Dr. Ichak Adizes, CEO and Founder of the Adizes Institute
Notes from Abroad
Here are my impressions, for what they are worth, from a lecture trip I recently made to Brazil, Yugoslavia, Israel, Athens and Macedonia.
In Israel, life goes on. Restaurants are full. Meetings take place as scheduled. In front of my Tel Aviv hotel, people swim in the Mediterranean Sea and sunbathe on the beach – in the same spot where, in 1990, a terrorist’s bomb exploded, killing Marnie Kimelman, a young Canadian tourist; and only yards away from where on April 30 a suicide terrorist set off a bomb at a pub called Mike’s Place, killing four and injuring nearly sixty more. About 20 meters away from my hotel is the Dolphinarium, the seaside disco where another suicide bomber killed 22 people and injured about 120, most of them teenagers, in June 2001.
I expected to find the country in a state of paralysis or near paralysis: no one on the streets; the malls empty. But I was wrong. It’s true that people are cautious – they avoid using public transportation, if they have a choice, and they stay clear of buses on the streets. They try not to congregate unnecessarily. Still, life goes on. More than a thousand people attended one of my lectures; and 350 came to another. Nor were the security precautions particularly rigorous: the guards simply checked your bag and let you in; nothing more than that.
This response surprised me – until I remembered a story I once heard about Golda Meir, one of Israel’s first Prime Ministers. Golda and two religious leaders – a Christian and a Muslim – were asked what they would do if another Flood came and buried the whole earth under water. The bishop said he would pray all day long for God’s forgiveness. The Muslim said he would call out to Muhammad, his prophet, for help. And what did Golda say? “We would learn to live under water.”
The Jewish people have survived under adverse conditions for more than two thousand years. They are experienced at it, and they are indestructible. For Israelis, what is happening in Israel now is painful and tragic, but they are getting used to it. Somehow, they have learned to survive under conditions that other nations could not tolerate for long. Very few Israelis, if any, are leaving because of the intifada. If they leave, it is because the political situation has caused an economic slowdown, and they cannot earn enough money to feed their families.
This endurance of, or resignation about, their fate is dramatically in contrast to the reaction of the other side. You can see for yourself on television how enraged the Palestinians become when there is an Israeli bombing of the West Bank or Gaza. But when a suicide bomber commits another murderous atrocity, watch how the Israelis behave. Do you see outrage? Do you see many people screaming for revenge?. Throughout history, Jews have grown accustomed to living under conditions that others will find intolerable. Being persecuted, rejected, maimed or killed – whether it is by Haman, in the Purim story of the Old Testament; by the Spanish inquisition; or by Hitler and now by Hamas , is something the Jewish people can handle and did handle for two thousand years. .
No matter how many are made to suffer or die, the Israelis will learn to cope with it one way or another. Hamas’ strategy – to make life so miserable for the Israelis that they will give up and return the territories – is bound to fail, because it challenges the Jews not at their most vulnerable point but at their strongest: Jewish history and culture have taught and reinforced the lesson that we will survive if we can learn to tolerate the pain, whatever form it may take. The various onslaughts are temporary; Jewish life is forever. Thus, the Palestinians will never achieve their goals through the intifada; all they will achieve is more bloodshed. No amount of suicide terrorism will force the Israelis to kneel down. The Palestinians cannot succeed where even Hitler failed.
In Business, a marketing strategy is based on our analysis of our clients’ needs and how we might satisfy those needs. A war can be evaluated using those same tools. What does the enemy need? What are the strengths and weaknesses of its culture? What will cause it to surrender?
If the Palestinian leadership could analyze their Israeli opponents using the business model, they would see that the Jewish people historically become stronger and more united when they are threatened. But just as obvious is the fact that Jews are driven by a strong sense of guilt and a near obsession with justice. Jewish people have traditionally been leaders in humanitarian movements all over the world.
Thus, a very different strategy presents itself: Spark the Israelis’ awareness of injustice, and activate that guilt, and change will happen.
What would happen if a million Palestinians went on a hunger strike on the streets of the refugee camps, in front of those miserable shacks amid the open sewers, while TV cameras recorded their urgent plea for justice? Instead of the routine cycle of violence and bloodshed, the real story would come into focus: the misery, hunger, poverty, homelessness, hopelessness and squalor of an entire people.
The Jewish soul could not endure this sight for long. Very soon a majority of Israelis would be calling for a change in their political leadership and offering sincere and realistic alternatives to resolve the Palestinians’ plight.
Popular sentiment would turn against the settlements on the West Bank. I am willing to bet that many Israelis would even organize a general strike, if necessary, to force the disbanding of those settlements, which render virtually impossible the creation of a Palestinian nation with rational borders.
The Palestinians strategy was misguided from the start. If they had been able to truly see their adversaries and evaluate their strengths, their weaknesses, and their needs, they would have understood that the Jews are can not be destroyed by being terrorized and persecuted. They have become virtually immune to it. Instead of attacking the Israelis physically, they would target the Jewish soul – the Jewish need for truth and justice – and watch how fast change happens.
And the reverse is also true. To successfully communicate and compromise with the Palestinian people, what should the Israelis be focusing on?
Like all agricultural societies, the Palestinians are emotionally attached to their land. Essentially, the Palestinians’ sense of security, identity and pride are as embedded in that soil as their crops and the grazing land for their animals. Israel must buy that land one way or another. It must give the Palestinians an alternative for the land they lost or there will never be peace in the Middle East.
Let us stop looking for who is right and who is wrong. Why the Palestinians lost their land, how they lost their land, are no longer relevant. Let us look for what will work, for a change.
Here is my suggestion: Israel should first accept and acknowledge the principle that it is willing to pay for the land it “occupied,” or “liberated,” or “settled.” Something must be offered to replace the land that was lost. Israel could put several billion dollars into an escrow account for Palestinians who once owned property in what is now Israel, and make those funds available for the building of another home, or buying land, or opening a business. In determining the amount of the payment, a generous sum should be allocated for the years in which the former owners were forced to be without their land and the fruits of their land. Precautions should be made that none of this money will end up to buy weapons to attack Israel.
This is without admitting any guilt or responsibility for the plight of the Palestinians. It should be an offering as a sign of good will.
Either Israel brings the standard of living of the Palestinians closer to its own or its standards are going to go down to the present standards the Palestinians have .
Many Israelis are now arguing that Arafat should be expelled from the region. In their view, it is Arafat who is responsible for the inability of Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas (also known as Abu Mazen) to rein in Hamas and other terrorist organizations and to use his office effectively.
Currently both the Israeli and United States governments refuse to deal with Arafat: President George W. Bush famously said in a speech last June that “peace requires a new and different Palestinian leadership … not compromised by terror.”
But the wisdom of this policy is contradicted by the Adizes concept of CAPI. It does not make sense.
Arafat is there to stay. For good or for bad, he was legitimately elected, and therefore he must be dealt with. Period. You deal with the people you have to deal with, not those you like to deal with.
How would the Israeli react if Palestinian leaders refused to talk to “the murderer Sharon” and are willing only to negotiate with Yossi Sarid? The Israelis would consider it an outrage. Or, closer to home, how would we have liked it if during the Cold War the Russians announced that they refused to talk to the elected President of the United States and would only talk to, say, George Mc Govern?
We would have been outraged, wouldn’t we? “How dare they dictate or deny our democratic process?” we would have demanded.
Let us not forget that it was the United States that insisted on democratic elections in the Palestinian territories. The result was that Arafat was elected president of the Palestinian Authority. How can we now refuse to deal with him? In essence, by refusing to negotiate with him, we are demonstrating that although we believe in democratic principles for ourselves, we feel free to reject a democratically elected leader in other nations.
It is obvious that among the Palestinians, Arafat has the power. And it should be just as obvious that you cannot solve any serious problem by keeping the power out. (And by the way, killing him will not reduce his power; on the contrary, it would transform him from a leader into a martyr, thus solidifying and institutionalizing his power forever.)
So I believe it is time to acknowledge that we must deal with him, whether we like it or not.
Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro)
The situation here is very bad. When Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic was murdered last March, I believed that the long-term clash of power between the Serbian government and the powerful Mafias , would finally be resolved. The assassination, I thought, would at least serve as an effective pretext for the government to lock the mafia in prison, eliminate its power base, and take full power.
And this clash of government and mafia is not unique to Yugoslavia. When the communist regime collapsed, and new democratic institutions did not take control of the situation, the mafia walked into the power vacuum. It happened in Russia , Hungary, everywhere. Putin is trying hard to control the mafia and gain control for the legitimate government. And that is what should have happened in Yugoslavia.
The mafia had protected and supported Djindjic in his battle for power against Milosevic. But when he came to power, Djindjic did not return any favors. Not only did he refuse to allow the mafia to dictate any of his policies, but his administration began offering better protection to people who could testify against mafia members in court.
So the mafia killed him – or so I believe. And at the time, I thought that Djindjic’s assassination was such an outrage that his successor would finally have the will, the rationale, and the force to end this unholy alliance between the mafia and the government. Finally, the mafia’s power and influence in Yugoslavia could be reduced if not erased.
I was wrong. That is not what happened. The mafia was deeply engaged not only with Djinjdic but also with other government functionaries. And it is beginning to look as if Djindjic’s own government wanted him gone as much as the mafia did.
Thousands were interrogated after the murder. A few dozen were charged. Only four, I believe, have been sentenced for crimes related to the assassination – and the sentences were light. It’s clear that the alliance mafia-and some government power centers- is still alive and well.
As a result, Yugoslavia’s privatization process is in fact a fixed game, in which those with government and mafia connections get what they want at the cheapest price, and everybody else loses.
The country is on its knees. It’s not easy to see it outright because one is fooled by the busy, crowded restaurants. But in Serbia, restaurants play a therapeutic role. The more pain and tension people feel, the quicker they head to the neighborhood restaurant for some drinks and a heavy meal..
For a long time I have been quite pessimistic about Macedonia. Between 1993 and 1995, while consulting to the Prime Minister there, I tried to persuade him to accept the notion of a multi-ethnic society. It is inevitable anyway, I said: over time, the Slavic Macedonians are bound to become a minority, because of the demographics of the Albanian Macedonians. The same thing happened in Kosovo: in the 1940s there were only 40,000 Albanians in Kosovo; now there are two million. “We will win in bed!” was a well-known Kosovar war cry.
But ten years ago, a multi-ethnic society was unacceptable to Macedonians. They wanted a Macedonian state with an Albanian minority. Over and over again, I tried to explain that if Macedonia were located in Arizona, then the Albanians would be a national minority. But Macedonia is not in Arizona; it is in the heart of the Balkans, where, to the north, there are two million Albanians in Kosovo; to the west, in Albania, there are more than three million; and in Greece, to the south, there may be as many as 750,000 Albanian immigrants.
So who is the real minority? Turn on the television and surf the channels, and you can see for yourself who is in the minority and who is in the majority. Legal boundaries are weak arbiters of a state when travel, television, and telecommunications make those boundaries so porous. In those contexts, the Albanians are the largest population of southeastern Europe. ( Same problem with the Arabs in Israel.)
On this visit, I saw a significant change. Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski is truly trying to promote a multi-ethnic society. One enormous step in the right direction was to approve as the country’s official languages both Macedonian and Albanian. This means that school can be taught in both languages, and that the Macedonian court system will also be bilingual.
This creates a lot of hardship for the Macedonians, who do not speak Albanian, while most Albanians do speak Macedonian. There is a similar state of affairs in Israel, where both Arabic and Hebrew are recognized languages but where Israelis do not generally learn to speak Arabic, while Arabs, the minority population, learn Hebrew in order to navigate the alien culture. If, in a courtroom, both the judge and the defendant’s attorney are Arabs, and the prosecutor is Israeli, the Israeli will be at a disadvantage: when Arabic is being spoken he is out of the loop, while when he speaks Hebrew the other two understand what he is saying.
In both Macedonia and Israel, the disadvantage stems from the majority population’s inability or unwillingness to recognize that they do, in fact, live in a multi-ethnic society. That recognition is not a matter of lip service, some kind of polite concession to the smaller segment of the population. It has consequences, which will become larger and more serious with time.
A lot of hard work has been done to prepare for the 2004 Summer Olympics, to be held in Athens: the airport has been modernized and expanded, as have highways into the city. But you can’t help noticing that there’s been little attention to the details – which is typical of an extremely (E)-oriented culture like Greece.
For example: the airport is one long, long building – with hundreds of check-in counters to accommodate a huge number of international airlines. But where are the signs to direct you to the appropriate counter? In Los Angeles, as soon as you walk into the building you find signs and arrows that display the location of each airline’s counter. At the Athens airport, however, those signs are missing.
This “detail,” apparently forgotten or dismissed as unnecessary by the airport’s planners, means that travelers will be unable to find their way around without asking for help. I had to ask several people for directions to the counter I needed, and it was obvious that the people I queried had heard these same questions hundreds of times before – and were extremely tired of it.
In my lectures (as well as in my books), I compare the task of redirecting an organization’s mission to trying to change the direction of a motor boat. What is the best way to do it? “If you want to change direction in a motor boat,” I tell people, “it doesn’t work to stand on the deck and shout, ‘Left! Left! Left!’ Nothing is going to happen until you increase the power of the engine on the right and decrease the power on the left.”
In Brazil, the inauguration of left-wing President Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva last January seemed to herald a huge political change for the country from the policies of its outgoing president Enrique Cardozo. But during my visit there, I could discern no significant changes in the country.
Why not? Because the engines of the motor boat called Brazil are frozen; thus, no matter what you pledge or promise, or how much you stand on the deck shouting and pleading, the boat continues on its set course.
In the case of Brazil, what is “frozen” are the government’s expenditures. In order to cut the cost of government, a constitutional amendment would be necessary – which would require a majority vote. The problem is that unless the situation there becomes desperate, there is little chance of organizing enough government representatives for such a majority consensus.
My forecast for Brazil: There will be no economical reform in Brazil until the economy destabilizes to the point of obvious crisis. Until then, expect a steady worsening of the situation, with no serious solutions being offered.