Guy Bechor, while exemplifying the legitimate fears of Israelis and Jews, writes a confused mess, seemingly sent from some mythical world invented by 20th-century European fascists.
Deep breaths. I just finished reading an article on Ynet, by Guy Bechor, titled “A Middle Eastern lesson“; it was shared by Peace Now on Facebook to “give insight to Israeli fears”. That it does. It also gives insight into a romantic populist world-view, forged of myth and nationalism, in which countries are populated not by people, but by peoples (German: Völker), embodied by their leaders (German: Führer). And while writing this imaginative nonsense, he manages to call those who would strive for peace “gullible”. Deep breaths.
But let’s start at the beginning.
Bechor begins with a fable of Aesop’s… Something about wolves and sheep and dogs. This is a good way to start, as it puts the reader in exactly the mindset needed to believe Bechor’s hysteria. There are three kinds of players in Bechor’s world: the wolves, who are really bad, the sheep, who are just helpless, and the dogs, who are not wolves and no simple sheep, but can at least defend themselves.
(BTW, is this fable the original version of the allegory in Team America, where it’s “assholes”, “pussies” and “dicks”, respectively, in exactly those roles?)
Having set the stage, we now go on to discuss the actual complex realities of one of the most politically difficult regions currently to be found on our planet. Except there are no complex realities, since Bechor is so much more intelligent than us morons.
Allow the genius to teach us the ways of the Middle East: it boils down to Arabs being brutal and violent, and Jews and Christians having to create heavily-armed nation-states to defend themselves. I kid you not, ladies and gentlemen! At last, Bechor has revealed to us the simplicity of the Middle East, and there it is, in one sentence! Thank me later.
Facts, of course, are irrelevant. In Bechor’s world, things are simpler, and more fantastic. In Bechor’s world, Christians are being “butchered” in post-revolution Tunisia and Egypt (citation needed). In Bechor’s world, what’s happening in Syria is about Arabs killing minorities. There is no context, there are no politics to speak of, just a people being evil.
What Bechor does here is, to me, an immense sin. Like certain Führers of times gone by, Bechor sees the world as composed of peoples, acting as united wholes. There are Arabs, there are Christians, there are Jews. Wolves, sheep, and dogs (his words, not mine). Never mind that someone can be an Arab and Christian at the same time, that kind of complexity is incompatible with this simple, simple world. It is divided into nations, these nations are in some kind of eternal struggle, and, hence, they need armies. End of story.
What’s worse, when it comes down to choosing who represents these nations, again Bechor sides with evil. It is the Assads and the Mubaraks and the Ghaddafis and the Ben Alis, and their paid thugs, who show Bechor’s “true Middle East” — not the masses of people, oppressed by those asshats for decades, who finally take to the streets, put their lives on the line, and demand their freedom. Not the soldiers and officers who defect or desert when ordered to fire on civilians. No, the Führer is the nation, and the people must follow.
Excuse me while I throw up.
But if all that weren’t enough, of course Bechor must also paint the Left as a dangerous enemy.1
[…] outside elements – and to my regret domestic elements as well – try to weaken the IDF via needless commissions of inquiry, incitement and criticism, propaganda, and an effort to taint the army’s moral prestige.
I don’t know, Guy, don’t you think the army’s moral prestige might also be tainted by soldiers trashing houses, systematically humiliating civilians and prisoners as a kind of sport then (sometimes) posting photos on Facebook, or firing white phosphorous on residential neighborhoods? Don’t you think that being put in the position of policing an occupied, largely civilian population, with mainly just combat training as preparation, might be having some ill effects on the army’s morality as well? Don’t you think commissions of inquiry might help make sure soldiers stick to the IDF’s moral code, and incidentally increase its moral prestige by proving it can take scrutiny? And most of all, is a reputation for morality really more important than actual moral behavior?
I don’t know, man.
The Middle East is a difficult place to be. Bechor is right in that the dictators’ response to the Arab Spring is revealing. It reveals the dictators’ true colors to anyone who had a doubt.
Yet the revolutions themselves are revealing a reality that should have been clear, but is clearly lost on Bechor and his ilk: the Führer ist not the Volk. The people under dictatorship are not represented by their so-called “leaders” — they are their victims.
Rivers of blood flow through the Middle East, as usual. This is a difficult time, and even more difficult is to guess what comes next.
But the basic and obvious reality — one which I’ve incidentally heard from at least two Arabs I’ve spoken with here in Germany — is that peace is in everyone’s best interest. Most Israelis know it, on some level. Most Arabs know it on some level. And finally, we may just see some governments in the Middle East which strive for everyone’s best interest, and not just the interests of the dictators and the elites behind them.
- Fun fact: Dachau, the first German concentration camp, was built just weeks after Hitler took power, and its first inmates were German lefties, imprisoned for being in the opposition. [↩]
18 thoughts on “The wonderful world of Guy Bechor”
Great work on this, Michael. I’ve become desensitized to this idiotic type of parshanut that I can no longer articulate or analyze whats wrong with the reasoning (even though I have a gut feeling that its proganda masquerading as independent expert opinion), and therefore have a hard time taking it down.
Glad you liked it! I probably wouldn’t have even bothered to respond to it if it hadn’t been posted by Peace Now. There’s probably more of these articles out there than could be counted.
Apropos, after writing the post I realized that there’s a little more truth in the piece than I gave Bechor credit for. What he’s saying is that the political reality of the Middle East is brutal. That much is true, though it can’t simply be ascribed to Muslims, especially when this is a region with an incredibly long and complex history of colonization and neo-colonization (possibly longer than anywhere else in the world)… But then I guess my original criticism still makes sense. :)
“I’ve incidentally heard from at least two Arabs I’ve spoken with here in Germany — is that peace is in everyone’s best interest.”
No, really, you have heard t-w-o Arabs talking about peace!!
Sorry to break the fantasy, but Gaza is governed by terrorists, having no intention to reach any peace soon. Indeed the middle east unlike other places has this thing of blood brotherhood, or tribal commitment (have you heard lately in Germany about a blood revenge?).
So yes, the fable’s lesson is justified.
Thanks for your comment.
I agree with your opinion of Hamas, and I hope the day comes soon that Gaza is free of their rule. However, Gaza was not even mentioned in this post, so I’m not sure how you brought that up.
And yes, there have been cases of blood revenge in Germany. Though this is about the Middle East, where I grew up, not about Germany, so again, not sure why you brought that up.
If you would like to actually read my post and respond to the points I make I’d be glad to debate you on them.
Have a nice day.
Dear Michael Sappir…
After reading your article few questions are coming to my head.
First of all what are your majors in the “University of Leipzig” that maks you an expart on the “Middle East” (tried to google it and couldn’t find it). such an expert that you think you can dismiss all of “Dr Bechor” study, that from what I gether he devoted his life for it.
Second “Dr Bechor” articles or views you might call it of seeing the “Middle East” come in one scale with things that I witnessed in my own eyes in my service in the “IDF” and from personal research that I did in order to get a better understanding of it all.
Don’t get me wrong I do want peace a just peace. but you can’t be blind to things or embellish them, you have to understand how things work from “Israel neighbors perspective” before you come to any conclusion or criticize.
Dear Elad Tako,
You must be confused:
*I’ve never claimed to be an expert on the Middle East.
*You can find my major (linguistics) in the little infobox on the top right or on the “about me” page (as well as other info about my background, in which I never claim to be a Middle East “expert”.)
*What study of Dr Bechor are we talking about? I was replying to an opinion piece he wrote, not any of his research.
*People have often devoted their life to something and still been wrong about it. It happens. No expert is the ultimate source of truth.
I’m glad to have a chance to talk with someone who has personal experience with these things and has additionally done research on it. Not many have! Would you be so kind as to share the specific experiences and findings you have in mind which convince you that Bechor is right?
By the way, on Bechor’s “expertise”, look how certain he was of Mubarak’s lasting power, less than a day before Mubarak resigned:
He was wrong. Human beings are wrong sometimes. I don’t consider myself an expert, but I was saying Mubarak was going to fall when the protests just started. It was a good guess and proved more accurate than Bechor’s paranoid “expertise”.
And oh look, here (Hebrew):
on February 9 (two days before Mubarak resigned) he was also very sure of his “expert” belief that Mubarak would last, and even happened to mention the concept of “Volksgeist”, “the people’s spirit”. I guess I was more right about him than I thought!
Bechor has no recognized credentials as a “Middle East Expert” either. He is a lawyer by way of this formal academic training.
Bechor, like all mainstream Israeli “experts” on the Middle East is incapable of understanding or conceptualizing Arabs from a humanistic perspective. For him there are only regimes, and how likely they are going to threaten Israel.
Although post-Mubarak Egypt will have a different approach to Israel, it is entirely narcesistic to think that this revolution is primarily about Israel in any way. It is about Egyptian people wanting to have lives like those in any other part of the world, especially the West.
Okay, to truly address points and go tit for tat on an issue as voluminous as the middle east, is probably a futile exercise ( especially in this shorthanded kind of format). However, perhaps a series of quick rhetorical questions will enlighten. Who is at war with the Indians in Kashmir? Who is at war with the Russians in Chechnya? Who was it that slaughtered all those christians in Sudan?..Philippenes? …Al Qaeda, Hezbolla, Hamas, Iran… The answer of course is the same ideological group in all conflicts. In fact, I cannot think of a single major conflict anywhere around the world today, which does not involve Muslims fighting with someone else or killing other Muslims. While it is true that all of these conflicts are complicated, apparently everyone around the world loves to pick on Muslims. The Israelis, The Indians, Russians, Chinese… Curious. Do you really equate Hasidic or religious jews with Hamas. Does Israel really have the same kind of fundamentalists as exist in the Arab world? If an Israeli or an American like me (or German for that matter were to find themselves in the presence of a radical Islamist what would the outcome be? If an Arab were to find himself in the presence of a radical Israeli what would the outcome be – methinks a bit of a different outcome. Oh and by the way, how are the Muslims integrating in England, Germany, Netherlands… I know, I know, ..it’s complicated. No, it’s quite simple; there is only one major religion on planet Earth today that has not gone through any reformation and still exists as it did in the medieval period. Jews don’t stone people any more, Christians don’t go on crusades anymore, Hindus don’t throw grieving wives onto their husbands burning funeral pyre anymore….
I won’t spend too much time replying to you — last time I replied with a few questions and you never came back, so I assume you’re not here for discussion but rather just demagogical rebuttal. (I’l reply because your demagogy needs rebuttal as well.)
1. The longest ongoing armed conflict in the world today, according to Wikipedia, is the Naxalite insurgency in India. No muslims are involved.
2. Al Qaeda and Hezbolla do not represent nor control the Arab world in any real way (Hezbolla is exception in its influence on Lebanon — which is a tiny country that has suffered serious blows from its neighbors and only recently gotten rid of Syrian control).
3. I have never denied the existence of violent radical Islamic movements. It is also interesting to note that every single one of the conflicts you list is in parts of the world that have suffered Western colonisation at some point in the past couple of centuries, which I think is not incidental.
4. No, I have never equated Hasidic or religious Judaism as a whole with Hamas. But yes, Israel certainly has the same kind of fundamentalists. Our Minister of Justice (or was it his deputy?) has gone on record as saying he hopes Israeli law will one day be replaced by Jewish law (which, by the way, mandates stonings for some things). For current examples of fundamentalism you can always check the Slippery Slope, which aggregates news about such things (amongst others): http://www.hahem.co.il/slipperyslope/en/ – the Tag Cloud on the right-hand sidebar can help find particular types of incidents. Try “racism”, “settlers” or “price tag” (a settler euphemism for pogroms) or the “Closed Society” category. Luckily, the Jewish fundamentalists are only a violent, vocal and influential minority, and do not control the country. However, the current government of Israel has given some of their initiatives frightening amounts of support, and they seem to be growing bolder every week.
5. Judaism has gone through a reformation? That’s news to me. I have no idea about the history of Hinduism or Buddhism but it surprises me to hear they have had reformations as well. I’d love some more info on this.
It’s heartening to see you think so very highly of all Israelis, but like most societies, ours as well has frightening elements in it, and like any society in an ongoing conflict and any society with deep social rifts these elements are not as marginal as they should be. That’s not to say Israel is less free or democratic than post-colonial Arab dictatorships, but insisting everything is fine is generally an ineffective way of solving real problems.
I scent the amount of hate generated in Dr. Bechor’s message. His insulated time is out of joint. This is the true beginning of his end. May Israel comprehend the false philosophy of this “prophecy”. Well roared, lion. His little life is rounded by hatred, arrogance, lack of diplomatic vision, chronic defiance. A little, anxious ghetto man with a dangerous potential energy of destruction, demagogy and mischief. Some day the method in his shallow madness will be revealed with one auspicious and one dropping eye; A consummation devoutly to be wished.
I believe in dialogue at eye level, compromising justice, magnanimity and good will. “Ther rest is silence” (Hamlet’s last words).
Very well written assessment by a man with brains
Reading this in October 2015 Guy Becher seems to have been remarkably prescient.
Perhaps you should be writing a retraction?
Not at all. He continues to spew inaccurate and racist analysis, and while I have already distanced myself from this blog in its entirety (which you will notice is now an archive) and feel no need to retract anything here specifically, I happen to stand behind most of what I wrote in this post in particular.
It is certain that in democracy freedom of speech is granted. And yet, Guy Bechor is a notorious nationalist racist and a real a danger to Israel’s existence. Ruben Siedner
I read his article and I see that he is genius. So if he is genius, you are something opposite. By the way genius cannot be racist.
Of course a genius can be racist. Hitler was clearly a genius, for example. Guy Bechor, however, is not.
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