Palestinian Hamas and the Abraham Federation: Key to Peace through Justice in the Holy Land
Posted May 31, 2010

Palestinian Hamas and the Abraham Federation: Key to Peace through Justice in the Holy Land

by Dr. Robert D. Crane

      Many explicitly religious organizations, like the Center for Understanding Islam, properly have avoided taking any specific position on any political issue since they were formed many years ago.  Their purpose is to provide moral guidelines based on divine revelation as understood by the classical scholars of these religions over the centuries.  Their self-imposed jurisdiction is to warn against anything un-Jewish or un-Islamic or un-Christian, especially if it is simply counter-productive, that any persons of faith do or threaten to do for specifically religious purposes.

      A battle has been raging among Islamic scholars for three years within the legitimately elected Palestinian government over the issue of when resort to violence violates the just war doctrine detailed in normative Islam law, the maqasid al shari’ah.  Palestinian Hamas was founded in 1983 as a non-violent and spiritually inspired movement to counter the self-defeating secular and violent nationalism of the PLO.  Elements of this original movement have been provoked, perhaps deliberately, starting during the first intifada in 1987, to violate its founding rationale and principles.

      As part of the worldwide demonstrations against the Israeli IDF’s interception of a peace flotilla on May 31, 2010, people of faith, Muslims, Jews, and Christians, should support the peace movement within Hamas, led by President Isma’il Hanifa and his Deputy Foreign Minister Ahmad Yousef.  Minister Yousef was one of the two founders of Hamas in 1983 and would be a logical choice to head a Palestinian unity movement in support of an Abrahamic Federation of the Holy Land, perhaps preceded by a strictly limited “two-state” preparatory stage.

      Many radical Israelis and radical Palestinians seek exclusivist sovereignty for themselves based on religion, which is a denial of the most elemental human responsibilities and human rights.  Others seek exclusivist secular sovereignty based on alleged race and ethnicity, which would be even more illegal and dangerous than a Jewish state or a so-called “Islamic state”.  This is why an Abrahamic Federation, as spelled out in on August 25, 2002 and pasted below in Norman Kurland’s article, “The Abraham Federation: A New Framework for Peace in the Middle East”, would be the only pragmatically feasible way for the peoples of the Holy Land to provide a model for the world.

      The first step toward such a goal was stated by Greta Berlin, spokeswoman for the flotilla organizers, as follows on May 31, 2010, during the IDF attack:

“The State of Israel promised in the Oslo Accords 17 years ago to enable and encourage the establishment of a deep water port in Gaza, through which Palestinians could import and export freely to develop their economy.  It’s time to realize this commitment and open the Port of Gaza.  Only after the Gaza port will be open to free and undisturbed movement, just like the Ashdod and Haifa ports, will Israel really have disengaged from the Gaza Strip. Until then, the world will continue - and rightly so - to consider the Gaza Strip under Israeli occupation and the State of Israel as responsible for the fate of the people living there”.

      The strategic goal for peace through justice in the Middle East was stated by President Barack Obama twice during the week preceding the IDF attack on the peace flotilla.  The first anniversary of this new American global strategy comes later this week on Friday, five days after the attack, a potential watershed date when President Obama on June 4, 2009, presented his strategy of peace through justice in Cairo.

      President Obama’s call for peace through transcendent justice, rather than for peace in reliance on material power, implicitly acknowledged that he cannot escape the power of those whose only goal is power unless his supporters continue to support him. 

      He managed to give his remarkable Cairo speech despite the firm resistance of practically everyone in his Administration.  He had to bulldoze his way to even mention the word justice in this first major foreign policy address to the world.  Six times the speechwriters took the word justice out of the carefully managed speech, but each time he put in back in.  When he read the final version of the speech on the flight to Cairo he found that again the word justice had been deleted, so without prior clearance he put it back in with spades by using the word seven times.

Ten days ago, on May 22nd, at the Westpoint graduation ceremonies he issued another revolutionary call for justice as the framework for American policy, both domestic and foreign.  Although he focused on the role of the military, he made it clear that “we will be stronger if the world is just”, and he spoke of an “international order of liberty and justice”. 

Perhaps he has concluded that he must introduce a new paradigm before he can move the ship of state to follow up through action.  The paradigm of justice calls for pursuing justice as the route to order, and not the other way around.  The justice paradigm warns that attempts baldly to impose order produce only more disorder and make justice impossible.

On May 29th, only two days before the IDF attack on the peace flotilla, President Obama released a 52-page National Security Strategy paper, as required by Congress, in which he reiterated several times the main points of his Westpoint address.  He pointedly rejected George W. Bush’s focus on counter-terrorism as the organizing principle of security policy.  He pointedly avoided the use of the word “Islamic” anywhere in this 52-page paper and stated that “efforts to counter violent extremism are only one element of our strategic environment and cannot define America’s engagement with the world.”

In his personal introduction to the document, President Obama wrote that, “Our long-term security will come not from our ability to instill fear in other peoples, but through our capacity to speak to their hopes.” 

The document on its first page noted that in recent times “inequality and economic instability have intensified” as threats to “the universal aspiration for freedom and dignity.”  He called for “renewing American leadership” through “moral example” and stated that, “The most effective way for the United States of America to promote our values is to live them”.

President Obama’s first formal national security report called for the pursuit of “enlightened self-interest” through “an international order based on rights and responsibilities”.  Most significantly it stated, “We recognize economic opportunity as a human right”.  In Islamic teachings this is possible in the modern capital-intensive world only by removing the institutional barriers to broadened capital ownership, so that every person as a basic human right would have access to earnings both from wages and from profit dividends.

President Obama emphasized throughout his first national security report the importance of never compromising American values in the pursuit of security.  “Our struggle to remain true to our values and Constitution” he said, “has always been a lodestar, both to the American people and to those who share our aspiration for human dignity, … for if we compromise our values in pursuit of security we will undermine both.”

Perhaps the most important single statement was his promise and call for global justice: “Our engagement will underpin a just and sustainable order – just because it advances mutual interests, protects the rights of all, and holds accountable those who refuse to meet their responsibilities; sustainable because it is based on broadly shared norms and fosters collective action to address common challenges”.

How can Muslims best change the perception of Islam in the West and therefore best promote peace through justice?  First of all, they must address the goal of so-called “grand strategy”, as does President Obama, which is to manage the paradigms of thought that shape history.  Muslims by heritage are well equipped to shape paradigmatic thought because historically Islamic scholars have developed justice into a framework ideally suited for the modern world, even though Islamdom often has not practiced it any better than has any other civilization.

Secondly, Muslims can change the perception of Islam by helping to renew America.  Lobbying for Muslim interests or simply attacking attacks on Islam and Muslims will not spread better understanding of Islam, even though such lobbying is necessary.  Policymakers and their advisers will listen to Muslims only if Muslims can contribute to pursuing what is best for America’s enlightened interests.  They can best do so by working with the visionary American leaders, like President Barack Obama, to carry out their visions. 

We can change the perception of Islam, and indeed of all religions, in the pursuit of peace only by rehabilitating the essence and practice of religion not as the cause of injustice, but as the only cure.  In politics, visionary leaders can overcome the seemingly insuperable obstacles and barriers of special interests only if and to the extent that Muslims, Christians, and Jews cooperate in solidarity to turn the essential vision of all religions into reality, in sha’a Allah.

There are ways to do so, but they all require transcendent vision.  Below is the most ambitious of them all, because it can apply all over the world.

The Abraham Federation: A New Framework for Peace in the Middle East
Norman G. Kurland
Center for Economic & Social Justice

Posted Aug 25, 2002


On September 11, 2001, Jihad came to America.  A global terrorist network extended its deadly outreach beyond Israelis in the West Bank and Israel to over 3,000 Americans and people from over 80 other countries trapped in the World Trade Center and Pentagon - two icons of America’s unparalleled global military and financial power.  This violation of America’s homeland security cannot be disconnected from America’s leading role, along with its World War II allies, in the birth of Israel as a westernized “Jewish state.”  1947 marked the UN’s “two state” solution to dividing up the former British-mandated territory of Palestine.  To America and the West, their influence in creating a homeland for displaced Jewish survivors of the Holocaust was morally justified.  To Palestinian settlers and Arab neighboring states in the Middle East, Western military and financial power was being used to jam “Political Zionism” and morally confused Western values down the throats of a predominantly Muslim world. 

There have been three major wars in 1948, 1967 and 1973 between Israel and its Arab neighbors, interspersed by periodic Palestinian rebellions against the existence of a “Jewish state.”  Is it possible that the original formulation for a two-state solution was, in the face of the so-called “clash of civilizations,” morally and systemically flawed from the outset? 

Western handouts and charity are no longer sufficient to stop the breeding of terrorists.  Conventional military power is necessary in this battle but it also is not sufficient.  And conventional approaches to economic development have been counter-productive in winning the hearts and minds of people who feel victimized by global capitalism and betrayed by the false promises of socialism.

Pope Paul VI advised us, “If you want Peace, work for Justice.”  Ultimately it is superior moral force that will uproot terrorism at its source.  More humanizing free enterprise principles of economic and social justice,  must lead conventional sources of Western power in formulating a new, more comprehensive vision and launching a more effective strategy for achieving lasting peace in “the Holy Land.” 

Such a strategy, most would agree, must center on resolving the historic “zero-sum game” land disputes between Palestinians and Israelis.  The urgency of this need was underscored since September 11th by President Bush’s courageous call for a global “War on Terrorism.” 

The war declared by President Bush is properly aimed at defeating a well-organized network of fanatics and suicide terrorists indoctrinated with a perverted interpretation of Islamic principles of justice and a distorted conspiratorial view of the root causes of their rage.  Fueled by perceived victimization by Western ?infidels? and Western support of a Jewish state in the Middle East, terrorism in months following September 11th escalated into increasingly grotesque displays of barbarism.  Many in the Islamic world, including mothers whose children were turned into human bombs, glorify the “culture of death” that continues to take the lives of innocent Israeli men, women and children as well as Palestinians considered ‘traitors’ for opposing terrorism.  The moral and spiritual roots of that Jihad continue to baffle Western and Islamic scholars and were only partially addressed by the otherwise excellent “Arab Human Development Report 2002” commissioned by the United Nations. 

This paper will make a case against outdated land-for-peace proposals for negotiating future control over the Holy Land, as under the Oslo Agreement.  It will also make a case, on moral grounds, that the initial rush to recognize a ?Palestinian State? by the US State Department and many European leaders, though well-intentioned, is unlikely to achieve a lasting peace through justice for Palestinians, Israelis and other persons living in the disputed territories.  Who wants to be a non-Jew in a ‘Jewish state’, a non-Muslim in an ‘Islamic state’, a non-Christian in a ‘Christian state’ ? or, for that matter, a Jew in a ‘Palestinian state’?  On the other hand, President Bush’s recent call to the Palestinian people to select new, more democratically responsible leaders was a wise move.  It buys some time for President Bush and his advisors to explore new ‘Peace through Justice’ strategies that can stir the hearts and minds of Palestinians as well as Israelis.  What is needed now is a much bolder vision to stop terrorism and bring all parties into a new framework to begin negotiating beyond zero-sum politics.

What was missing in past peace initiatives to bring justice and stability to the Holy Land?  Are there new approaches to nation building that could turn hate into hope and rage into creative outlets for those who see themselves victimized by Western military and financial might?  Can the future be guided by the unifying moral values of the American Revolution and the redemptive spirit of such visionary world leaders as Abraham Lincoln, Anwar Sadat and Nelson Mandela?  Is there a way for leaders like President Bush to harness the moral power of the West to begin to heal the wounds of perceived injustices and inspire the development of a new socio-economic model for sustaining peace through justice for all?

To address the previous questions, we should focus on whether “self-determination” and justice can be achieved for persons of all faiths and persuasions wanting to occupy the same land.  How can this be done without Israel’s jeopardizing its own security during the transition toward a comprehensive Middle East peace settlement?  Once the Israeli military withdraws to the borders of Israel, what arrangements will secure the lives of Jewish settlers who, for religious reasons, want to remain and become citizens of a new nation-state on the West Bank?

There is a way. The answer lies in building a new model nation-state based on a radically new ‘inclusionary’ process of nation building, where economic justice would become the basis of social and political justice in the daily lives of each citizen.  It would offer a modern fulfillment of the biblical concept of ‘Jubilee’ , but instead of redistributing land, a finite resource, the new nation would redistribute future opportunities for every citizen to become an owner of land and whatever can be built upon the land.  Under an ‘economic bill of rights’ every citizen would gain equal access to future ownership opportunities, guaranteeing a level playing field in citizen participation as property owners in future economic growth and profit sharing.  By decentralizing access to economic power and economic independence, citizens would control government, not vice versa.  Everyone’s faith, spiritual life and political beliefs would then be respected and guaranteed by the rule of law.  National ‘sovereignty’ would be built from the ground-up, based on securing the inherent sovereignty of every individual and the sanctity of the family unit.  With “ownership-sharing” economics surpassing politics in the daily lives of its citizens, economic power would be widely diffused and the power of the state would be subordinated to the power of the people.

The following proposal, first offered in 1978, is just as timely now as it was then, perhaps more so.

Finding Common Ground

Is it conceivable to create a new country in the Middle East that accommodates Arabs and Israelis? Could a new state be structured to avoid becoming either a ‘Palestinian State’, or an ‘Islamic State’, or a ‘Jewish state’, or simply an extension of Israel or any bordering Arab state? Could such a state offer a new form of sovereignty to stir the hearts and dreams of Arabs and Jews in new ways? Could it avoid, on the one hand, the anarchy, tyranny and injustices of other states in the world, and, on the other, the totalitarian regimes and genocidal societies from which Jews escaped to what is now Israel?

In short, could a new country be created that could guarantee peace through justice for all?

The idea for a new country may first seem far-fetched. But with a re-examination of the conflict, it becomes surprisingly workable. And with the added boost of a new economic base, namely, ownership sharing linked to creating new resources rather than quarreling over existing ones, the idea of a new nation becomes downright irresistible.

Let’s look at the problem.

The present Arab-Israeli dispute over land, particularly the major impasse over the West Bank occupied by Israeli forces since June 1967, is a classic illustration of a “zero-sum” game. In a zero-sum game, one side can gain only at the other’s expense, or in other words, a win-or-lose situation.

The two sides have fought over this land for centuries. The land is holy to three major religions. It is the symbolic crossroads of the world community as it is strategically set between the East and the West, as well as the North and the South. Everyone, therefore, has a stake in a peaceful and just resolution of the dispute ? not just Palestinians and Israelis.

Two obviously important points must be faced before we consider the creation of a new nation. First, present hostilities must not be ignored. This should be obvious. But any new approach would rest on political quicksand unless it recognized existing hatreds and fears of Jews and Arabs, as well as their legitimate hopes and aspirations. To overcome these hostilities to the point where Arabs and Jews can work out their differences, we must look to the past for a common bond.

The Point of Reunification: Abraham

Arabs and Jews have a point of unity both can understand: Abraham, the Old Testament patriarch.

Arabs trace their ancestry to Abraham through Ishmael, whom he fathered through his wife’s servant Hagar.  Jews trace their bloodlines to Abraham through his son Isaac and grandson Jacob, who, according to the Bible, God later renamed Israel. The name “Abraham” literally means “father of many nations.” Having once separated the descendants of Ishmael from the children of Israel, 3,800 years later, Abraham could fulfill the biblical prophecy not only of their unification but also of the eventual unification and harmony of all nations and peoples.

Symbols of the past often serve as useful symbols for charting new futures. A new federation of the spiritual and blood descendants of Abraham could offer a radically new political framework for taking small steps in a new direction. Thus, rather appropriately, the new nation could be named the “Abraham Federation.”

With this philosophical common thread, the question is: Where do we start? The answer is: In the historic region of Judea and Samaria, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, where Arab and Jewish settlements exist today under Israeli military control.

Although some Arabs would dispute the legitimacy of all Israeli-occupied territory, the Israeli military has the power to maintain law and order over all areas it now patrols. Despite the intifada and mounting international pressures on Israel, this reality is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future, although easy diffusion of modern military technology, now including weapons of mass destruction, among Arab guerrillas and their allies make a military status quo uneasy at best.

The main obstacle to peace, in this author’s view, is not the Israeli military or the deep-seated Holocaust fears which justify in the minds of most Israelis the continued Israeli military presence on the land where the Abraham Federation could be created. Rather, the deeper issue is whether a more just society can be conceived, which will eventually allow the Israeli military presence to “wither away” and be replaced by US and international security forces during the transition to a viable Abraham Federation at peace with all its neighbors, including Israel.

Some occupied territory under Israeli control, is now open to negotiation for a new status, at least as a foothold for a more comprehensive, longer-term strategy in the future for the entire Middle East.

The biblical region of Judea and Samaria ,the West Bank (with extensions Gaza and other areas covered by the Oslo Agreement), could provide that foothold. It includes Bethlehem, Hebron and the surrounding mountain region west of the Jordan River. It also encompasses Jerusalem, which deserves special handling, perhaps serving in the transition period as the capital of the new nation-state as well as present Israel.  Jerusalem could even be designated by the UN as a special ?global capital,? to be administered by spiritual leaders of all faiths and policed by security guards under the authority of the Security Council of the UN.

The new beginning would go beyond the demeaning “autonomy” proposals of the Israeli Likud Party. It would be less threatening to Jewish settlers than the Labor Party’s “land-for-peace” proposals. And it would offer a radically more just future for all Palestinians than what they are now demanding.

If a new beginning can be made in the West Bank and Gaza, with a free transit corridor linking the two areas, a more comprehensive regional approach could later be negotiated, based on the success of the new Abraham Federation model.

The New Nation’s Unique Economy

As a testing ground for a new nation, today’s West Bank and Gaza would be transformed into a laboratory for dynamic “win-win” economic change, allowing revolutionary change in the economic culture to precede final change in the political culture.  In other words, economic empowerment would become the foundation for effective political empowerment in the lives of the people.  A basic premise of the new economic culture is the rejection of artificial and unproven assumptions of scarcity, which could be overcome if West Bank and Gaza residents would work together within a value-driven free enterprise system to create new wealth that could be traded globally, with profits and ownership shared more equitably. This would shift the primary focus of thinking from how to divide scarce resources of the past, to planning the “open growth frontier” being created by modern science, technology and global production and marketing systems.  A second premise for rapid growth is that moral values must be infused at all levels and within all institutions of the economic process.

Land, of course, is finite. But as the philosopher-design scientist R. Buckminster Fuller pointed out, creative energy can be channeled into what he called “ephemeralization,” the process of doing-more-with-less. This entails continuing re-design of existing technologies, structures, and even social “tools” like money, tax systems and global corporations and financial institutions. 

By introducing the world’s most sophisticated technologies (particularly in energy and food production) and redesigning methods of participatory ownership, Arab and Jewish settlers could transcend their competing exclusive claims to the “Holy Land.” They could complement each other’s existing strength’s and potentials: Jewish settlement experience and advanced energy and agricultural technologies, Arab financing, and Palestinian self-assertion and drive.

Neither Capitalism Nor Socialism

Guidelines for constructing this model for peace in the Middle East involve a radical departure from traditional industrial development. Neither capitalism nor socialism is adequate for building a successful economy for the Abraham Federation. Neither combines maximum justice with maximum efficiency. Both ignore the need for building economic sovereignty into each citizen. Both leave ownership and control of modern technology, natural resources and business enterprises to a ruling few.

To avoid these dangers, the Abraham Federation would neither own property nor permit future monopolies over the ownership of the means of production. This principle alone would make ‘sovereignty’ in the Abraham Federation uniquely distinct from any nation in history.

The Abraham Federation would recognize that sovereignty connotes power and only human beings, not abstract ‘collectives’, can exercise power.  The major issue to be addressed in a democratic world is which people will exercise what kinds of power, either directly, jointly in association with others, or by delegation.

Escape from the “Wage System”

On August 3, 1987 President Ronald Reagan received the report of the bipartisan Presidential Commission on Project Economic Justice, which, among other recommendations, advocated expanded capital ownership as a new cornerstone for the future of US economic policy, domestically and globally.  President Reagan then declared, “I’ve long believed one of the mainsprings of our own liberty has been the widespread ownership of property among our people and the expectation that anyone’s child, even from the humblest of families, could grow up to own a business or corporation”.  Citing President Lincoln’s Homestead Act as the historic precedent for the economic development proposals of Project Economic Justice, President Reagan observed, “A mightier guarantee of freedom is difficult to imagine”.

In a society where all power is supposed to rest with the people, economic sovereignty must start at the individual and family level. Since, in the words of Daniel Webster, “power follows property”, if political power is to reside in the people, property must be spread broadly. The best antidote to concentrated power and monopolies is to empower all citizens through decentralized ownership of all of society’s enterprises. Only then can those who run government and other social institutions be held accountable to the people. Such an economically classless society would be comprised of highly autonomous, interdependent property owners, capable of associating with other “sovereign” individuals for their mutual interests. Genuine economic democratization is thus the ultimate check on the potential abuse of state power, and on abuses by the majority against highly vulnerable minority groups and individuals.

What is common to all of today’s economies are legal, financial and other institutional barriers that prevent the average worker and his family from escaping from the status of a worker-for-hire and becoming a capital owner.  If he is lucky a worker can get a job under a feudalistic “wage system.”  If he’s not, he must turn to charity or welfare, an institutional form of charity.  In any event, most workers live from hand-to-mouth.  The non-owning worker is powerless and defenseless against advancing technology and those who control his jobs and income levels.  His economic security remains vulnerable to labor-saving technology or workers in the global labor market who are willing to do the same work at lower wages.  Having no ownership stake in modern wealth-producing assets, most workers never gain access to the economic freedom, independence and entrepreneurial opportunities vital to a dynamic free market economy.  Under such an exclusionary market system the few are free to own and the many are free to work for them or go hungry.

Policy Pillars of a Free and Just Market Economy

The Abraham Federation would offer an economic and legal system based on (1) private property in the means of production, (2) free and competitive markets for determining just prices, just wages and just profits, and (3) a well-defined and limited economic role of the state.  But the constitution and laws of the new nation would also be structured to (4) guarantee each citizen with an equal opportunity to become an owner of productive assets.  In my opinion, each of these four basic pillars of a genuinely ?free and just market system? are essential and interdependent for creating an environment for sustainable and balanced growth.  They build moral values into the economic environment, without which free markets become unjust and unfree markets.  Take one away and the system will become unbalanced, vulnerable to corruption, monopolies and special privileges, and wasteful of human potential.  By integrating these four policy objectives, the tax system and the money-creating powers of the state would be designed so that every citizen has equal access to ?social tools? (like a simple and just tax system, a stable asset-backed currency and an ownership-spreading productive credit system ) to acquire and accumulate enough productive assets to meet his or her living needs upon retirement.

In a national ownership-sharing program, citizens would become co-owners of land. In addition they would accumulate and receive dividends and property incomes from direct equity ownership in new technologies, agribusinesses, rentable space and infrastructure built upon the land, and industries.  Moreover, by the systematic spreading and sharing of ownership power, one of the basic conditions for any future Holocausts and breeding grounds for terrorists, alienation of large numbers of workers, would gradually disappear.

The Vehicle for Change: A National “Capital Homesteading” Strategy

Why should a national “Capital Homesteading” strategy capture the attention of those now residing on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip? The answer lies in the fact that the universal right to own property (Article 17 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights) is frustrated systematically by every nation today. This is especially the case within modern industrial societies where less than 1 percent of their citizens directly own and control most of the industrial capital.

The key to economic justice is widespread individual access to technologically advanced agricultural, industrial, and commercial enterprises and the means to finance them. Fortunately, precedents are now well established for creating new enterprises, with skilled management and advanced technologies, whose ownership is shared by all employees.

In the United States, over 10,000 companies with a total of over 10 million employees have adopted employee stock ownership plans or “ESOPs,” 1,500 of which are majority-owned by their employees. Most of these have been adopted since 1972.  Employees with no savings or credit have used an ESOP to become owners of their companies ? in some cases with up to 100 percent of equity participation.  There are some cases where the ESOP did not work, and many cases where ESOPs are not living up to their potential.  This happens when management and labor fail to create a value-based culture that respects the property rights as well as the ownership responsibilities of worker-owners.  However, the most successful ESOP companies are world exemplars of ‘Value-Based Management’, a leadership philosophy that incorporates social justice in corporate management.  More widespread encouragement by lawyers, accountants and consultants of this leadership model, in my opinion, would do far more than passing more laws and hiring more government regulators to avoid future Enrons, WorldComs and similar Wall Street scandals

Twenty laws have been passed by the U.S. Congress since 1973 to encourage the expanded use of ESOPs, including the reorganization of the Northeast rail system, pension reform, tax reform, trade policy, foreign economic development policy, as well as other measures designed to greatly accelerate the adoption of ESOPs by major U.S. corporations.  The credit privileges and special tax advantages, which the U.S. government has given to workers who adopt ESOPs, allow workers without savings to purchase shares on credit wholly secured by the future profits of the company. Because employees are directly linked to productivity increases and profits through their ownership rights, studies indicate that firms financed through ESOPs, when combined with participatory management and gain sharing, generally perform better than their competitors.

The ESOP is no longer a mystery in the Middle East. In 1989, the $160 million Alexandria Tire Company was launched in Egypt, creating the Middle East’s largest radial truck tire plant, in a joint venture with Pirelli Tire of Italy and other investors. Thanks to USAID, over 600 worker-shareholders are benefiting from this transaction, “earning” their ownership stakes through the most advanced ESOP in the developing world. 

The key to broad-based ownership is the democratization of capital credit, beyond micro-enterprise lending, as in the Grameen Bank, to macro-enterprise lending.  In the case of the Alexandria Tire Company this was supplied through a unique application of Islamic banking principles.  In the future, the discount mechanism of central banks can supply such asset-backed, self-liquidating credit to commercial bank lenders for financing growth of broadly-owned productive enterprises.

The Capital Homesteading concept is not limited to worker ownership.  Other variations of the expanded capital ownership concepts that could be implemented in the Abraham Federation would build individual equity stakes in capital-intensive industries into the general population. These include stock ownership plans for utility users and regular customers of enterprises (CSOPs), community investment corporations (CICs) for resident share ownership of local land development corporations and community infrastructure, and personal investment accounts or ?Capital Homestead Accounts? for citizens to gain access to credit to choose among a variety of ownership options (CHAs).  The CIC may be an ideal vehicle for keeping profits, equity growth and land governance rights resulting from land and infrastructural planning and development in the hands of members of the local community, rather than government or outside private developers.

Other significant developments indicating a growing world-wide interest in the expanded capital ownership approach, include:

Endorsement by President Reagan on August 3, 1987 of the work of the bipartisan Presidential Task Force on Project Economic Justice. This Congressionally-mandated task force issued a report, High Road to Economic Justice, which offered a bold strategy of expanded capital ownership for economic revitalization in Central America and the Caribbean.

The translation and publication into Polish of Every Worker An Owner [published by the Center for Economic and Social Justice], a compendium of writings by leading thinkers in the expanded capital ownership area. Prior to the demise of the Soviet Union, 15,000 copies of this Polish translation were distributed throughout Solidarity channels in Poland.  In May 1988 USAID Administrator Alan Woods transmitted the English version of this compilation of writings to every USAID mission in the world.

The development of a “parallel legal system” for Costa Rica to foster system-wide experimentation based on economic democratization.

ESOP laws established in the United Kingdom, Jamaica, Russia and a growing number of developing and transforming economies.

The Abraham Federation would have the historic opportunity to become the first nation to be launched with a comprehensive and workable program to provide its citizens the means to share ownership of all its resources.

Highlights of the Abraham Federation

Here are some suggestions for initiating the Abraham Federation:

First steps should start small, focusing on a relatively small territory over which no existing nation-state has yet declared its sovereignty, namely ancient Judea and Samaria and the Gaza strip. If the new nation works, the beachhead, with its capital in the Old City of Jerusalem, will expand naturally, with neighboring countries in the region seeking to merge with and share the special benefits described below of the model federated nation-state.

To foster maximum growth opportunities for the citizens of the Abraham Federation, other countries in the Middle East, including Israel, and other major industrial nations such as the U.S., Japan and members of the European Community, would sign a multilateral agreement treating all the land in the Abraham Federation as a unique ‘global free market zone’.  In contrast to most free trade zones (often cesspools that attract sweatshop industries and exploited workers) the Abraham Federation would in microcosm be a model for a global free trade system.  Rather than merely providing special investment concessions and free access to goods imported into the zone, the global free market status would allow all goods and services exported from this unique zone to be sold within these cooperating countries with no duties, quotas, or other trade barriers. This feature alone, after security against terrorism is assured, would attract ‘leapfrog’ technologies and accelerate new investment and job opportunities for the benefit of all producers, investors, worker-owners, suppliers and global customers.  ‘Capital Homesteading’ with tax and credit incentives would add additional icing on the cake.

A revolutionary advance over all existing nation-states would be formed. The new nation would reject collectivist and exclusionary concepts of nationalism and would carry the concept of sovereignty or “self-determination” down to the personal, family and community levels, an ideal implicit in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

The Abraham Federation would aim at bringing a higher order of justice than any nation has ever offered its citizens. It would offer acceptable safeguards to Israeli demands for security and guarantee the right of all Jews and Palestinians to visit and settle in the ‘Holy Land’. It would offer Palestinians “self-determination” and a religiously pluralistic “democratic state” that would insure everyone complete freedom of religion. It would also offer Jewish and Christian settlers the opportunity to become citizens of the Abraham Federation.  It would be neither a collectivist Zionist state nor a collectivist Palestinian state, but a new form of nation that members of all faiths could build together.

Politically, the new nation’s constitution would guarantee a Jeffersonian form of democracy, open to all, with clearly defined and limited functions given to government and all political institutions. In addition to normal democratic checks and balances on the “minimalist” government of the nation, the major check on future concentrations of power would be outside of government, based on ‘Capital Homesteading’ policies and institutions that would systematically spread economic power and free enterprise ownership broadly, right down to the individual level.

Widespread diffusion of property would become the ultimate constitutional safeguard for all human rights. Although the new nation would have no “official” state religion, by systematically spreading property and economic power among its citizens, it would insure that freedom of religion, of association, of the press and other protections of individual human rights vis-vis the government would be built upon a solid economic foundation.

Thus, the new nation would be built on a foundation of personal (as opposed to collective) political sovereignty, and that foundation would in turn rest on personal economic sovereignty. It would be a nation whose sovereignty is built from the ground up, rather than from the top down. Individual, family, community and minority rights would thus be protected from the potential abuses of political majorities or traditional power elites. In this way, religious freedom and cultural pluralism would have stronger economic supports than other world trouble spots that breed organized terrorism.

During the transition to full self-determination, the Abraham Federation would have diplomatic ties to Israel, Jordan and other Arab neighbors. Initially, a UN trusteeship or multinational administrative structure might be required to govern the area as a global ‘Peace Zone’, with a timetable and measurable benchmarks for handing over all governmental functions to democratically elected representatives of all citizens of the Abraham Federation, Arabs, Jews, Christians, and non-believers.

Until the threat of suicide terrorism can be overcome, and to allay legitimate Israeli fears for the security and freedom of Jewish settlers in the occupied territories, the Israeli military might have to be allowed temporarily to continue to patrol the Abraham Federation under UN observers.  That Israeli presence could then be replaced, initially by a multinational UN security force and then by the Federation?s police, as the new political order creates stable conditions to remove Israeli security concerns.

The initial thrust of the people of this newly emerging nation would be channeled more toward economic, than political, self-determination: It would strive to absorb the creative energies of Arabs, Jews, displaced Palestinians, Christians, and others moving to this new nation, and harness them into building a technologically advanced, dynamically growing and more just form of free enterprise economy than exists in all other nations.

Free and open markets and respect for private property in the means of production would be basic pillars for further limiting the power of the state. Instead of redistributing existing property, the new role of the state would be to create a friendly legal and policy environment to inspire and encourage the creation of new property and new owners at the same time.

Instead of continuing historic and legalistic disputes over something as finite as “holy land,” the primary focus would be on building ever-expanding “new frontiers” upon the land.

Start-up industries might include advanced energy projects and high technology, vertically integrated agribusinesses, and global processing and marketing enterprises that are broadly owned by workers and farmers.

As revolutionary as this new framework may appear to some, it is based on virtually universal moral principles. The process of change, however, is inescapably evolutionary and depends largely on conservative, case-tested methods and “tools.”

The “tools” and fundamental principles for building such a model ?Capital Homesteading? nation already exist and have been tested. They work. (The Ministry of Planning of Costa Rica with U.S. development assistance designed a prototype “parallel legal system” structured along these lines.  While not yet implemented, this model legislation could easily be adapted to any country.)

Because it is grounded on common and traditional principles of economic justice and social justice, orthodox Jews and moderate Muslims, as well as several PLO representatives, have reacted in an open-minded way to the Abraham Federation concept when it has been explained to them.  Former Lebanese president Amin Gamayel told this author that it was consistent with the original vision for a religiously pluralistic Lebanon.  A top advisor of King Abdullah II of Jordan also commented favorably on the concept.

The next step forward is to test whether this new framework might serve as a basis of a new dialogue between those with power to speak for all Israelis and those with power to speak for all Palestinians. The United States is in the position to be an effective catalyst for bringing this new vision to the peace table.  This framework too may be inadequate and prove to be unworkable. But it is new and certainly deserves to be more fully understood by all key decision-makers, especially spiritual leaders, concerned with peace in the Middle East.

Many nations are offering their “solutions” to end Israeli occupation of the West Bank. None of these initiatives seem to be satisfactory to both sides of the conflict. In that light, the Abraham Federation concept might well offer a new framework for those directly affected to recapture the initiative, not merely for their own survival, but for leading all mankind to a more just and peaceful future.

Conclusion: Transition to the New Nation

No rational dialogue and no genuine steps toward peace among Arabs and Jews in the Middle East are possible within traditional conceptual and ideological frameworks. Competing interest groups offer competing frameworks, all of which suffer from faulty assumptions, semantic ambiguities, and poorly defined, often contradictory, objectives. A new and more realistic framework is demanded.  It must proceed in small steps toward a broader, more comprehensive, and more just solution, one not even conceivable under the old frameworks.

There would be many problems in moving from the initial blueprint stage to implementation, especially regarding security and control over the Israeli military, immigration, and land-use matters. But within a less threatening framework that offers special trade status in the global marketplace, even these problems could be addressed for the mutual self-interest of all citizens of the Abraham Federation.

Just as the offer of 160 acres of land to its propertyless pioneers sparked America’s development as an agricultural power, the industrial equivalent of that ownership incentive can now be offered to the propertyless Arabs, Jews, and others living in Jerusalem and other places in the Abraham Federation. Truth, justice, and peace can again go forth from Jerusalem.

Building a just and pluralistic new nation is, of course, a complex undertaking. But by focusing on the limitless possibilities of industrial growth, rather than on endless confrontation over scarce land resources, Arab and Jewish settlers of the Abraham Federation can take a new look at their common problem. Under the mantle of Abraham, they can step back into the past in order to leap forward into a more just and hopeful future.

2002 Center for Economic and Social Justice

[Originally published in World Citizen News, Dec. 1978. Updated and republished in American-Arab Affairs (now Middle East Policy), Spring 1991, a publication of the Middle East Policy Council. Updated and republished in Curing World Poverty: The New Role of Property, John H. Miller, ed., published by Social Justice Review in collaboration with the Center for Economic and Social Justice, 1994.]