Sunday, October 30, 2011

Protests in America and Israel: follow the money

Some argue that the American protest group, Occupy Wall Street, represents an attempt to start a revolution. This revolution apparently aims to dismantle an abusive capitalism in order to create a New World order. We do not know much about this ‘New World Order’ but to many unemployed and underemployed, it sounds pretty good. Why not destroy American capitalism? ‘New’ sounds better than the deal they’ve got now. The problem is, protesters don’t understand that the cure they seek may not be the cure they get—and the cure they get could be worse than the supposed disease.

Protesters talk about economic justice. But this protest may not be about jobs, corporate greed or fair pay. There are simply too many people talking about ‘revolution’. We know all about revolutions.  We’ve seen them in the Middle East. They start in the street and they are nasty. Now it could be America’s turn--and America could be vulnerable. This might be important for Israel because we have seen protest elements here. Is there a connection?

Let’s take a look at America. Perhaps we can learn something about Israel.

Strong giants who control vast resources often dream of conquest. Ahmadinejad in Iran, Putin in Russia and George Soros in his financial world—all have the resources to fund, sponsor and create disruptions that will favour them. Using instant messaging and millions of dollars, an army of discontents can be formed practically overnight. It doesn’t take much. Invest millions (these dreamers have money) into dozens of start-up groups and millions more for protest support costs (tents, bedding, toilets, food, phone-recharging stations, first aid stations), and you are good to go.

Why invest this money? To disrupt and then dismantle in order to win.  Who wins if American capitalism crashes?  Follow the money; whenever there is enough money at stake, the winner will get extremely rich. The US has the most money, and if she is the loser, your pockets can fill very quickly (it’s called, ‘investing short’). If the win is big enough, America could become second-rate—and subject to the requirements of the winner. It would be something like when General Motors went bankrupt, only bigger. That’s what General Motors taught us: big can be broken.

For the winner, the prize is enormous. Is America vulnerable?

 Perhaps. I do not know if Putin or Ahmadinejad have any connection to protests in America. But George Soros has a history.  He is a billionaire currency speculator. He has experience taking on big currency bets: he has been accused of collapsing the Malaysian financial system (in the 1990s);  he has been called ‘The man who broke the Bank of England’ through currency speculation; and his ‘work’ is sufficiently understood that  Paul Krugman has accused him of triggering currency crises for profit. He has become one of the wealthiest men in America. According to the New American (‘Funding of Breton Woods II by George Soros exposed’, Bob Adelman, March 30, 2011), Soros also has a political mission. He has been working to establish a ‘new world architecture’, one that would recalibrate America’s international standing. For Soros, America appears ‘too big for her britches.’ She needs to be pulled down a few notches because, to paraphrase Soros, the main enemy of an open society is no longer communism, but capitalism—and America represents that capitalist enemy. Perhaps to clarify this idea, he has written that, ‘the main obstacle to a stable and just world order is the United States’ (see The Age of Fallibility). He wants change. He wants a different world order, with a ‘lesser’ America. He has been connected to funding Occupy Wall Street and other anti-capitalist organizations.  He has a clear philosophy, a lot of cash and a speculator’s brazenness. If he wants to collapse American capitalism, he has the financial track-record, the political motivation and sufficient experience with currency to try it. If the right circumstances occur (which he might help to create), he might be able to ‘break’ America’s economic strength (and arrogance) by triggering a currency crisis in the dollar. Remember, the Russians and the Chinese have been agitating against the dollar, and that dollar is now weak enough that the International Monetary Fund has already wondered aloud if it might be time to drop the dollar as ‘currency of international trade’. Soros has been involved with these discussions (see Adelman, above). As a currency speculator, he understands the significance of this kind of pressure against the dollar in the international marketplace; and he knows how to gamble with currency fluctuations. Yes, if he loses, it could cost him billions. But then, he earned 3.3 billion dollars in 2009 and is rumored to have earned another seven billion in 2010. He has the money to gamble--and he can afford to lose. He could be the perfect speculator with the perfect ideology to create the perfect scenario for a perfect win—at America’s expense.

More important for Israel, it is no secret that Soros’ name has been associated with significant contributions to the anti-Israel industry. Although exact numbers are difficult to come by, it seems clear that he has donated millions of NIS (and dollars) to Leftist NGOs which have distributed that money to dozens of anti-Israel groups, including those who support current protests. All of these aim to destroy Jewish Israel, often in the name of ‘democracy’. Protest leader Daphne Leef has already been quoted referring to ‘swinish capitalism’, and other calls of current Israel protesters are strikingly similar to those of America’s Occupy Wall Street. Coincidence?

 I can understand how America, with a weak economy, protests in the street and a faltering international reputation would be a target for an experienced, aggressive currency speculator.  I can understand why an anti-capitalism ideologue might want to trigger a crisis in the world’s biggest capitalist economy.  I can even understand why a financier might invest tens of millions to foment unrest in America -- to enhance economic weakness--when he stands to make billions through shrewd speculation.  But Israel?  Why would Israel be a target?

We do not know.  But Soros has already suggested that Israel (like America) is a stumbling block to an open and just democracy (Washington Post, February, 2011);  he wants to create a new world architecture that supports an open and just world society (he has written about this); he has a track-record of political ‘investing’ ( to defeat George W. Bush; to ‘defeat’ American capitalism); he certainly understands that currency fluctuations are often linked to political instability; and he has already been accused of triggering currency crises for profit.  By bringing money here to support Leftists who seek to create a crisis by bringing down the Netanyahu government, could this billionaire also be looking at Israel for political and financial goals?  Here’s a hint: follow the money—and watch both the Shekel and Leftist NGOs.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Truth and consequences in the public domain

Last week, Israel’s media was euphoric. Gilad was free!   The Jerusalem Post published a report that 79% of Israelis backed the prisoner exchange deal that freed both Gilad and 1,027 Arab terror prisoners.  Eighty-six per cent of women were said to back the deal. A second poll reported that 69% of Israelis supported this exchange. Gilad’s home!

Have 69% -79% of Israelis ever agreed on anything? It’s wonderful, isn’t it? According to the media, the face of our national identity could not contain its smile. There was joy everywhere. Gilad’s parents waited to hug him. All of Israel waited to hug him.

This was the happiest day of Gilad’s life. It was the happiest day for his parents. All of Israel felt their happiness. Gilad’s five years and four-months of imprisonment and isolation had ended.  Israel’s national psyche, having been exhausted by the ordeal of the Shalit family’s pain, now sighed with relief. Finally, it was finished. Jews everywhere celebrated. The Jerusalem Post even ran an editorial linking the joy of the current Jewish holiday of Succot with the national joy over Gilad’s release. Could there have been greater national joy than that moment?

But wait. Not everyone was so happy. Not everyone shared the media’s joy—and not everyone believed that 79% of Israelis--or 86% of women-- thought this deal was a good one.  The media had been very quick to present a picture that a supermajority supported this prisoner exchange. But the feeling on the Israeli street was different.  What was going on here?  Were the naysayers simply professional grumps, the kind who find something wrong even at their own birthday parties?

Maybe. But then, maybe not.  There is a real—and troubling--problem here: the Post headline had misled us, for underneath the Post’s exuberance lurked an ugly truth. If you looked deep enough into the article about the poll (‘Between 70 and 80 per cent of Israelis, 86 per cent of women,  support prisoner swap’, Gil Hoffman, Jerusalem Post, October 17, 2011), you would have discovered that 62% of respondents thought that this deal would ‘worsen Israel’s security’—a euphemism for a national fear that, with this thousand-killer trade for one soldier, Jews would suffer.

Such a concern was only enhanced by pictures of Arabs celebrating the release of the terror prisoners--and calling for more kidnappings.

So what were the polls telling us? Could our nation simultaneously support this ‘deal’ and fear its consequences?  That’s like saying, ‘happy birthday-- you’re sad!’ Isn’t that contradictory? If this is what the polls showed, shouldn’t the Post have analysed the apparent contradiction?  Interestingly, instead of discussing, highlighting or analysing the negative side of the poll response, the Post chose to headline ‘support prisoner swap’ and to ignore what might be the most important public significance of the poll results—fear, not happiness (yes, the Post mentioned the negative numbers; but simply mentioning them does not release the Post from the responsibility to analyse such an unusual result).

Do we have a problem in this country? Are we so afraid of the truth that we have to lie to ourselves—or distort reality like a Reality TV producer? The statement that 79 per cent of us are happy with this prisoner exchange is so extraordinary that it suggests that survey questions were either badly written or purposely structured to elicit a manipulated response. Either way, a result this unusual should have prompted a ‘red flag’ for the Post. Instead, they ran it as news—that is, as ‘truth’. But like all lies, this story distorted what was correct and distracted us from the truth. In the existential war we fight, that is dangerous. Do you know what happens to college students who lie to themselves about their study skills? Do you know what happens to dieters who distort facts? They fail. Is that what we want—to fail?

In case you have forgotten, we cannot afford to fail.  We must fight to win--and as we fight, we must remember our Jewish values:  be very careful how you deal with truth.   

Does the Post not realize that truth and consequences are related—that ignoring public truths has too often led to disaster for Jews? Ask the Jews in Germany in the 1930s what happened when they ignored the truths of Hitler’s public speeches. Ask the Jews in the years leading up to the destruction of the First Temple about the consequences of ignoring the public truth of G-d’s prohibitions against idol worship.

To understand fully the role of the media in proactively slanting Israel’s public policy issues—instead of reporting and analysing those issues--take a look at Caroline Glick’s essay, ‘Column One: marketing Gilad Schalit’, Jerusalem Post, October 21, 2011; if you want a look at how Israel’s news has been continuously manipulated, read, ‘Another tack: A sacrifice in vain, Sarah Honig, Jerusalem Post, October 21, 2011.

The Jerusalem Post has a problem. By focusing so exclusively on Gilad’s release while ignoring its consequences, the Post has neglected its ethical and/or journalistic responsibility to its reading public, and surrendered to a concerted marketing campaign to free Gilad (Glick, ibid). The media’s role in this effort had nothing to do with truth or public welfare. The Jerusalem Post can play an important role in Israel’s future. But it is not doing that right now. Relegating ‘truth-telling’ to opinion-pieces (see the Glick and Honig essays above) doesn’t cut it. The truth is not an ‘opinion’. The truth starts in the news department and today, the Post’s headline-writing, editorial oversight of article content, editorial policy—and activist philosophy-- do not present the truth about Israel’s reality or Arab intention. Right now, the Post is behind the proverbial curve, not ahead of it. Right now, the Post is just another activist gunslinger in the business of slanting and marketing public policy in Israel ( Honig and Glick, ibid).

This country deserves better. We are Jews. We are supposed to know the difference between lies and truth. We invented the codified morality that supports the Western world. Where in our Torah does it say we are to lie to ourselves? Does the Post know we have a Torah? We are obligated to be sensitized to truth, in order to assure that our human relations—and our relationship with G-d—remain intact. Self-lying does not make the grade. Manipulating the public does not pass muster.

This country deserves better because we as Jews do not survive by lying to ourselves. Want proof of this? Ask the Jews of Germany, 1933-38, about Jewish public lies. Is this the road the Post wants to travel?

The Jerusalem Post is an important newspaper. It has a role to play here—and an ethical obligation to fulfil. It should be the voice of our nation, not a shill for the highest-paying marketing firm. Its obligation is to tell the truth about the realities we face.

Today, our Gilad is free. But killers are also free. Arabs dance in the street. They call for more kidnappings. Do we have the courage now to speak the truth? Does the Post?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

American Jews beware!

During the months leading up to our family aliyah in 2010, my wife and I spoke with friends about our decision to leave America.

During these discussions, we discovered perhaps three types of people in our community: those who agreed with us—and who were in fact already planning their own aliyah with Nefeshbnefesh (the organization in Israel that handles virtually all of American emigration); those who said little or nothing about themselves, but who expressed admiration for our ‘courage’; and those who had no interest in leaving America.

All of these people are Orthodox Jews; all are still in America.

For our friends in that first group— planning their own aliyah—the process of leaving America had already begun. They were focusing on details, just as we had done. They believed that their biggest hurdle, their decision to leave, was behind them.

I hope they succeed, because leaving America is not easy. America is an extraordinarily powerful trap. Like a mind-altering drug, America affects how one thinks and feels. I know:  I was there. My wife had first suggested aliyah forty years ago. I thought she was nuts.  America was the Golden Medina. It meant comfort, even luxury. Leave? That’s insane.

My message to these American friends is, beware: until you are on your aliyah flight to Israel, buckled into your seat, you are not free of America’s pull. Remember that.

The second group was interesting  because they kept telling us how courageous we were to make aliyah. My wife and I couldn’t figure that out. Courage? Of all the words we were using to pursue our  plans, we had never once used that word.  What we ultimately figured out was, these friends were not speaking about us when using that word; they were speaking about themselves: they were revealing to us that, as much as they admired our decision, they believed that did not have the courage to follow.

This seemed surprising, because we never saw aliyah as a ‘courage’ issue. We saw it as a ‘requirement’ issue. When people asked me why we were making aliyah, I had never responded, ‘we finally have gotten up the courage to do this.’ Instead, my answer was, ‘because we believe what we read.’ No one understood that statement, so I would explain that, praying three times a day, saying the grace after meals (and snacks) daily, I had realized that I was specifically mentioning ‘Israel’ ,  ‘Jerusalem’  and ‘our land’ (by one count) up to 30 times a day. That’s over two hundred  times a week, every week, every month, every year.

My feeling was, how could one repeat these words so many times without getting the message that our land was not America, but Israel?

From this point of view, aliyah seemed so logical, didn’t it?

After ailyah, I still do not see ‘courage’. I see ‘doing what I am supposed to do’. My friends in America, on the other hand, seem to believe that what they are supposed to do is create money and comfort for their family. That appears to be their basic value—perhaps their only value. Their decisions reflect that; Israel doesn’t even merit an ‘honorable mention’ in their daily lives. Certainly, I cannot judge them because I understand how much things cost and how hard one must work to earn what one needs. Nevertheless, Israel and/or aliyah never gets mentioned at the dinner table?

For the third group—those who appeared disinterested in aliyah altogether—the drive for money and comfort seems to have overwhelmed them.  Some of these individuals are my friends. I love them. But they cannot see that the word ‘America’ never once appears in our Tanach, our Talmud or our prayers. In my opinion, they appear to have been so sucked into ‘America’ that they seem to me to suffer from a kind of Stockholm syndrome, whereby the captive falls in love with and adopts the values of the captor. Their emotional attachment to America so affects their identity that they feel they could not survive if they broke away from America.

Their only interest is America. Israel?  Why?

But now there is danger. America may no longer be Golden. There are Jews in the New York City area who are ready today to make aliyah—but cannot do so because they cannot sell their homes. Worse, the list of homes for sale near them has been growing.

They feel trapped. America’s apparently continuing economic woes keep them feeling chained, even imprisoned.
In early  June, 2011, political operative James Carville told Imus in the Morning (a radio talk show) that he could  see civil unrest coming to America because of the economy; days later, we heard that gas prices are 100% higher than when Obama was elected—and are  headed higher--while food prices are also supposed to jump.

Then, two weeks later, US unemployment was reported to be 25% higher than when Obama was elected, the national debt was 35% higher, the value of the dollar vs the shekel was down almost 12% --and nothing on the horizon suggested that these numbers were going to get any better.

That all took place in June, 2011—before the S&P downgraded US Treasuries, before Vice President Biden was forced to announce publicly that the US would not default on its debt obligations, before  NBC News ran a story (in August) that dramatically increasing food prices were now playing out at your local US supermarket—and before the stock markets took a plunge.

Now, October, 2011, we read about the possibility of another recession in the US—and we see persistent protests on Wall Street, in Washington, DC-- and in other cities around America.

But the negatives facing potential American Olim are not limited to America. Beginning in July, 2011, an Israel renter tent-protest highlighted a growing phenomenon in Israel: not enough places to live. By late August, a representative of the community of Efrat sounded a warning note: even though the West Bank building freeze had officially ended in September, 2010, the Israeli government had issued no new building permits for West Bank Efrat. That has created a problem because sixty English-speaking families that had already signed up to begin their Israel life in Efrat could not now do so—with no new building, there was currently housing for only eight of those sixty families. Moreover, any existing Efrat homes for sale (for these olim) were in such demand that prices had gone up significantly.  Here is a nasty shock for potential olim: at the very moment that home prices in America go down, thereby reducing the amount of money a family can gather for a home purchase in Israel, Israel home prices in communities that attract English-speakers were getting pushed higher and higher. It’s become a double whammy: losing money in America; needing more money for Israel.

For years, Americans have based much of their aliyah thinking on the value they can draw from their American homes. How do those Americans make aliyah now?

Mind-altering drugs give one an intense high. Such drugs can make one feel strong, confident, successful.  But mind-altering drugs can also be dangerous. When the high wears off, reality can be devastating. Will the same now become true for the Golden Medina?

Will American Jews be trapped?


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Gilad Shalit, a terrorist prisoner release and Jewish leadership

More than five years and 1,900 days ago, Hamas terrorists from Gaza executed a brilliant plan: they ambushed Israeli soldiers at the Gaza border and kidnapped one of them, Gilad Shalit. Their goal was cunning: use this lone soldier to barter the release of hundreds of their fellow-killers from Israeli jails. They understood their adversaries. They believed they would win. What they had no way of knowing, however, was how grandly they would win.

They won three ways. First, they achieved their goal of prisoner release. But, under the law of unintended consequences, they also achieved two other goals. You see, at the moment of the kidnapping, Hamas could not predict how Gilad Shalit’s parents would weaken the fabric of Israel’s political resolve with their campaign to win their son’s release. The Shalits’ behaviour proved perfect for Hamas because their protest became the straw that broke the back of Israeli resolve: Netanyahu’s government might well resist the attacks of Leftist professionals in NGOs and the media, but the Shalits were different.  In the politicized enterprise called, ‘attack Netanyahu’, the Shalits were non-political. They were not professionals. They were ordinary. Their pain appealed to every Jewish parent. Their attacks were wonderful because they were innocent and appealing—and they clawed relentlessly at the emotional underbelly of Israel’s body-politic. Through the Shalits, in other words, Hamas would not only free terrorists, it would also inject into Israel’s civic lifeblood a toxin called fear, anguish, guilt and confusion, the consequences of which would delight Israel-haters everywhere.

The third unexpected win came with the timing of the agreement. Israel could not have given Hamas a more propitious moment:  Fatah, engaged in statehood discussions with the Quartet, could offer the ‘Palestinian’ people no comparable victory, for by agreeing to talk, the most obvious potential outcome they were creating was compromise. Hamas, on the other hand, could now stand triumphant before their people—uncompromising, dedicated absolutely to their cause, and victorious.

Thanks to the Shalits, this victory was a true gift to Hamas from the gods of hate.

In America, October 12 is the day the entire population celebrates the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus. Among Arabs immediately surrounding Israel, October 12 will now become the day entire cities celebrate yet another victory of Hamas over Fatah, and the unalloyed victory of unrelenting and uncompromising Jihadist rejection.

For Israelis, October 12 will not be a day to celebrate. Instead, it could become a day remembered as one that brought death and woe to the Jewish nation. But it may also be the day   the Jewish nation finally began to understand that a Torah-based Jewish leadership gives us a better chance to survive than the status quo.

Let’s be honest here. This war with Hamas-Fatah is not about territory or borders. There have been by now dozens of essays that have reminded us that, if land was the issue, we could have had peace long ago. The Jews have made that many offers. This war is about hate.  It is a war to purify the land, to rid the land of infidels, to remove the cockroach Jew so that there will be cleanliness for Islam. It is a war of belief—and the Muslim is strong because his belief is strong.

A recent survey may tell Israelis that 58% of us are mildly-strongly religious. But the truth is, we support our current Jewish leadership as if only 5% are religious. While we say we are religious, we expect our leadership to be pagan. The Arab has no such problem. The Arab votes for Hamas and gets what he wants—a religious-based leadership based on clear values. Yes, those values are not Torah-values. But these people are not Jews. They hate Jews—and their leadership, their religion and their values all unite on this one focal-point. They are strong because of it.

Israelis, meanwhile, are clueless. Even though 58% say that believe in their religion, they also seem to believe that any Torah-based national leadership that focuses on Jewish values will lead to oppression. Why do they believe this? Because they see daily in Israeli media the subliminal—and often not so subliminal--message that a Jewish Israel would be a disaster. The Israel media is, like Hamas, unrelenting: Judaism spells darkness and, surely, public stoning. Israeli Jews, meanwhile, forget their religion and behave as if they believe what they see in this anti-religious drumbeat. By apparently believing the religious self-hatred of the media, Israelis weaken their leadership by demanding that their leaders commit to non-Jewish values; and to make sure that their fellow citizens tow this line, we have politicians like Livni, Barak and Peres showing us how wonderful political pagan-worship is. For 63 years, this country has delightfully embraced G-d-denying leadership—and look where it has gotten us. Can any Prime Minister really do his job if he has to swim against this stream? Ask the tent protesters, B’Tselem, Peace Now and the Shalits. They’ll tell you.

 Israelis are clueless.

But the release of hundreds of Jew-killers might be a wake-up call. Remember, we have been to this movie before. After a similar 1985 release, we got the first Intifada--and we had no answers. But this time might be different because these times are different. Increasingly, Jews in Israel are waking up to the fact that we see religious Jews every day—and they are not devils. More and more Jews in Israel are beginning to understand that Judaism is not a religion of darkness because they see too many bright smiles on the street. More and more of us realize that religious Jews are productive and energized, working beside us as scientists, soldiers, doctors and entrepreneurs; we have seen too many religious Jews in the light of day to believe that our religion is darkness. We can  see clearly that Judaism is  compatible with modernity.

Israelis might be clueless. But we are not stupid. We see productive Torah-Jews everywhere. We also see God-denying leadership, the nations of the world gathering against us—and 1,000 angry Jew-haters about to go free.  We might look like we are clueless, but many of us do remember that our 3,300 year-old Heritage has told us that these days of trial would come—just as our Torah has told us that we would be scattered, persecuted and then ingathered as we experience a resurgence of belief. We may act like we’re clueless, but some of us are starting to re-think the promised benefits and actual results of G-d-less leadership. More and more of us are starting to think about something else: Torah-based leadership for our Jewish nation; and make no mistake--a leadership based on Torah values would not take us to surrender and humiliation before our enemies.

We will see what these 1,000 prisoners bring to us. As this is written (October 16, 2011), we have seen no evidence that Israeli officials have confirmed Gilad’s condition. We will see what that means. We will also see what these 1,000 prisoners teach us about the fruits of leadership that appears to deny our Torah.

 Because of Gilad, this might indeed be the year we change our values.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

A Corporate fairy tale—and a river in Egypt

It seems that everyone today is talking about peace for the Middle East. It’s wonderful. There is so much hope in the air.  Everyone says that ending the conflict between Arab and Jew is simple: create two-states, side-by-side.  They know how to do it, too:  the Arab announces what he wants and Israel makes concessions. There is even a way to measure success or failure: if Israel concedes-- success; if Israel does not concede-- failure.

It’s a simple plan. It is clear. It is tidy. It is easy to understand. But is it true?

It is not true. Want proof?  Look at Corporate America.  This is where you will learn about the Middle East deal-killer called ‘denial’.

You see, in corporate America, you will not succeed in the marketplace if your leadership embraces denial: if you produce something that does not meet the needs of its local market—and your leadership then proceeds to ignore negative facts —you will fail. The marketplace is that harsh and unforgiving.  The pre-Mac Apple computer (cost), the Sony Betamax (recording time) and the Ford Pinto (exploding gas tanks) attest to this. If you want to succeed, your leadership had better accept the facts ‘on the ground’ (after you introduce your concept), and then adjust  or re-tool. The success of the Tata in India and the introduction of the original Ford Taurus in the USA attest to this. Whether you want to sell cars in India or bring peace to the Middle East, your leaders will succeed only when they understand that the product you create must meet the needs of the ‘marketplace’ you wish to enter. Denying, dismissing or ignoring contrary facts will destroy your best inntentions.

 To be a Leader in business or diplomacy you must develop   ‘vision’ and attack denial. You must be able to see what others fail to see—and then act. This is usually deemed an ‘intangible’. But it isn’t. Every top CEO knows this. ‘Vision’ is actually very simple.  It’s the result of a four-step process: question; travel; compare; and then, finally, identify denial and kill it before it kills you. This process not only creates success for the top CEO, it can also help us understand why leadership will fail with its current  ‘two-state solution’.

The first step in this process is basic: what can cause us to fail? For a company that makes deodorant, for example, an answer might be, ‘smell’ or ‘price’. For diplomats looking for a solution to the Arab-Israel conflict, the answer might be hatred, or refusal to compromise. If a leader wants to fail, he should deny and/or dismiss these answers. Failure is that simple.

The second step is travel. This means doing what everyone else does not want to do: leave headquarters and travel around your Corporate geography, asking questions and listening to answers. What you want to learn is, what are the people outside the leadership bubble saying about your product?

 This is a difficult step because it is time-consuming—and, worse, you probably are not going to like what you’ll hear. Why? Because what you hear ‘in the field’  could be very different from what you hear from the people closest to you. For example, with the deodorant manufacturer, the people around you might say ‘price’ is the key to your success, but the people far away from headquarters might tell you that the wholesalers who market your product to supermarkets are arrogant and insulting, and supermarkets don’t like dealing with them. As a CEO all geared up to push an historically expensive national sales campaign, you will not want to hear this message—but you had better hear it if you want to succeed. With the Arab-Israel conflict, as a diplomatic leader, you might be all set to pressure Israel to make those supposedly peace-guaranteeing concessions, but when the people farthest from your bubble tell you that the Arabs in your newly proposed ‘Palestine’ are promoting hatred of Jews, not peace, you had better listen to that message. If you are selling ‘peace’  but the Arabs are selling maps of a ‘Palestine’ that replaces Israel, your plan to shrink Israel will  not lead to peace.  Deny or dismiss this reality and you will fail.

The third step is analysing what you have discovered while away from your bubble. This step is  called the ’reality check’ because it forces you to look at the real facts you face, not the facts that have been put in front of you by your bubble-enablers. For your deodorant company, this means looking at those supposedly arrogant and insulting wholesalers. Does their behavior impact how supermarket chains purchase and promote your product?  You had better find out, because your national advertising campaign may cost your company, say,  eighty million dollars more than it has ever spent for a single advertising campaign—and you don’t want that money going to waste because supermarkets will not promote your sale.  This campaign could be your hallmark strategy. It may be what you have assured the Board of Directors this company needs to become premier in its market.  This campaign will make you famous—or get you fired. If you are a true Leader, you do not at this moment call out, ‘damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!’  The same is true for Middle East peace efforts.  You say that Israel is the one who must be pushed?  Look at the facts on the ground: if you want peace, you had better ask how all those Arab calls to kill Jews—and all those newly minted ‘Palestine’ maps showing Israel ‘disappeared’—are going to impact your ‘peace’; because if you ignore the intensity of that hatred your ‘peace campaign’ could be the match that ignites a regional Armageddon. Deny the facts of Arab hatred and you could become no better than Neville Chamberlain claiming to have secured peace with Hitler. Is that the ‘peace’ you want?

The final step is the most difficult. Here, you must identify denial and then attack it by forcing your people to deal with the realities you face—those arrogant and insulting wholesalers, or the hate-mongering jihadists, who will destroy more than they create.  This is the step that separates the proverbial men from the boys. This step contains the difference between success and failure. This is where you must address the design flaws of your ‘product’. Otherwise, you are just another Ford Pinto, which continued to burst into a fireball when hit in the rear end by another car. At this step in the process, your bubble-enablers will tell you to ignore what ‘the outsiders’ say. They will tell you to go forward. If you just push hard enough, they will say, you will succeed. Do it, and push hard!

You are the CEO. The decision is yours alone. If you are a true leader, you know that  ‘denial’  is not just a river in Egypt: denial can kill.

The same is true for solving the Arab-Israel conflict.  Is there a leader out there who will confront denial—or are we just dealing here with more Ford Pinto manufacturers?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

International Politics and Yom Kippur, 5772

On Saturday, October 8, 2011, Jews around the world celebrate Yom Kippur, Judaism’s Holiest day of the year.  We approach this twenty-five hour fast with fear and trepidation, for we know that, on this day, we have no excuses. We have no control. We must stand before the Supreme One—alone.  We will acknowledge our sins and confess before the Master. Worse, on this day, we realize that man is not who he thinks he is because on this day, past, present and future converge before the All-Powerful G-d. Suddenly, on this singular day, we control nothing. We understand nothing. Time, we suddenly realize, does not belong to us. This convergence of Time before the Power of the Almighty is a concept we cannot easily understand because we—orderly man—must control, order and compartmentalize our existence. We must arrange our lives. History must be a time-line. Time itself must be organized. We must be the masters of our world. Except, of course, on Yom Kippur we cannot master anything. On Yom Kippur, we understand that all Power belongs to G-d.

On this Day, with no food or water, we think:  What have we done?  How can we change course? If we are wise, we will understand on this day that G-d alone is Truth. Truth is not controlled by man. It is not defined by man. It is not manufactured by man. It is not voted upon by man.
Truth is G-d’s alone.

If we are unwise, we reject what we cannot understand. After all, we reason, we  are created in the image of G-d. Therefore, if we cannot understand something, then it is worthless, right?  If we cannot see it, it is worthless. If we cannot control it, it is worthless.
If we are unwise, Truth becomes worthless.

We see this at the United Nations—the world’s house of international understanding, where man organizes and controls and creates. Here, at the center of man’s worship of his own inalienability, Israel is a pariah. She is an outcast--a criminal. She dares be a democracy in a sea of tyranny. Because of some kind of apostasy, she demands to be recognized as the people of the Bible even as she stands accused of denying inalienable rights to an invented, fictitious ‘people’.  Her repulsiveness has made her a symbol of the  ‘untruth’—and for that, she is worthless.
Put another way, Israel’s existence casts a shadow of shame. She is an embarrassment for the world. She is, like G-d’s Truth, an ugly blot. She is the unwanted orphan.

G-d’s Torah predicts the ingathering of His Chosen people to His Holy Land.  Modern Israel is a testimony to Holy Words written more than 3,300 years ago. Jews around the world call out, ‘Look, look: G-d’s Word is visible!’ But the nations of the world cry out, ‘Injustice, injustice!’ They are indifferent to G-d as they empower the enemies of G-d.
G-d’s Word created His Holy nation—the Jewish people. Men of hate have created a no-people who hate Israel. When the nations gather in their house of nations, they turn to the Holy nation and say, ‘evil evil.’  They turn to the no-nation and say, ‘we applaud you, we applaud you!’ They give honor to darkness.

G-d’s Torah describes his beloved, Jerusalem.  Jews world-over have faced Jerusalem in prayer for nearly two thousand years. The enemies of the Jews turn their backsides to Jerusalem when they pray. But to the world they cry, ‘She in mine, she is mine!’  
The nations of the world respond, ‘Amen, amen!  Take her, take her!’ They have developed a lust for darkness.

How strange. The Supreme One gave to the nations their inheritance and their borders. He gave to them all they have. But today, these nations demand that the border markers of the Chosen be moved because in their eyes,  the Jews do not belong. To the nations of the world, the truth is simple: the land of the Holy belongs to those who would desecrate and then destroy it.
The Truth is worthless. Israel is worthless. Will their peace also be worthless?

Is this what the nations of the world, in their house of nations united, will bring to our world—a worthless peace? What will the price for that be?  In this year 5772, the world unites. The nations will vote. Who will stand for Israel? Who will stand for Truth?
This Saturday, October 8, 2011, Jews around the world will stand before the Master of the Universe. With neither food nor water, we will afflict our souls. We will recognize that our humanity condemns us to stumble (see The Complete ArtScroll Machzor, Yom Kippur, trans Rabbi Nosson Scherman, Mesorah Pub, New York, pp xiv-xxii). We will recognize Truth. We will tremble at the thought of G-d’s Power. We will recognize that our Creator waits for us (ibid).

 How strange is this poetry we call life: just as the nations of the world seek to take from us what belongs to G-d--our land-- our G-d asks us to return to Him. Perhaps this is our Yom Kippur lesson for the year 5772--that this is indeed the time to return to G-d.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Haredi and Israel’s high-tech industry

Let us begin the Jewish New Year 5772 with thoughts about the ultra-orthodox (called the ‘Haredi’ Jewish community) in Israel:
Six months ago, the Jerusalem Post reported on Israel’s rank in the world of internet economics. It was a positive report. But  ‘Internet sector will reach 8.5% of GDP by 2015’, March 10, 2011, by Nadav Shemer,  suggested a problem: e-commerce (and high-tech) in Israel were growing so rapidly, Israel would soon run out of intelligent and talented e-workers to help grow Israel’s e-commerce/high-tech businesses. Nevertheless, based on a survey by McKinsey Company, the report suggested that a solution sits right in front of us, one that promises to promote employment among Israel’s highest unemployment communities—a benefit for both the economy and the unemployed: train both Arab and Haredi for the e-commerce/ high-tech workplace.  Israel will need these workers to man high-tech activities, McKinsey suggested, and the relatively high unemployment rates among these two groups seemed an obvious place to turn in order to find needed future manpower.  The article specifically identified both Arab and Haredi as potential high-tech employees.
About a month before the survey was published, Israel’s President, Shimon Peres, announced a new national initiative, maantech, aimed exclusively at developing trained future employees for Israel’s high-tech world. But the President’s plan focused only on Arabs. Haredi were not included.
While at first blush this omission seemed discriminatory, it may not be so because the Haredi and the Arab have different employment issues. A single program to meet the needs of both groups (so as to provide Israel’s high-tech industry with a future stream of qualified workers) would probably not work. For example, according to the Jerusalem Post (Peres, high-tech leaders work to integrate Arabs in workforce, by Greer Fay Cashman, February 9, 2011), the greatest issue for Arab workers is not training, but post-training employment search. Therefore, the maantech initiative appears aimed at assisting qualified Arab school graduates to integrate into the Israeli high-tech workforce. By contrast, the problem for the Haredi is not post-education employment search. Their issue focuses on cultural attitudes towards both the workplace and the training needed to enter the workplace. While it seems certain that the Haredi represent a vast, available and concentrated reservoir of intelligent workers, they will not, for religious reasons, interface with a traditional educational format, and they will not seek employment in the traditional workplace environment. Intensely held cultural barriers keep them separated. Because of those  barriers, one of the greatest workplace deterrents to the Haredi is the workplace itself, with its out-of-neighborhood setting, melting pot atmosphere and secular influences. The Haredi appear hesitant to cross a cultural line to go to work even as some wish to work. The same would be true for Haredi wishing an education.
So if President Peres develops a program to help the Arab unemployed, what can he do for the Haredi? Many in Israel take the position that the Haredi should just ‘suck it up’ and do what everyone else does—go to school and get a job. The result of these attitudes, however, is simply a hardening of Haredi reluctance to work in that melting pot arena; and as the McKinsey report suggests, with their growing population, Israel cannot afford to be so cavalier towards them: this population segment will soon represent 20% of the country’s workforce, and with an almost 70% unemployment rate, this group could have a seriously negative impact on the country’s economy if their unemployment continues unabated. The Haredi have to work, both for their own needs and because of the nation’s needs. The question is, how to promote their employment without creating religious-based civil strife?
The good news here is that the e-commerce and high-tech sectors do not, and need not, require an employee to leave his or her neighbourhood to go to work. President Peres can turn to High Tech companies for the Haredi just as easily as he turned to them for the Arab: these industries can build much of the industrial network they need through small workplace environments (perfectly matched to Haredi neighbourhood lifestyle), and/or though home-based workstations. In addition, non-traditional (but effective) training programs can be developed to address similar Haredi concerns about education.
Naturally, not all Haredi will sign on to these ideas. But we do not need to start with a solution for all Haredi. We need to start first with a small, pre-selected group. These Haredi can then be educated and employed. Their cultural and religious standards can be protected. They can stay within their own enclaves. An initiative can even be created for young men to work—and continue their religious studies—in the same environment at the same location. Then, once this first Haredi group has succeeded, we can work with a second pre-selected group, then a third, etc.

  As MK Yisrael Eichler (United Torah Judaism) points out in a recent Jerusalem Post story   (United Torah Judaism chairman slams Trajtenberg report, by Jeremy Sharon, September 27, 2011), current Israeli education requirements completely discount Haredi religious education in favor of, say, Humanities when, in fact, a degree in Humanities is often no more relevant to the workplace than religious education. He has a point. This type of purely secular and monolithic national education policy does not completely match the realities of the modern workplace. A religiously trained Haredi who has completed both religious education and a specifically designed high-tech program, will contribute as much as or more than a Humanities or Social Science graduate. The key to success is not what degree one has, but what type of analytic skills one has learned, and what kind of technical-specific training one has completed.
Israel’s future economic well-being requires the Haredi to contribute to the workplace. But forcing them to work will fail. Rather, we should work with them. At first, we will need to form a coalition of MK members, government representatives, educational leaders and respected Haredi religious leaders who are willing to participate, to join together, to seek common ground.
Through the participation, influence and leadership of specific religious leaders in the Haredi world and with education and work rules that are sensitive to Haredi culture, an army of talented Hardei workers can be identified, recruited, trained and employed—all under the guiding wisdom of pre-selected religious leaders who will shape the rules for participating Haredi workers. These religious leaders can play a central role in guiding their followers according to standards they help to create and implement.
There is more. This is just the beginning. A concerted and properly-formed initiative can generate substantial economic benefits for everyone. Joining with the Haredi sector serves Israel in three ways: first, it helps provide the intelligence-rich talent our High-tech industry will desperately need; second, it brings needed income to Haredi families; and third, it reduces Israel’s welfare roles.
It is a shidduch (marriage arrangement) that will work.