War, Ethics, Politics, and Business: Navigating a Complex Landscape

Jeffrey Levine
5 min readOct 30, 2023

In recent times, the world has witnessed a surge in violence and turmoil, particularly in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The actions of Hamas, the terrorist group operating in Gaza, have sparked passionate reactions from people around the globe. Some support their actions, while others condemn them as despicable. Regardless of one’s stance, it’s clear that the situation raises crucial questions about ethics and morals, even in the world of large global corporations.

Consider a recent article and discussion about the reactions of different franchises of a global fast-food giant, McDonald’s. The Israeli franchise garnered attention for providing free meals and support to Israeli soldiers, while franchises in Arab countries expressed their disagreement with this move. This sparked an intriguing discussion on how businesses become entangled in global conflicts, reflecting the complex interplay between corporate interests and ethical considerations.

Another significant dimension of this complexity is the relationship between corporate leadership and employees. We’ve witnessed numerous examples in tech giants like Google, where leadership took a stance in support of Israel, while some employees held differing opinions and wanted their voices heard within the company. This tension between leadership and the workforce adds another layer to the ethical considerations in the corporate world.

To understand this better, let’s step back and examine the primary role of a company: to generate profits, a fundamental tenet of capitalism. However, modern business practices have evolved to include considerations beyond the bottom line. Enter ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) principles, which compel companies to weigh their impact on the environment and society alongside financial gains. This juxtaposition creates a natural tension as businesses navigate the balance between profit and ESG values.

While ESG is a critical framework, it’s essential to introduce another term into the conversation: sustainability. Sustainability goes beyond mitigating environmental impact; it encapsulates the moral responsibility to leave a better planet and society for future generations. This concept isn’t limited to the environment; it also extends to morals and ethics. We must ask ourselves whether we want to perpetuate a world plagued by war and violence, as we witnessed in the tumultuous 20th century. The numerous conflicts and wars persisting in the world today, from the simmering Ukrainian-Russian war to tribal and regional strife in Africa, demand our attention.

This leads us to what I call the age of sustainability. It’s not just about businesses; it’s about individuals and households. Each one of us has a role to play in shaping a world that rejects violence and embraces moral values. This concept of sustainability isn’t limited to environmental concerns; it encompasses our shared responsibility to choose a path of peace and goodwill.

Moreover, there’s a pressing need for businesses to embrace corporate social responsibility (CSR) that goes beyond mere token gestures. It’s about taking real, meaningful actions that uplift the communities in which they operate or from which they source materials. Unfortunately, in the world of business, there’s a fair amount of “greenwashing” and a lack of follow-through. I’ve personally witnessed this in my efforts to encourage mining companies and supermarkets to engage with communities in developing countries, genuinely addressing their needs and alleviating poverty. The ripple effect of such actions can extend to alleviate medical suffering and improve living conditions.

In a world that often appears to lack ethics and morals, both in business and global affairs, the need for change is evident. This isn’t limited to nations; it’s a global challenge. Hypocrisy can be a pervasive issue, and it’s time to address it.

Returning to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I’m not an observer from afar. I live in Jerusalem, where my family members serve in the armed forces, and we experience the constant threat of rocket attacks. Over the past two decades, more than 36,000 rockets have been launched at us, causing immense fear and destruction. It’s challenging to justify such actions, and delving into the politics of the conflict doesn’t provide a straightforward answer.

One point of reference is the 2007 elections in free Gaza, where Hamas emerged as the victor. They had a choice — to build or to destroy. Regrettably, they chose the latter. This is just one example of how choices have been made, or opportunities missed, in the pursuit of peace in the region.

When discussing potential solutions, we shouldn’t overlook practical ones that often remain unexplored. The notion of a two-state solution is prevalent, but we must also consider the existing state of Jordan, which could play a pivotal role in the region’s stability.

In the corporate realm, it’s imperative that businesses take on a leadership role and demonstrate genuine corporate morals. Real corporate action is needed to support communities in developing countries, sending a clear message that choosing life, building, and embracing good rather than evil is a moral choice that extends to the business world.

Boycotts and Asset Confiscation: Boycotts and asset confiscation have been utilized as measures in various global contexts. After 9/11, new anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism rules were implemented, and these measures continue to be applied. Additionally, when Russia unlawfully invaded Ukraine, the assets of oligarchs who profited from Putin’s regime were frozen and confiscated. These precedents illustrate the use of anti-terror actions in the financial world.

Turning our attention to Hamas, a declared terrorist organization, it is crucial to note that they receive support from countries like Iran and Qatar. Qatar, in particular, is attempting to establish itself as an honest global player, having hosted the World Cup Soccer recently. However, even during these endeavors, Qatar’s financial support for Hamas, a recognized terrorist organization, continued.

Rabbi Pini Dunner, in his weekly discussions, has drawn attention to this issue. He argues that, just as we confiscated the assets of oligarchs, we should hold the rulers of Qatar accountable for their support of terrorism. This is a call for action, driven by strong moral and ethical reasons, particularly in the realm of business. The argument is that such rulers should face consequences for supporting terror organizations.

As we stand at the crossroads of war, ethics, politics, and business, the path we choose will shape the future. Let’s embrace the age of sustainability, where our actions reflect our commitment to a better world for all. The responsibility falls on companies, individuals, and households alike to make a difference, one choice at a time.

I invite you to learn more about making the world better. Please buy my book” Upgrading ESG — How business can thrive in the age of Sustainability”. I highlight that “Creating profitable businesses and building a better world are not conflicting goals”, and by bringing fresh ideas and innovation, we can do both — create more profit opportunities and make an impact towards a more sustainable world.

In the Book, I highlight that a Good Society holds one of the keys to a better and fairer world. Without a Good Society, we can not make a global change, we will not progress.

The age of sustainability represents a massive opportunity for governments, companies and people -Empowering People. Healing the Planet.

To buy the book or reach out to me

https://www.upgradingesg.com/book

Buy on Kindle

Feel free to reach out to me by email: Jeffrey@upgradingESG.com

Thank You

Jeffrey Levine

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Jeffrey Levine

Jeffrey Levine provides CFO, Director, ESG Advisory Services through www.persofi.com and is a promoter of ideas and trends where Innovation meets ESG