Palestine Emergence – In the Words of one of its Enlightened Leaders

When Tom Christensen was visiting the West Bank in early 2005, he introduced Nafiz Al-Rifaie to the Spiral Dynamics theory over tea at one of Bethlehem’s small cafés. Nafiz turned around and explained the framework in Arabic to his colleagues drawing levels and quadrants on napkins found in the café.

Two months later, Dr. Beck and I arrived in the West Bank and held our first conference in Bethelehem. It was Nafiz who organized the conference, inviting professors, bi-partisan party leaders, the governor of Bethlehem, members of Parliament, and Board members of the Women’s Arab Union. By the end of that conference, Nafiz recognized the transformational potential of this systemic framework and its vital application to the Israel/Palestine conflict and most importantly to solve the intra-conflicts in each society.

In the last three years, together with Mr. Rifaie, we trained various groups of women in business and other professions, young men and women and community leaders in Palestine.

Mr. Rifaie holds a Master’s Degree in Sustainable Rural Development and a Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature. He did several independent studies in strategic planning and election campaigns, and a comparative study of the political parties in Sweden, Israel, and Palestine.

On February 2, 2008, Nafiz Al-Rifaie, a prominent leader in Fatah Third Generation, addressed the attendees of the Nation Building Movement urging them to focus on the future of Palestine and to change the standing of Palestinians in the world, equipped with education, innovation and the pursuit of excellence.

“An extraordinary speech.”

—Dr. Don Beck

“Nafiz Rifaie has emerged as a true Arab Integral thinker and Spiral

—Saïd Dawlabani

“This is the most encouraging speech I have read from Palestine in 70 years.”

—Judea Pearl

On a personal note, It has been a tremendous honor for me to work with Mr. Rifaie. His openness and vision of a better future for his children and for every Palestinian is a quality that every Arab leader should have. Nafiz spent more than 5 years in Israeli jails as a political prisoner where he continued his education and set up a school inside jail. I have met many Palestinian PLO leaders who told me that Nafiz was their professor/mentor in jail. He might not have read about Mandela’s Robin Island university at the time, but amazingly followed the same evolutionary patterns that Mandela followed. He and his friend Marwan Barghouti were/are the educators of a whole generation of Palestinians who left jail to become some of the most optimistic and progressive human beings.

It is truly Nafiz’s respect for Palestinian women that impresses me most. He has been a staunch supporter of Palestinian women and focuses on helping them become the leaders they truly are.

Thank you for your continued support of Center for Human Emergence Middle East.

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Emergence in Palestine and the Arab World

At the outset of the February 2, 2008 Nation Building Conference in Bethlehem, Palestine, Elza Maalouf spoke to the nearly 700 Palestinian community leaders from all over the West Bank addressing societal emergence in Palestine and the Arab world.

“Young women and men in Palestine are some of the most resilient human beings I have ever met. They surprised me with their optimism, their full engagement in the socio-political process and uncanny ability to grow and emerge.”

— Elza Maalouf

Palestinian Engineer Presents Ground-Breaking Proposals

At the Palestine 21 Nation-Building convention, many groups presented proposals on how to design the emerging state of Palestine. Each group chose a name and was represented by the leader of the group. Names varied from “Hope” to “Cradle of Peace” to “Optimism” to the names of Martyrs from Fatah.

Group #40 “The Promising future” was mainly formed from professional women from Salfit and Hebron. Engineer Nasra Zgheil presented ground-breaking proposals in the name of her group.

Here we translate the conclusions of group #40 which was made up of Palestinian women. This photo shows the group preparing their page for inclusion on the wall presentation:


  1. Economic: To create the grounds for Economic Stability through:
    • Job Creation (through projects, Industrial parks, strong institutions) that will provide opportunities for women, workers and graduates of universities
    • Opening International Markets
    • Supporting the agriculture and tourism sectors and developing the Palestinian rural region
  2. Culture:
    • Focus on programs that help the development of women, children and young people in all aspects (Healthcare, psychological and cultural)

  3. Education:
    • Focus on skill training and provide support for innovators
    • Free Public school system
    • Illiteracy projects
    • Enforce a system of Merit for the hiring process based on social justice

  4. Politics:
    • Put our Nation first not the political movement
    • Electing the right Leader
    • Independence in decision making away from outside influences
    • Transparency in managing public funds and NO nepotism

"Ana Falistini" — I am Palestinian!

Dr. Don Beck addressing 700 Palestinian Leaders mostly from Fatah at the Nation-Building Convention Feb. 2, 2008. In his speech to the Fatah 21 Movement, Dr. Beck focused on the theme “Palestine 21, Palestine first!”

“For the political ‘Road Map’ involving Israel and Palestine to be successful,
the ‘Palestinian Development Map’ must first be implemented.”

A Palestinian Nation Building Movement for the 21st Century

A Palestinian nation-building movement for the 21st Century has been born.

(click on any photo to enlarge)

Close to 700 Palestinians came together earlier this month in Bethlehem, the West Bank “city of new beginnings” in Palestine, to plan their own future.

Sponsored by The Center for Human Emergence Middle East, the event inaugurated the “Palestine 21” project which aims to empower Palestinian citizens to design their own state.

The convention was organized by Palestinian leaders inspired by the geopolitical work of Dr. Don Beck, the American founder of the Global Center for Human Emergence (CHE).

“For the political ‘Road Map’ involving Israel and Palestine to be successful, the ‘Palestinian Development Map’ must first be implemented,” Dr. Beck said at the event.

Palestinian participants traveled by bus from Jericho, Qalqyliah, Tulkarm , Hebron, Ramallah, Nablus and Jerusalem, spending long hours at checkpoints throughout the West Bank.

Elza Maalouf , the Arab-American CEO of CHE Middle East, opened the event, saying “’Palestine 21’ fits within our overall plan to support human and societal emergence in our region, and Palestinians, together with other Arabs, will lead the way.

“It is an honor and a deep source of happiness for me to partner in the Middle East with Dr. Beck, a world-renowned expert on human and societal emergence, “ Ms. Maalouf added. “His work was field-tested during the South African transition from Apartheid and will greatly benefit the transition to nationhood in Palestine.”

Nafiz Rifaee, the Palestinian leader who designed and organized the event with the help of a team of dedicated men and women, urged the audience to focus on the future of their children and the future of Palestine. “This all started when Dr. Beck asked us how were we going to spend the seven billion dollars coming from donor countries. Do we have a sustainable plan for development? Or will the financial aid follow the usual channels?” Mr. Rifaee recalled.

The walls of the convention room at the Shepherd Hotel in Bethlehem were plastered with large sheets of paper filled with the people’s personal ideas and aspirations for their beloved Palestine. Recommendations included the design of a First World public school system, world-class universities, an eco-sensitive transportation plan, universal health care, and representative government.

The full list of suggestions is being compiled in a booklet which will be presented to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, President George W. Bush, Special Envoy to the Middle East Tony Blair, and the United Nations.

SDi Training for Palestinian Women

SDi Training for Palestinian Women from Jericho, Nablus, Ramallah,Bethlehem, Tulkarm, Khalil Jan 25-26, 2008

Dr. Don Beck and Elza Maalouf, CEO of the Center for Human Emergence – Middle East presented a 2-day Spiral Dynamics Integral training for Palestinian women January 25 and 26, 2008. Participant came from Jericho, Nablus, Ramallah, Bethlehem, Tulkarm, Khalil and many other areas of the West Bank. They were all taking part in what is now becoming known as The Future Movement of Palestine 21.

The group was invited by Dr. Nehma Assad, a gynecologist from Bethlehem who introduced the training as a ‘true’ empowerment for women’s roles and capacities in the Palestinian society. The attendees were educators, students, directors of NGOs and mothers who are working on the development of their communities in Palestine.

After learning the colors/codes of the Spiral, the participants used the memetic language to explain how organizations like USAID, UN or EU NGOs who operate from the orange/Green value-systems try to impose unrealistic conditions on programs they fund in Palestine, that do not fit the culture or the value-systems in their communities. Butheina who is leading a local organization said, “We are tired of them pushing their women empowerment training on us without providing opportunities to create sustainable jobs and solid careers. The abstract concepts are fine, but they are not helping us create businesses, or helping our children learn computer skills. They force us to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on restaurants, hotels and seminars and refuse to give us part of the money to build a small center to train women and children on how to use the computer!”

Two young girls who hold degrees in education and computer science have been looking for a job for the last 7 months to no avail. They just want to work and make a living… Not learn about Democracy and Governance in seminars while not having a job or a place to exercise ‘Governance’. (Most seminars offered by Western organizations focus on Democracy, Governance and Empowerment of Women….) .

News from our Middle East trip Jan/Feb 2008

Just a short note to let you know that Dr. Don Beck and I have just returned from the Middle East where we have some very exciting news, pictures, audio, and videos that we will start sharing with you here and elsewhere on this website.

This video taken by Dr. Beck shows Elza on February 2, 2008 addressing 700 Fatah members at the Palestine21 meeting in Bethlehem. They came from Janin, Tulkarm, Nablus, Ramallah, Jericho, Bethlehem, Hebron/Al Khalil, Qalqilyah and Jerusalem.

Please check back regularly over the next days and weeks.

Thank you,

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?


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.

A Close-Up of Syrian Culture: an Integral Perspective

I just came back from a trip to Syria where I had a closer view of the vMemetic (Value-systems) structure of Syrian society. Consulting on a project with the EU, in Bosra-Syria, I was privileged to have access to a cross-section of the Syrian society, and have a closer look at what is really emerging in a culture that remains perplexing to most Westerners…

Integral Perspective on Syria

As the Arab world becomes less and less relevant to the political decision making process on the international scene, Syria is constantly positioning itself as the Arab country that holds a “semblance of power” and a well crafted role in balancing influence in the region.

The major powers in the Middle East region are not Arabs at this point; Iran, Israel and Turkey are the countries that matter most to the Middle East Quartet. I am bewildered every time I read about the Quartet meeting to discuss the future of Arab related issues (Iraq, Palestine…) without Arab partners present as an integral part of the Quartet or the Quintet if need be…

In the midst of such Arab political irrelevance, what kind of power does Syria hold? That is questionable…Syria’s notorious influence in Lebanon and Iraq and its alliance with Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah and the Sunni Baathist in Iraq, enables it to guarantee a seat at any negotiation table about the future of the region.

Of course Syria has its own share of internal and external political and economic problems: facing political alienations from its former Arab allies, the loss of a major source of income from highly lucrative deals done through Lebanese individuals and institutions, a growing influence to the opposition inside Syria and a well organized opposition in the West threatening to overthrow the current regime. All this is further exacerbated by the influx of refugees from Iraq. Their impact on the country’s social and economic fabric have stressed Syria’s resources with very little help coming from outside.

Integral Perspective.To look at Syria from a flatland/linear perspective, we can only repeat what the world media is voicing about this country, and most of it is true. However, the integral framework helps us use multi-coloured lenses to assess the deeper issues and successes of a country that co-led the Arab Nationalist movement, fought wars with Israel, and occupied Lebanon for more than 30 years. All that while improving its educational system, introducing technology and innovation, and opening its tourism doors to the rest of the world.

Strategic Alliances: it is said that Syria’s alliance with Iran is a marriage of convenience. I am not so sure about that. Iran subsidizes almost $1 Billion worth of oil to Syria. Iranian engineers helped Syrians start their first car manufacturing plant. Soon Syrians will be driving a Syrian made car, leading the Arab world in a new revolution, the kind of technological revolution needed in every Arab country. Iranian tourists flock to Syria to visit sacred Shiite sites as well as to enjoy its beaches and mountains. European Union NGOs (Non Governmental Organizations) are financing various development projects in municipalities all over Syria, and contributing money and expertise to the success of cultural and educational projects. Bi-lateral relations between Syria and China expanded to having Syria as a tourist destination to Chinese. Kuwait and Dubai pledged to boost tourism and financial ties with Syria.

Internally, Bashar Al-Assad is hailed by young people as the modernizer of Syria. The Syrians see that their leader is taking half-steps –undeniably solid ones- towards a better future. He introduced information technology to all the ministries and schools in Syria, imposed mandatory education to eliminate illiteracy, and attracted foreign investments to the country. The Syrians in general are very patriotic, be it they admire Assad or despise him, they have a love and pride of their country that is to be admired.

I am not trying to draw a rosy picture of a dictatorial regime that oppresses political freedom, and controls the media. However, the Syrian cultural value-systems are threads of the cultural fabric in the region. Tribal and neighbourhood loyalties surpass national loyalties and duties. In many Arab cultures, when voting for a mayor or a member of parliament, family and tribal bonds take priority -in many cases- over the aptitude and eligibility of the candidate.

Spiral Dynamics integral framework advocates a stratified approach to ruling countries and the concept of democracy. Instead of a one size fits all style of governing, Dr. Don Beck writes:

Democracy or “rule by the people” can take many different forms and expressions. These are influenced by the natural habitat, the patterns of genetic and memetic migration, the unique set of life conditions, the impact of wild cards, the mesh of people and cultures, and the quality of leadership in all aspects of society itself.
These Systems and Structures emerge in response to the unique set of problems of existence in each society. Movement may occur in the direction of greater
complexity or less; there is no ideal or universal form; attempts to impose the model from one set of circumstances onto others are futile.”

In Syria’s case, applying a Western style democracy would have a disastrous effect. We see what happened in Iraq when the ‘coalition’ forces tried to bring such style of democracy. The next step for Syria can be stronger governmental institutions devoid of corruption, and the rule of law where every citizen is equal under the law. Tribal centred societies (Purple), tend to have “Power Gods” (Red) leaders whose leadership style is based on intimidation, force and coercion. To move the rule to the hands of institutions (Blue) will be an appropriate next step.

When an unchallenged super-power like the United States, represented by the current Bush-Cheney administration, decides what are the next steps in dealing with Syria, it behoves them to re-assess the Iraqi experience through a Stratified model for democracy and prevent another collapse of a major power in the region.

A closer look at the different models that could emerge in the Middle East region, will be discussed in greater detail in future articles.

If you would like to send in your comments or questions on Syria, we will be publishing a Q&A in an upcoming Blog.

You can read about the Integral work we did in Syria with the EU-project SHAMS in Bosra-Syria here