Monday, December 18, 2017

Opinion: My 14-year-old son's solution to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis

As I was driving my son to his Model United Nations conference where they are debating peace and security around the world, we had a good conversation on what it will take to bring a lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He came up with a brilliant idea. He said, “why not separate Jerusalem from Israel and Palestine?”. I asked why, and his response was that everyone claims to own it – Christians, Jews, and Muslims. So, let it be free for everyone. This got me thinking as we continue discussing the various other options on the table and why they’re failing or will fail.

Option “fight to the finish”: Maintain the status and fight to find a winner, hoping that one of them will either be defeated or give up the fight.

We’ve seen that this approach is taking us nowhere. They have been at each other for decades and all we see if more destruction of lives and property, more hatred and bloodshed, people on the sidelines taking sides due to the religious dimension it has taken, and the exponential growth of so-called freedom movements and terrorism on a global scale - all of them taking lessons from and finding justification from the Israeli and Palestinian conflict.

Option “2 state solution”: Get both Israelis and Palestinians to agree on a 2-state solution with clearly defined boundaries with each maintaining its sovereignty.

This is easier said than done, as we’ve witnessed over the years. No party is willing to give up claim to the disputed territories such as Jerusalem. With disagreements over where the borders should be, there will always be border conflicts. If the issue of Jerusalem is not resolved, the 2-state solution will remain a nice dream.

Option “single Israeli-Palestinian state”: A single Israeli-Palestinian state. We can call it the United States of Israel and Palestine (USIP).

Unifying Israel and Palestine into one federation will be the ideal outcome. Both Israelis and Palestinians will live together in peace and harmony as one people under one constitution and one government. Some areas will have autonomy on how they are governed, but under one federal government. However, this outcome is idealistic, at least, for now. Israelis will be outnumbered in the new state. Therefore, if normal constitutional democracy is practiced and free elections are held (with one person one vote), chances are that the power will shift to the Palestinians. It is difficult to imagine Palestinians voting in large numbers for Israeli representatives and vice versa. This total shift in power will threaten Israelis’ sense of belonging and will not be acceptable. The only way to maintain that balance of power between minority Israelis and majority Palestinians will be through suppression, i.e. apartheid-style rule so that the minority can maintain its grip on power.

So, now let’s explore option “Free Jerusalem”: Declare Jerusalem as no-man’s land, neither under Israeli nor Palestinian rule; a free land for Christians, Jews and Muslims.

Today, Jerusalem remains the most contentious piece of land for both Israelis and Palestinians. Everyone has historic claim to this parcel of land and no one wants to give it up to the other. Without agreeing on this parcel of land, all other options are threatened. Therefore, it is best to declare it “everyone’s and no one’s land”. Make it into a free zone where every major religion can practice and people from around the world can have free access. It should not fall under Israeli nor Palestinian jurisdiction. Maybe, the United Nations can govern it as a land that needs protection and preservation for the sake of humanity and for generations yet unborn.

Given its religious and historic significance, it will remain the center of attraction for pilgrims and tourists. The revenue generated from pilgrimage and tourism will be enough to upkeep itself and to support other peace initiatives around the world.

There you go. Problem solved! … by a 14 year old.

(Note: This article was first drafted in March 2017)

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Opinion: Why President Trump may be bad for America but good for the rest of the world

The new US President is creating anxiety across the world with his unconventional approach and determination to make "America Great Again" and put “America first” by any means necessary. While one can acknowledge that America is already great and already at “first” position, it is important to note that the new US President and his supporters do not feel that America is paying enough attention to itself. Being “first” can mean different things to different people. From an extroverted perspective, being “first” means using your power and influence to take care of other less powerful and less resourced nations, and they in turn look up to you for support in time of need. From an introverted perspective, being “first” means competing with the rest by taking care of my own business and focusing on my own priorities to be the number one. Others should go sort things out for themselves.

Over the decades, the world has grown accustomed to the extroverted America. The one that has become so powerful that it found no issues in being its brother’s keeper. It has demonstrated that it will stand up for the weak and vulnerable in the free world. The world has accepted this status quo.

However, the world has become complacent in looking up to America for support as the undisputed superpower. It has taken for granted that the US will always be there for them. Therefore, when President Trump said he will put “America first” in order to make America “Great Again”, the world goes into panic and confusion. Does it mean that he will abandon all commitments to support others? He has indicated that under his leadership, America will be looking inwards in improving its lot. It longer wants to be its brother’s keeper. It no longer wants to be the sole superpower, the moral authority to stand up for the free world. The message is clear: You’re on your own.

By shacking it’s responsibilities, America may end up becoming weaker, not stronger. It will become just another developed country with very little influence on other nations. By alienating itself, it will lose its de-facto superpower status.

It’s now time for nations to stand up for themselves, at least, until a new superpower emerges in the new world order. To maintain order, the world does needs a leader. But, who is going to fill the void?

Friday, January 27, 2017

In the pursuit of happiness, set your own goal

Today, with a heavy heart, I learned of the passing of another colleague and friend. In the past year alone, too many people that you may know - colleagues, friends, family, loved ones – have gone too soon. You hear cases of relatively young people suffering from sudden heart attacks with no earlier signs of illness. You hear of people retiring after several years of service to their communities and suddenly meeting their end without fully enjoying the fruits of their labor. This is not only shocking but it is cause for concern.

We live in a world where there is constant pressure to make meaningful contributions to society while achieving more and creating better lives for ourselves, our families and loved ones. The expectations are high and the demands are huge. In this world of wanting the best for ourselves and our loved ones – for today and the future – life becomes full of stress. The desperation to achieve more and the pressure from family, friends and society makes it difficult for people to be satisfied with their achievement and gain full happiness. Without happiness, life is empty - devoid of good health and quality.

The demands from society are high. People constantly expect more, especially if one is viewed as holding a privileged position of power or better income. There is the failure to recognize that while some jobs may make you live a rich and decent life, they may not necessarily make you rich as a person. Some people from the developing world are blessed with jobs in global corporations, in government and in the diplomatic service, and they become a part of the “global middle-class”. While these jobs may guarantee a quality of life that is above average (when compared with their places of origin) they do not necessarily make them rich. But, oftentimes society and even family does not recognize the difference. The demand to do more and acquire more is all too real often leading to forced competition and the desire to acquire more and do more beyond their natural means. You often hear statements like “So-and-so has built or own several houses, they’ve done so and so for their families, they’re running a successful business, etc. What are you waiting for?”. But, when you hear that so-and-so has passed away nobody says “So-and-so was such a good man / woman, he/she had achieved a lot, but sadly, he/she died suddenly. What are you waiting for?”. Are we prepared to part with our loved ones in the pursuit of more? I believe that the answer is “No”. So, next time when we add society’s pressures on our loved ones, we should stop to think what effects its having on them. Are we prepared to lose them simply because we want more and more from them?

If the purpose of life is happiness, then we should be able to define what “happiness” means for ourselves. We should be able to define the “finish line” and celebrate our achievements. Above all, we should be grateful for those achievements however modest they may seem when compared to others. Without knowing the “finish line” it is impossible to know when you’ve got there. So, how can you stop and celebrate when you don’t have an end goal? Don’t let society keep moving your goal posts.

Amid the noise of the demands, we should set ourselves realistic targets. It is also through setting our targets that we can tell when we’ve achieved something to celebrate. Otherwise, we will constantly be on the move to acquire more and do more - happiness then becomes even more elusive.

Give more to the less fortunate and expect to receive less. But, above all, be grateful for what you have. That is where true happiness resides. Enjoy the moment!

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Family news: Proud moment - Our daughter Fatmata (Binta) Bah is the proud recipient of the Middle School Ambassador award for 2018

DAA Grade 8 Completion Ceremony (2018): Our daughter Fatmata (Binta) Bah is the proud recipient of the Middle School Ambassador award f...