Monthly Archives: January 2008

What Should Bush Do in Palestine?

(This article was sent as an Op-Ed to the New York Times and Dallas Morning News)

When Air Force One soars across the Mediterranean shoreline and touches down at Ben-Gurion Airport in Israel, President George W. Bush’s team had a great deal to “see” through the plane’s windows. Tel Aviv is only 20 km to the South. Palestinian Territories are less 10 km away. Most first-time visitors are shocked at how compact and interwoven everything is.

But, we are interested in what the White House party “sees” in terms of value systems, cultural dynamics, and below-the-surface priorities and mindsets of the people who live landing the various regions. Because what they will “see” will shape and determine what they “do,” and whether the trip will be a success, or yet another visit by an American President looking for a legacy. There is a long list of those.

So, how do we Americans leave a lasting impression on the hearts and minds in the Middle East long after an administration leaves the White House? If Bush and his advisors are trapped in ethnic or religious stereotypes, or limited by economic and political models that grew out of the American experience, they will be “blind” to the realities they are about to encounter. After Karen Hughes spent close to a billion dollars on “image” alone, in that region, there’s still no improvement on how the U.S. is perceived. Welcome to Tower of Babel II.

If you are interested in a fresh approach, one that shifts the conversation to a different level and generates authentic “breakthrough” solutions, you, too, will need to “see” through different eyes. The question then becomes, how do we do this?

WHY WE PLACE EMPHASIS ON CULTURE

The two of us have spent considerable time in the region. We have made presentations across the entire political spectrum, including groups in the West Bank. We present in English, Arabic and Hebrew. In February, we will be working on a reform plan for the Fatah Movement with leaders from the Third Generation and members of the Committee.

We are advocates of a new discipline we call “Natural Design” that builds solutions based on an assessment of the deeper “codes” that are embedded in each culture, and the unique anatomy of the conflict. This was the approach we developed during the transformation out of apartheid in South Africa, and reflects five decades of academic research and field-testing (in hot zones) all over the planet.

Cultures consist of a series of belief systems, a kaleidoscope of world views that emerge in societies over time. Human nature is not a fixed type. People and cultures do indeed change when life conditions warrant. These belief systems are “bottom-lines” which define what matters most to a group of people at any given time. They explain the differences between our “Red” and “Blue” states, and hold the key to recognizing the characteristics of cultures that are “development-prone” vs. those that are “development-adverse.” And, more than anything else, they define the major political and economic gaps between Israel and Palestine. It is not about religion after all.

First, it is critical to develop a “cross-sectional view” of the conflicting cultures, both within each of the two societies, and between them as well.

If you walk around Israel, certainly in Jerusalem and all over the West Bank, you can “see” these cultural codes. Many people are living in basic survival conditions just to stay alive. Others have bonded in tribes, families, and ethnic origins, full of relics and rituals to stay in contact with their ancestral histories. You can detect quickly the code of the Warrior, as expressed in gangs and power-driven empires scattered everywhere, ready to fight.

Then there are True Believers of many different stripes and hues, especially visible around religious and nationalistic cores, willing to die for their cause and sometimes demanding that you do so as well. They often attack and demonize each other in the name of their religious brand and respective deities. At the same time, Materialists, seeking the good life here and now, are abundant in Israel; and the number is growing, especially in young Palestinians. They carry cell phones, are constantly on the Internet, and have no interest in fighting historic battles.

And you will also find a growing number who embrace a humanistic perspective that transcends ethnic or religious categories, and who are the strongest advocates for peace and understanding.

These are the differences that express competitive political views in the elections, or cluster around specific leadership styles, or have totally contrasting perspectives on where boundary lines should be drawn, and who should control what.

Second, all of the resources and stakeholders need to be focused like laser beams on steps to be taken to build a new state.

There are 4,000 NGOs in Palestine alone. Efforts are ad hoc, piecemeal, fragmented, vulnerable to corruption, and inevitably competitive. We propose the creation of a Center for Integration that will mesh, align, and synergize all of the resources to focus them like laser beams on the steps and stages of emergence, utilizing the concepts of our Natural Design framework. With the promise of billions of dollars to flow into the Palestinian Territories, it is essential that those resources be managed and distributed in a systemic fashion. The social infrastructures that are being developed in the minds and cultures of the people need to be optimized to prepare Palestinians for the new job opportunities, and fresh access to resources, that are ready to emerge.

By using Natural Design principles and processes, we believe we can assist the New Palestine to be brought to life by offering Palestinians healthy ways to take charge of their own future.

Third, a future vision should lift everyone from the paralysis of the past, one that creates “The Hong Kong of the Middle East.”

The future must play a more important role than the past in shaping the present. The only way to persuade people to dissolve frozen positions, or stop hiding behind rigid beliefs, is to offer something that is so attractive and so promising that it raises hope releases a spirit of collaboration, rather than confrontation. We have raised these prospects with a number of Palestinians, and the responses have been most positive. Mustapha, a young promising Fatah leader, told us “I want us to build exceptional Palestinian Universities that will attract students from every Arab country.” Exposure to the principles and tools of Natural Design helped to create this response. They had to become Visionaries. Now they will launch a campaign with the slogan “No Politics, No Religion… Only Computers.”

We believe this future vision is now possible in both Israel and Palestine. It will take patience and good will, with the collective actions and technological knowledge of people from all sides to propel this vision into reality.

And, the rest of the world can wish for their children and grandchildren a better world as well as help and encourage their vision, because what happens in that cradle of the world’s religions impacts us all.

We have had the Dogs of War, and the Doves of Peace. Welcome now the Visionaries of the Future. President Bush needs to find these Visionaries and lift up their hands and hearts.

Don Edward Beck, Ph.D.
Founder, Global Center for Human Emergence.

Elza Maalouf
President of the Center for Human Emergence, Middle East.