Cities of Refuge

Amidst all the violence engulfing the middle east and threatening other areas, there is a unique opportunity. There is an opportunity to make the world a fundamentally better place.

To illustrate this, let us start with a story.

There was once a small city. It was on the edge of a great and historic land. The people who lived in it came from that land, but the people who ruled it came from another place altogether. They were appointed by an Empire. That Empire, through reputation and military might, both protected and ruled the city. But like many old and established empires, those they represented had grown tired of ruling other people. They were tired of the cost. And they found the threat of force, for material and military gain, distasteful. It was, in a phrase, the application of human life for an unworthy cause.

And so they decided to do something else. They decided to rule this small city – not for their own benefit, but for the benefit of the people who lived there. In seeking to do this, they brought with them foreign ideas; ideas about progress, development, the rule of law and property rights.

And then, after decades of simmering fires, the great and historic land their small city abutted was engulfed in the flames of ideological self-destruction. That great had faded, and its loss of confidence, self-respect and pride had finally hollowed it out so completely that it collapsed. Millions died.

And the refugees began to flood in. At the peak, one hundred thousand people a month came. The population ballooned by over one and half million people in just a few years. But the city did not recognize them as refugees. They had to make their own way and the challenge of doing so filtered out those who did not truly desire a chance to lead lives of opportunity and struggle and fulfillment within the rules of that little city.

Those who came didn’t entirely leave their ideological battles at the door. 8,000 bombs – 1,000 of them real and 7,000 duds – were cleared by police. But the population boom and the ideals that drove the government of that little city turned it into an economic and cultural dynamo.

It didn’t happen all at once. People were poor. The products they made, at first, were low quality. But the best and the brightest and the most motivated of all that great neighboring land’s people came. And they made that little city a big city and an important city.

That city kept growing. And then something wonderful happened. Its ideas began to infect that neighboring territory. Of course, initially, not all of the ideas made the leap. First went the economic ones. The victors in the ideological war that had engulfed the great land recognized that their power was protected when people were economically satisfied. But as that economic satisfaction grew, the pressure to deliver more of the values of that little city grew and grew.

It is still unclear whether the great land will be altogether converted. But that little city, with its protections and its ideas, changed the lives of many people who have never stepped foot in it.

The name of the city? Hong Kong.

The name of the great land? China.

This story is relevant to us today. The Middle East is dominated by a civilization in the throes of ideological warfare. There are those in the surrounding society who want just what those Chinese who went to Hong Kong desired – a chance to lead a life of creation and fulfillment. In fact, Israel is surrounded by people on all sides who face this harsh reality: Egyptians, Palestinians under Hamas and the PA, Arab refugees of the Islamic Wars and Africans. All threatened by societies that are ripping themselves apart.

Our best inclinations are to take these people in. But we recognize that opening a door would open a floodgate. Our values would be subsumed. Britain didn’t open the door either.

But we do want to do something. And, we do want the Arab world transformed from a hollowed and faded culture to a glorious and productive one. And we do want people who are willing to live within a system of laws and productivity and peace to have a chance to do so.

Recent surveys have indicated the government Palestinians admire more than any other is Israel’s. Surely some portion of those people want the kind of society they see next door.

So we should imitate Britain. Perhaps a section of the Golan Heights, a small section of Gaza or even a portion of Lebanon could be specially delegated as the  Hong Kong of the Middle East. This would be a place not for top-down sheik-based spending like Dubai, but a place for the bottom-up organic growth of something new and positive. Border controls could be established and immigration procedures created. I’m sure the Western, Israeli or Jordanian intelligence agencies have a pretty good idea of which clans and people would be friendly. Perhaps no clans at all would be admitted; only individuals and individual families – atomized to integrate with a new world and a new system.

The masses would come. They would be required to renounce any claims to refugee status. And they would be able to settle in the little city state. We would defend it. We would govern it – at least at first. This is to ensure that the ideas of the Islamic State or Hezbullah aren’t imported. We want to create a society that reinforces the cycle of creation, connection and protection – ideas that can be shared another time.

But the city would be open to those fleeing from the chaos of the region.

In the book of Devarim (Deuteronomy), the Jewish people are commanded to welcome foreign slaves and resettle them. Why? I believe it is because escapees from slavery and oppression are often the most promising and ambitious of people. They have high potential and we have an obligation to help them realize it.

There was an infamous book published in the early 90s. Called the Bell Curve, it divided ethic groups by their IQs. Near the very top were the Chinese. A later study revealed that while Chinese in the U.S. have very high IQs, those in China are totally normal. The most capable escaped the oppression of Maoist China and they skewed the numbers.

To leave the Arab world’s escapees stuck in their collapsing civilization is to condemn their potential to rot. The Potentialist Party believes we have an obligation to help

The fact is, left and right, we want peace with those who want peace with us. This is a way to filter them from amongst our neighbors. And this is a way to draw the best and the brightest and the most productive from being coerced into supporting the radical groups and regimes which threaten the world, and all moderates in the region.

There would be difficulties – just like the 8,000  bombs in Hong Kong – but in the main the people who come here could be drafted into the task of keeping those with nefarious intentions under control. They came for a reason and they can help defend their own ambitions.

The idea is not new.

Early in the Syrian Civil War, Israeli officials openly discussed contingency plans to settle the Alawites on the Golan Heights. It might have been intended to make Assad look like an Israeli ally. I would like to think it was a serious offer. It was a good idea then and it remains so now.

Thousands of years ago, the Tao of War discussed a road to peace. It involved ruling well, so that your enemies’ populations would defect without the use of arms. It did not suggest giving power to those people – just ruling them well. And it had worked.

Perhaps, over time, such a city, governed by us, could grow and acquire increasing autonomy. Perhaps it could, unlike Hong Kong, acquire full self-rule. Perhaps, over time, it could undermine the ideology of destruction in the name of faith that are increasingly dominating the great Arab lands. Perhaps it could be an example of a better way – not just here but anywhere there is oppression and conflict.


But even if the Arab world is not slowly transformed, the act would be one of kindness and protection and, ultimately, honor to G-d and evidence of our moral values.

We will never make peace with the dedicated terrorists of the Middle East – but we need not go to war to undermine them and their kind –and to open a route to a better future.

Let us make peace with those who will make peace with us.