What Exodus Can Learn From Trinity
Falls Sie Lust haben diesen Artikel fuer
haGalil onLine (ehrenamtlich) zu uebersetzen, melden Sie sich bitte
A few years ago, it appeared that two of the most
intractable international conflicts were coming to an end. President
Bill Clinton took the Rabin-Arafat handshake and helped convert it into a
peace process which, by the late 1990's, had almost eradicated Palestinian
terrorism and had moved both parties to acceptance of the two-state
solution. In Northern Ireland, Clinton pushed reluctant Catholics and
Protestants (and a just-as-reluctant United Kingdom) into direct
negotiations by issuing a visa to Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams.
Today, peace among the Irish has to a large extent been realized (although
extremists on the fringes continue to work to destroy it), while the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict rages at a new intensity. Northern
Ireland has seen unemployment reduced from 15 percent to 5 percent; tourists
are flooding the country; and Belfast neighborhoods once known for ethnic
strife and terrorist bombings are now the sites of "peace tours " where one
can view the remnants of the "Irish Troubles," now receding into history.
Meanwhile, Israel and the Palestinian areas are, as Northern Ireland used to
be, suffering from random violence, staggering levels of unemployment, the
collapse of the tourist industry, and pervasive pessimism about the future.
John J. Cullinane is taken with the parallels. Cullinane is president of The
Cullinane Group, Inc., and was founder of Cullinet Software, Inc., one of
the first companies to specialize in computer software products and the
first to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange and to reach $1 billion in
Like New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, Cullinane is a strong
advocate of the idea that religious, ethnic, and even national strife must
at least partly be addressed through economic growth and job creation.
In his first visit to Northern Ireland a decade ago, he noted that the
people most involved in the violence - on both sides - were young men
without jobs. He also saw that these same young men (and women) were fully
capable of being productive members of society if only they had a chance -
which most did not in pre-peace process Northern Ireland. Cullinane
noted "that the only way you could get these long-time enemies into the same
room would be to discuss jobs and economic development. They even
began going on trade
missions together, which was just remarkable."
Cullinane returned to Boston and established "Friends of Belfast in North
America" to promote peace in Northern Ireland through economic development,
and particularly, by establishing "call centers" there. The call
center concept is big business - and big business of the most job- intensive
kind. The centers are simply offices (most often located abroad) which will
walk you through computer problems, schedule a service call for a broken
freezer, or explain how to save money by re-financing a home. In fact,
these days, calls you make to schedule a home repair visit from a myriad of
huge companies are far more likely to be answered in New Delhi than New York
(100,000 Indians have good high-paying jobs at call centers.)
Call centers had not been located in Northern Ireland simply because the
seemingly endless ethnic strife obscured the Irish assets: an educated and
industrious work force that spoke English. But now, Stream
International, a call center pioneer, is in Northern Ireland with call
centers employing hundreds of people in neighborhoods where unemployment had
been the norm for decades. Other enterprises with which Cullinane is
associated are transforming some of the most depressed areas in the country
while making profits. This is not charity; it is hard-headed free
But doing good for Ireland is not enough for this entrepreneur. He has now
joined forces with two members of the Boston Jewish community to put his
Irish experiences to work in a new arena: the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Dan Singer is a Czech refugee who fled the Nazis and grew up in Israel.
Geoffrey Lewis is an American Jewish lawyer active in Boston community
affairs. He and Singer joined Cullinane to establish the Northern
Ireland Middle East Connection (NIMEC), which will apply the Northern
Ireland model to Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian areas. The
unlikely trio - which Singer says might be called "The Three Amigos" - has
already convinced Stream International to visit Amman in order to size up
Jordan's potential for call centers, taking advantage of an English-speaking
workforce as well as one which speaks Arabic, the language of 400 million
Arab consumers. Stream was impressed and is now moving forward.
The whole Irish-Mideast connection is going to be explored further next
month at a conference hosted by the University of Ulster in Belfast.
For three days Israelis, Palestinians, Jordanians, and others from the
region will learn from Irish Catholics and Protestants how economic
initiatives can help move people beyond ethnic strife toward peace.
Officials from Israel, Jordan, the Palestinian Authority and Saudi Arabia
will hear from Northern Ireland's top entrepreneurs, community leaders and
elected officials on how the Irish peace process was sustained and advanced
by increased employment. Businesspeople from the United States, Ireland and
the Middle East will all be on hand to discuss the practical side, with
Stream International offering
a presentation entitled "The Stream Experience in Northern Ireland and How
It Relates To the Middle East."
Geoffrey Lewis says that he hopes this project will make a "humble yet
meaningful" contribution to creating conditions for peace in the region.
He notes that NIMEC hopes to be the catalyst for creating 20,000 jobs in the
next five years in Jordan, the Palestinian territories, and in parts of
Israel with large concentrations of Israeli Arabs. Dan Singer adds
that Jewish business people in the diaspora helped transform Israel's
fledgling economy of the pre-state ("yishuv") years into the success it
became. He hopes Arabs both from the region and those living abroad
will do the same for the Palestinians.
There will be those who, reading this, will respond that jobs are good, but
terrorism is a separate matter. But that just isn't so. In 1999,
I interviewed an Israeli general, Freddy Zak, who spent two decades in the
West Bank. This is what he said: "In my 20 years as governor of Jenin,
Hebron and the Nablus districts in the West Bank, and as head of the Israeli
civil administration in the West Bank and Gaza...it became clear to me that
no man or woman with a decent job and hope for the future ever agreed to be
a suicide bomber."
Then, speaking of Palestinian joblessness and the crashing GNP (infinitely
worse today than then), he predicted that unless the peace process produced
hope in the form of jobs, it would fail. "If Oslo does not mean an
improved life, what value does it have? Why not pursue an alternative route,
as offered by Islamic fundamentalists like Hamas, who promise paradise after
death, the satisfaction of continued confrontation with the 'oppressor' and
socio-economic benefits which the peace process seems unable to provide."
Zak was speaking at a time when the peace process was still in effect and
when suicide bombings and terror seemed to be horrors of the past. He
understood, however, that unless the peace process delivered jobs and
economic development, the suicide bombers would return with a vengeance.
It didn't, and they did.
John Cullinane, Dan Singer and Geoffrey Lewis believe that any peace process
that saves economic advancement for last is doomed to fail. They would
front-load the process by using economic improvement to advance the peace
process, rather than the other way around. It makes sense.
Besides, we already tried it the other way.
MJ Rosenberg, Director of Policy Analysis for Israel Policy
Forum, is a long time Capitol Hill staffer and former editor of AIPAC 's
Near East Report.
Source: Israel Policy Forum, October 4, 2002
Distributed by Common Ground News Service
Copyright permission has been obtained for publication.