Bob Dylan turns 70; still hasn’t Recanted Praise for Rabbi Meir Kahane

Bob Dylan, born Robert Allen Zimmerman (Hebrew name Shabtai Zisel ben Avraham) to a Jewish family in Duluth, Minnesota, turned 70 years old yesterday.  His “protest songs” became classic anthems for many in the civil rights movement and beyond.

Songs such as The Times they are a Changin’ and Blowin’ in the Wind are part of our collective memory and have been played endlessly, having influenced mass culture across generations. Dylan’s songs are diverse: some criticize American politics such as With God on Our Side andMasters of War. Other songs deal with the narratives of injustice and racism, such as the one written about Medgar Evers (Only a Pawn in their Game) and Emmett Till (The Death of Emmett Till). Dylan continued delving into these topics well into the 70′s when he wrote the hit song Hurricane for Rubin Carter.

Dylan also saw Martin Luther King, Jr. during the March on Washington in 1963 and performed for the crowd.

But why is this iconic figure being praised by bigots like Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller?

Dylan songs have always been filled with Judeo-Christian imagery that has both fascinated and captivated his audiences. But something nearly inexplicable happened in the 70′s to Dylan that explains the praise from such prominent Islamophobes:

after a visit to Israel in 1971, [Dylan] even pronounced the late far-right Rabbi Meir Kahane “a really sincere guy.”

Rabbi Meir Kahane and his radical, racist, and terroristic views–and his support for extreme Zionist groups–are well known and have been documented by LoonWatch. says of Dylan’s support for such groups:

Over the past couple decades, Dylan has become a supporter of the Chabad Lubavitch movement, which holds a firm Eretz Israel line regarding the ongoing occupation of the West Bank.

Dylan seems to think that Israel cannot be questioned about how many civilians it kills because God is on Israel’s side:

In 1983, twenty years after he sang, “you don’t count the dead” and “you never ask questions, when God’s on your side,” Dylan penned a song in response to the international outrage over the devastating Israeli assault on Lebanon in 1982, which took the lives of nearly 18,000 Lebanese civilians and wounded about 30,000 others.

Nobody can deny Dylan’s lyrical talent and it may be premature to label him a bigot, but his support for Israeli extremism is certainly troubling.  Certainly, Dylan does seem to be contradicting himself with regard to civil and human rights.  Or are Palestinians not to be included in the human struggle? Perhaps Dylan should heed the message contained in his own song, “The Times they are a Changin’”:

Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won’t come again
And don’t speak too soon
For the wheel’s still in spin
And there’s no tellin’ who that it’s namin’
For the loser now will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin’

Meanwhile, Dylan’s song Neighborhood Bully glorifies Israeli aggression and occupation, and for this reason was commemorated by Spencer on JihadWatch. Here are the lyrics:

Neighborhood Bully
by Bob Dylan
From the album Infidels

Well, the neighborhood bully, he’s just one man
His enemies say he’s on their land
They got him outnumbered about a million to one
He got no place to escape to, no place to run
He’s the neighborhood bully

The neighborhood bully just lives to survive
He’s criticized and condemned for being alive
He’s not supposed to fight back, he’s supposed to have thick skin
He’s supposed to lay down and die when his door is kicked in
He’s the neighborhood bully

The neighborhood bully been driven out of every land
He’s wandered the earth an exiled man
Seen his family scattered, his people hounded and torn
He’s always on trial for just being born
He’s the neighborhood bully

Well, he knocked out a lynch mob, he was criticized
Old women condemned him, said he should apologize.
Then he destroyed a bomb factory, nobody was glad
The bombs were meant for him. He was supposed to feel bad
He’s the neighborhood bully

Well, the chances are against it and the odds are slim
That he’ll live by the rules that the world makes for him
’Cause there’s a noose at his neck and a gun at his back
And a license to kill him is given out to every maniac
He’s the neighborhood bully

He got no allies to really speak of
What he gets he must pay for, he don’t get it out of love
He buys obsolete weapons and he won’t be denied
But no one sends flesh and blood to fight by his side
He’s the neighborhood bully

Well, he’s surrounded by pacifists who all want peace
They pray for it nightly that the bloodshed must cease
Now, they wouldn’t hurt a fly. To hurt one they would weep
They lay and they wait for this bully to fall asleep
He’s the neighborhood bully

Every empire that’s enslaved him is gone
Egypt and Rome, even the great Babylon
He’s made a garden of paradise in the desert sand
In bed with nobody, under no one’s command
He’s the neighborhood bully

Now his holiest books have been trampled upon
No contract he signed was worth what it was written on
He took the crumbs of the world and he turned it into wealth
Took sickness and disease and he turned it into health
He’s the neighborhood bully

What’s anybody indebted to him for?
Nothin’, they say. He just likes to cause war
Pride and prejudice and superstition indeed
They wait for this bully like a dog waits to feed
He’s the neighborhood bully

What has he done to wear so many scars?
Does he change the course of rivers? Does he pollute the moon and stars?
Neighborhood bully, standing on the hill
Running out the clock, time standing still
Neighborhood bully

The song seems to be a favorite of illegal settlers these days as well:

In 2001, the Jerusalem Post described the song as “a favorite among Dylan-loving residents of the territories“.[7] Israeli singer Ariel Zilber covered “Neighborhood Bully” in 2005 in a version translated to Hebrew.[8]

Nelson Mandela has clearly labeled the Israeli occupation as an apartheid system, saying:

Palestinians are not struggling for a “state” but for freedom, liberation and equality, just like we were struggling for freedom in South Africa…

Apartheid is a crime against humanity. Israel has deprived millions of Palestinians of their liberty and property. It has perpetuated a system of gross racial discrimination and inequality. It has systematically incarcerated and tortured thousands of Palestinians, contrary to the rules of international law. It has, in particular, waged a war against a civilian population, in particular children.

It remains to be seen if Dylan performs in Israel this coming June, or instead “opens his eyes wide” to the racist and apartheid treatment that is being meted out to Palestinians. Will he finally respond to the call to Boycott, Divest and Sanction Israel that other brave artists have? Here is a list fromWikipedia of some artists who have:

Folk legend Pete Seger, Musicians Roger Waters and Brian Eno, Writers Eduardo Galeno and Arundhati Roy, film makers Ken Loach and Jean- Luc Godard, American singer Devendra Branhart and Irish Singer Tommy Sands, Guitarist Carlos Santana, Rocker Elvi Constello, Rap arist Gil Scott Heron, British bands The Klaxonss, Leftfields and Gorillaz Sound System, American band  Pixies,  American actress Meg Ryan, French Singer Vanessa Paradis

And here is a list from Tikun Olam:

Among the celebrities are Stephen Sondheim, Mandy Patinkin, Cynthia Nixon (Sex and the City), James Schamus (Ang Lee’s producer), Emily Mann (McCarter Theater), Eve Ensler (Vagina Monologues), Julianne Moore, Lynn Notage (Ruined), Bill Irwin, Kathleen Chalfant, Mira Nair, Oskar Eustis (Public Theater), Hal Prince (Broadway producer), Tony Kushner (Angels in America), Sheldon Harnick (Broadway lyricist), Ed Asner (Up), Theodore Bikel, Wallace Shawn, Miriam Margolyes, Ruth Reichl, and Vanessa Redgrave…

Musicians are a powerful voice for freedom and liberty that have helped liberate people in the past.  It is hoped that the Palestinians are not forgotten.

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