This popular post was first published on September 6 here.
I’m a Beck fan. I’m convinced that he is doing America an enormous service. Beyond that, this Beck video clip, linked here at NRB is a must see. Really. Go watch it before you even read this. Excellent stuff.
That said — and I trust you’ve seen the video now … no cheating — during the course of that monologue, speaking of Israel and the Arabs, Beck repeated an error that one frequently hears about matters in the Middle East, and which just frosts my tail.
… do you really think, in our arrogance, that we can miraculously get these two sides together, that have fought for 5000 years, to suddenly stop and go [head-smack] ‘you know what … we’ve just gotta … we’ve just gotta get together, and … have snacks’ …
Don’t say it … I know perfectly well that this was well intended dramatic hyperbole. And considered as such it works. But it’s factually wrong. Factually wrong in a way that obscures understanding of today’s world and, frankly, does an injustice to Israel.
In fact, humanity doesn’t even have a whole 5,000 years of contemporaneous historical records as such. And while the bible is certainly one of humanity’s oldest historical documents, its actual reach back into time is still a matter of study. 5,000 is a stretch. But that exact number is not the point, and I don’t wish to be petty. He’s saying “for a really really long time,” with the unfortunate implication that the battle around Israel is a sort of perennial tribal or perhaps local feud. That’s where I get off the bus.
There are several things wrong here:
First is just journalistic detail. Since the ninth crusade — so we’re talking from about 7 centuries ago, around the time the Ottoman Turks opened up for serious business — right up to the 20th century, Israel was a comparatively unexciting place. It was decidedly NOT the site of ongoing warfare between the Jews and their neighbors. Meaning, that “really, really long time” wasn’t very long at all. In fact, it started in 1948.
Now, I am not accusing Beck of willfully drawing a moral equivalence between the Israelis and the local Arabs. I’d be pretty steamed if I thought he had. Moreover, his repetition of “what would you do?” his impassioned demand that the audience imagine itself in Israel’s shoes, precludes it. But the notion that the Israelis are participant to a meaningless, two-sided ethnic feud is, while unintentionally so, intensely offensive and unjust.