Shimon Peres, Israel’s current President, is for all intents and purposes, to me, a Gever; a term that can be loosely defined as the Modern Hebrew language equivalent of Dude. The man has seen some stuff. He joined the Haganah alongside other founding fathers of the Israeli state and played an integral role in securing arms for Israel’s independence war in 1948.
Throughout his political career he has served as Transportation Minister, defence Minister, Foreign Minister, and Prime Minister. On the first of a 4-day visit to Spain, Peres spoke to Spanish Parliament. In his speech he addressed the unrest in Egypt and Libya that continues to spread across the Middle East region. He mentioned that he sees these uprisings as “opportunities for peace”, and said that “we believe the biggest guarantee of peace is having democratic neighbours…”.
What I found most interesting was Peres’s message to large technology companies. He alluded to the fact that these companies, e.g. Facebook, Google, Microsoft, have hefty coffers full of cash ready to be deployed. Peres noted that “these companies have the means and they can help…aid is currently directed mainly at sick people in poorer countries, [but] it’s better to cure the state and let it treat its own ills.” In the realistic department these comments probably come in at about a 4 on a scale of 1 to 10, but in the idealistic department they’re more like a 9. Imagine if for-profit companies actually spent their hard-earned money on foreign aid the way leading governments of the world do.
Back when Google IPO’d they made a big hullabaloo about their “Do No Evil” motto – they wanted to ensure that everyone got a fair chance to participate in their stock offering and presumably a fair chance in life as well. The Founders of Facebook probably feel similarly. I’m not sure what their motto is, but it’s probably something that evokes thoughts of democracy. So do these technology giants have a responsibility to the people who use their services? If Facebook enables a dictator’s demise, should they participate in the process of establishing a fair successor?
These are big questions, but I do like where Shimon Peres was going. Every once in a while the world needs to be reminded that there is a fairly successful Middle Eastern democracy situated in the middle of all this turmoil; it’s called Israel.