problem-solving methodology with the power, precision, and complexity to span over human groupings to construct the unique economic and political structures that overarch the mountains and valleys of those unique human groupings.
We need to see the patterns as through a prism — where all the various colors of worldviews are made visible, each with a different “tint” on the world. The goal is to understand the needs of all the mind-sets, so as to begin to craft “full-spectrum” solutions which are fundamentally different from those that a single perspective would offer.
• Capacity to uncover the deeper dynamics within each society, as well as between societies.
• Craft decisions and measure priorities not against the past, nor based on who is responsible for what;
• Avoid the typical problem resolution systems such as majority rule, rule by the elite or by the wealthy, or rule by the so-called experts, or those that have military strength.
• Defuse the ideologies that produce “us vs. them”
• Avoid raising expectations which can be faulted.
• Focus on who the people are who live in the region and what their resources are
• Design a strategy to mesh people, geography, and resources together into a workable solution for all who live in that region.
• Draw upon all of the solutions which are currently available (as well as many that haven’t been thought of yet). We often call these “scaffoldings of solutions”,
• Solutions that involve the whole region: Israel, Syria, Jordan, Palestine
“The issue is less about democracy, rather the question is to design the best structures for meeting the needs of the people as they develop through the stages that are most natural to them; open, adaptive systems appropriate to their life conditions.”

Breaking the Cycle of Failed Negotiations

For many reasons US Middle East policy has failed to make lasting peace a reality. Early on in his administration, President Obama sent a message to the world that things will be different. By granting his first media interview to Al-Arabia Network based in Dubai and delivering a powerful speech in Cairo to the Muslim world he set the tone for things to be different. But, how much beneath the tactical surface would policy makers need to go in order to achieve a different, sustainable outcome. At the Washington summit this past August with President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu, Secretary Clinton and President Obama set a one year deadline for both parties to come up with a workable peace treaty. Is this approach any different than that of previous administrations and would it work?

These are questions that Don, Said and I will be discussing during Peace Week this coming Wednesday September 15, at 5:00 PM (PST). Click here for details and to sign up.
1. Are the 2 parties ready to step fully into these negotiations, or is this Washington’s own timing leading to mid-term elections?
2. It is true that Prime Minister Fayyad is doing a good job with making sure that Palestinian security forces in the West Bank are well trained, but is that enough for Israel to pull back its 10,000 troops?
3. With all right wing opposition in Israeli opposing for the settlement freeze, can the Palestinians trust that Israel has good intentions at the table?
4. Most importantly, are all parties, including the US looking at these negotiations from a Natural Design perspective? From a value systems perspective? Do they take into account the Memetic contours and the lay of the land in both cultures? Or, are they coming to it from the traditional negotiations processes that failed to achieve tangible results like in Madrid, Oslo, and Camp David.

The truth is whoever is at the negotiations table does not represent the full spectrum of value-systems and mindsets of their respective cultures. Why isn’t it a bottoms-up referendum on the future of their respective countries? Who’s really addressing what the moderates in both countries are looking for? This is something that the Center for Human Emergence Middle East has been deeply involved in for the last 5 years. We have uncovered and informed, through our field-tested framework, the thinking of over 200,000 in Palestine who are of the mindset that in order for negotiations to be successful and have collective support, the negotiators must be informed by real-time data from the trenches of the culture.

Below is a reposting from a year ago of our call for a “Design Conference” and not a “Peace Conference”. Not much has changed in calling for the building blocks that form the foundation for a lasting peace.

Design Conference for Palestine/Israel
To break the cycle of failed “Peace Negotiations”

Israel Palestine Regional MapThe Israeli/Palestinian conflict is a collision of “tectonic plates” — deep values system codes — that have created a logjam. It is this underlying logjam that generates continual surface-level blockages that erupt in conflict.

We propose a problem-solving methodology with the power, precision, and complexity to span over human groupings to construct the unique economic and political structures that overarch the mountains and valleys of those unique human groupings.

We need to see the patterns as through a prism — where all the various colors of worldviews are made visible, each with a different “tint” on the world. The goal is to understand the needs of all the mind-sets, so as to begin to craft “full-spectrum” solutions which are fundamentally different from those that a single perspective would offer.

  • Capacity to uncover the deeper dynamics within each society, as well as between societies.
  • Craft decisions and measure priorities not against the past, nor based on who is responsible for what;
  • Avoid the typical problem resolution systems such as majority rule, rule by the elite or by the wealthy, or rule by the so-called experts, or those that have military strength.
  • Defuse the ideologies that produce “us vs. them”
  • Avoid raising expectations which can be faulted.
  • Focus on who the people are who live in the region and what their resources are
  • Design a strategy to mesh people, geography, and resources together into a workable solution for all who live in that region.
  • Draw upon all of the solutions which are currently available (as well as many that haven’t been thought of yet). We often call these “scaffoldings of solutions”,
  • Solutions that involve the whole region: Israel, Syria, Jordan, Palestine

“The issue is less about democracy, rather the question is to design the best structures for meeting the needs of the people as they develop through the stages that are most natural to them; open, adaptive systems appropriate to their life conditions.”

Fateh’s Sixth Convention and the Building of a Nation by Elza Maalouf

The following article was written for the news agency Common Grounds and distributed widely throughout the world and the Middle East in many languages. This article briefly summarizes our work with the Build Palestine Initiative and serves as an open letter to the Palestinian leadership. Here’s a link for the article in Arabic

6th convention Fateh’s and the building of a nation
by Elza Maalouf

20 August 2009

SAN DIEGO – After its long-awaited Sixth Convention, Fateh has inched a bit closer toward building the institutions needed to establish an independent Palestinian state. In spite of the power jockeying, participants renewed their commitment to a two-state solution, and the voices calling for resistance through economic development outnumbered those wishing to keep the status quo. Fateh’s challenge now is to create a platform with new goals and a new interpretation of its charter, in order to become a movement that represents all Palestinians. In a true gesture of reconciliation, Fateh should extend an olive branch to Hamas and invite the movement to join in creating a new national platform.

It remains to be seen how effective the election of a younger generation of Fateh members will be in establishing a new national agenda, but the only way forward for Fateh is to boldly assume the responsibility for creating a developmental roadmap that will prepare all Palestinians to negotiate a two-state solution from a position of strength.

The idea of a development roadmap was born based on the Center for Human Emergence in the Middle East’s work with third and fourth generation Fateh members over the last five years. We approached the problem using an innovative socio-political framework, such as the one that helped South Africa transition from apartheid.
First and foremost, our research pointed to the enormous asymmetry in societal capacities between Israelis and Palestinians. This has been a principal cause for the failure of previously-attempted peace treaties. The Palestinians simply did not have the capacity to self-govern or to develop a unified vision of a future state. Internal clashes generated by extremists on both sides have also continued to fuel the conflict.

Our work focused on guiding third and fourth generation Fateh members in creating a distinctly different party — transitioning from one that was out of touch with the Palestinian people, to a party that will lead the entire nation in a state-building effort. Because we understood the significance of the Sixth Convention, we designed a pre-congress conference for 700 members of Fateh, which took place in February 2008. This conference provided a unique forum for Fateh members to debate the future of the party and send recommendations to their leaders. Our focus was not merely on the success of Fateh, but on the viability of a future Palestinian state, which should be President Abbas’ focus as well.

To shift the focus away from both intra-party fighting and the defeat of Hamas, we created a platform whereby members offered their best visions and frameworks for building a Palestinian state — a country designed by its own people, for its own people. It turned out that professional women and young party members in their twenties offered some of the best suggestions for nation-building. They were most aware of the important issues affecting their people.

In order for Fateh to guide the emergence of a Palestinian state, the participants presented a number of pragmatic recommendations most of which could be initiated despite the restrictions imposed by the Israeli occupation. These include: accountability from all public officials; the ending of corrupt practices among government bureaucracies; the establishment of world-class educational and healthcare systems; development of the agricultural and industrial sectors; the creation of an IT sector, whereby young people could find gainful employment; and the instituting of a broad spectrum of socio-economic programmes essential to a thriving state.

Based upon the results of our pre-conference event — and the challenges that the outcome of the Sixth Convention present — President Abbas should immediately hold a “nation-design conference” that would call on the brightest minds in Palestine and throughout the world to create a developmental roadmap for Palestine. This would be informed by the needs and aspirations of all Palestinians, and would put forth a vision of a thriving region. It would honour the past while building the infrastructure necessary for the younger generation to emerge socio-economically and overcome the region’s historic conflict. For moderates in Israel, a plan such as this would provide the assurance they need to enter into a partnership of mutual peace and prosperity, while quelling Hamas’ and Likud’s extremist positions.

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* Elza S. Maalouf is an Arab-American futurist and cultural development specialist focusing her work on societal, business and political reform in the Arab world. She is the CEO and co-founder of the Center for Human Emergence Middle East, a research and strategic design centre that uses the emerging science of value-systems to address various challenges in the region. This article was written for the Common Ground News Service (CGNews).

Source: Common Ground News Service (CGNews), 20 August 2009,

Deema Al-Shawa Pleads with Pres-Elect Obama to End the Attack on Gaza


In light of Israel’s invasion of Gaza, our Palestinian partner sent me this heartfelt letter expressing her pain about the death of innocent people, yet remaining optimistic about a fresh start with President-Elect Obama.

“Habibti Elza,
After reading your letter to Obama and while watching the news about Gaza today, I felt like sending something to Obama too, by using the alphabets of the word PALESTINE.

Deema Al-Shawa”

PALESTINE
  • P. President Obama, Dear “Abu Hussien” that’s how we call you in the Middle East.
  • A. An Action by you would make a historical difference! Your words: “CHANGE HAS COME TO AMERICA!” brought back our lost hopes & faith in the change that might come to the Middle East, through a better American political policy.
  • L. Let Peace Rule the Globe and bring back the missing justice.
  • E. Encourage our Palestinian vision for a better future & development, Palestinian young people are educated enough to handle it very well.
  • S. Save our hungry poor children in Gaza and millions will pray for you. Save them from the unjustified non-stop Israeli harm and the non-sensed political conflicts. Dear Mr. President in our Palestinian case, supporting the basic human rights by such a leader like you, will be remarked with a golden line in history.
  • T. Time has come for us to be treated as humans! It’s almost 2009, 60 years of an unfair war, enough of erasing and neglecting our harmless Palestinian identity, kindly support our people, we do exist and we have rights. African Americans had suffered for years but today while celebrating your presidency HOPE is back! Justice will come after all to Palestine.
  • I. Initiating action for Cultural emergence in the Middle East by Enhancing “the Center for Human Emergence” through its SDI needed mission, will definitely help the US administration in implementing a better political, social and economical international transformation. Dr. Don Beck and CEO Elza Malouf our American Heroes will help you as much as they helped us, if you just give them the chance.
  • N. NO! For more genocides by the Israeli army, PALESTINE is screaming for your HELP!
  • E. Enough of taking sides! HO HO HO!! The Israeli Santa did deliver his bombs as a Christmas gift to the Palestinian Innocent children in Gaza, documented 27.12.2009. Merry Christmas Mr. President & Happy New Year.
By Deema Shawa.

Deema is a founding member of the Palestine Integral Committee at the Center For Human Emergence-Middle East . Since 2005, she has been leading the efforts to promote “Build Palestine Initiative” among young Palestinian leaders.