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With a new (old) album, a tour with (old) new songs, and a giant new book, Bob Dylan remains a neverending juggernaut

I first began listening to Bob Dylan in earnest in early 1974, with the purchase of the contemporaneous album Planet Waves, a somewhat quiet, unassuming collection of deep, intimate songs – including the color-by-number anthem, “Forever Young” — recorded with The Band before they would go out on tour for the first time since Dylan’s premature retirement from the road in 1966 (the same year, incidentally, that the Beatles quit touring). Dylan’s return to touring after his eight-year layoff would pretty much continue for the rest of his career up to and including today.

I did not get to see Dylan in concert until fall 1978, missing two of his all-time greatest tours – his 1974 “comeback” tour with The Band, captured on the live album Before the Flood, and the following year’s “Rolling Thunder Revue,” the subject of several live concert albums, including 1976’s Hard Rain and the more recent The Rolling Thunder Revue: The 1975 Live Recordings, a sprawling, 14-CD box set, released in 2019. (There was also an official two-CD set in 2002, and many widely available bootleg recordings of the legendary tour, as well as a Dylan concert film, Renaldo and Clara, released in 1978, and Martin Scorsese’s 2019 “pseudo-documentary” about the tour.)

Alas, my introduction to live Dylan was during one of his most bizarre tours, launched in Japan in early 1978 and initially captured on the April 1979 American release of Bob Dylan at Budokan (originally intended as a Japan-only release in August 1978). The 1978 tour was controversial, which Dylan acknowledged right from the stage of the old Boston Garden where I first saw him, when, halfway through the show, he paused and said to the audience, “I hope you don’t think this is Las Vegas music, or disco music, because you know it’s not.”

Bob Dylan, circa 1963 Photo by Ralph Baxter

It was a direct answer to critics’ complaints about the song arrangements and the sound of the band, as well as the overall stage aesthetic, which to some mimicked the tackiness of concerts by Neil Diamond and the recently deceased Elvis Presley. (Some blame manager and concert promoter Jerry Weintraub — who worked with both Presley and Diamond, as well as with Frank Sinatra – for Dylan’s cheesy, lounge-lizard presentation.)

Dylan didn’t help his cause by introducing from the stage such well-known songs as “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding),” or asking the audience, “Hey, what’s the name of this?” over the opening chords of “All Along Watchtower.” Doubters questioned the need for an eight-piece band (large for the time) and a trio of female backup singers. Some crueler critics even took to calling it the “Alimony Tour,” a nasty way of accusing Dylan of selling out in the wake of his divorce from his first wife, Sara.

Even though Dylan catered to the desires of audiences around the world to hear primarily his “greatest hits” — and this was one of the last tours on which he did so — he couched them in such weird arrangements that maybe he was justified in introducing them by name; otherwise, they may have remained unrecognizable to some. From where I sat in the cavernous, echoe-y Garden, it proved to be an inauspicious introduction to Bob Dylan, concert artist.

And now, 45 years later, Dylan’s label, Columbia Records, has seen fit to give the 1978 tour — as captured in those first two weeks in Japan — the full “Bootleg Series” treatment, with The Complete Budokan 1978, including two complete concerts at Tokyo’s Budokan, newly remixed and spread out over four CDs, featuring 36 previously unreleased performances. (The official release date is Friday, Nov. 17.)

Film still from 1966 European tour, by D. A. Pennebaker Courtesy of Bob Dylan Center

It is an album package for which Dylan fans — other than rabid completists (possibly including myself) — were not clamoring. This, rather than a more complete version of Before the Flood? This, rather than a live album from one of his two tours with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers? This, rather than a live album — or many live albums — capturing the many ups (and downs) of Dylan’s so-called Never Ending Tour, which began in June 1988 and, depending on how you define it, could include concerts as recent as the one I saw a few weeks ago in Schenectady, N.Y.? (Dylan’s current tour is officially billed as the “Rough and Rowdy Ways” world tour, which began in 2021 and is expected to continue into 2024, and marks a rare step forward in truth in advertising, as about half the concert is devoted to songs from the album of the same name.)

Yet this time around, the concerts at Budokan (if not the 1978 tour, which evolved over the course of a year and 114 concerts in Asia, the South Pacific, Europe, and North America) are what we’ve got. And the new package is not without its merits. The remixed and remastered sound is brilliant (which may or may not be a positive, depending upon how you feel about that sound). The recording captures an unusually chatty frontman, by Dylan’s standards (he has been known to utter nary a word in concert for decades), one seemingly in a terrific mood and also one who is downright funny.

“This is an unrecorded song – see if you can guess which one it is,” he says to the audience before launching into “Is Your Love in Vain,” which would not be released until Street Legal came out four months later. The humor – some of it mocking and self-deprecating – that Dylan evinces even suggests that he was fully aware that he was presenting himself as something akin to a Las Vegas showman.

From Left: Rick Danko, Robbie Robertson, Bob Dylan, Richard Manuel, Garth Hudson and Levon Helm, 1974 Photo by Barry Feinstein

If so, it would not be the first time nor anywhere near the last time that Dylan was playing a character — no less a fictive version of Dylan than Renaldo in Renaldo and Clara nor Jack Fate in his 2003 film, the aptly-titled Masked and Anonymous. (There is a whole school of thought that “Bob Dylan” himself is a put-on, a fictional character invented by a savvy youngster from Hibbing, Minnesota, named Robert Allen Zimmerman.)

But the context of where he had been and, with the benefit of hindsight, where he was headed musically might be the strongest reason to spend time with these glitzy tracks and their unusual arrangements. The use of backup singers, especially ones whose vocals were stylized in gospel-like call-and-response, offered a hint that Dylan was beginning a journey that would see him explore different aspects of Black music in subsequent albums.

Steve Douglas’ dominant saxophone lends many of the numbers a jazzy, R&B feel. A few songs are recontextualized as reggae numbers. In the years immediately following the 1978 tour, Dylan would dive deep into gospel music on several albums, into Motown and R&B on 1981’s “Shot of Love,” and reggae on 1983’s Infidels, which even saw Dylan hire Robbie Shakespeare and Sly Dunbar, famed Jamaican reggae producers, to play bass and drums.

The new Budokan collection is not the only new Dylan product seeing release this season. Bob Dylan: Mixing Up the Medicine is a fabulous new doorstop of a book whose 610 pages serve as a kind of portable version of the Bob Dylan Center and Archive in Tulsa, Oklahoma, which opened in May 2022. The volume spans Dylan’s entire life and career, featuring over 1,100 images from the archives — everything from concert ticket stubs to handwritten lyric sheets to rarely seen backstage photographs — all duly captioned by editors Mark Davidson and Parker Fishel, both curators at the Dylan Center.

The book also does a terrific job of contextualizing the many objects, images, and ephemera in 30 new essays by writers including Sean Wilentz, Greil Marcus, Lucy Sante, Tom Piazza, Richard Hell, Greg Tate, and Larry Sloman. Sonic Youth cofounder Lee Ranaldo uncovers the mystery of the very first recording featuring the voice of a teenaged Robert Allen Zimmerman and a couple of his hometown friends, “a casual lark for three Jewish boys on Christmas Eve.”

The 610-page ‘Mixing Up the Medicine’ serves as a kind of portable version of the Bob Dylan Center and Archive in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Courtesy of Callaway Arts & Entertainment

Marvin Karlins, who gave free folksinging and guitar lessons to students at the University of Minnesota’s Hillel, recounts meeting and tutoring an unassuming first-year student named Zimmerman, pointing him towards the thriving folk club scene in the Dinkytown section of Minneapolis. Griffin Ondaatje does yeoman’s work tracing the influence of Joseph Conrad in Dylan’s songs, and the New Yorker’s Amanda Petrusich reevaluates Dylan’s first book, Tarantula, in a short essay that should rightly renew interest in Dylan’s imaginative work of prose-poetry, “as deep a piece of literature as anything else he wrote.”

So much territory is covered in the book, including Dylan and Johnny Cash, Dylan and the Band, Dylan and the Beatles (especially George Harrison), Dylan and the Grateful Dead, Dylan on the silver screen, even Dylan’s ill-fated collaboration with Archibald MacLeish. You would have to arrange a multiple-month residency at the Dylan archive to soak in all that is presented in this volume, as attractive as it is informative. It isn’t pitched toward the general or casual reader, but if you have a Dylan fan in your life, your holiday gift-giving dilemma is solved.

Three weeks ago, the big news in popular music was the first album of new music by the Rolling Stones in 18 years, with plans for a 2024 tour. Last week, the Beatles — who broke up in 1970 — released their much-touted “final” single, “Now and Then,” reconstructed from a demo cassette John Lennon made in the late-1970s, featuring overdubbed parts by the three other Beatles (with a little help from “machine-assisted learning,” which sounds an awful lot like AI to me).

Given the fact that the 82-year-old Nobel Prize-winning rock poet Bob Dylan continues to tour incessantly, swinging through the Northeast most recently (and playing three shows in New York City next week), you can be forgiven if you wake up some mornings wondering what year it is, and perhaps more to the point, what world it is. That one’s easy: it’s Bob Dylan’s world, and we just happen to live in it. Lucky us.

 

The post With a new (old) album, a tour with (old) new songs, and a giant new book, Bob Dylan remains a neverending juggernaut appeared first on The Forward.

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Victims of Oct. 7 Massacre Sue UNRWA for Funding Hamas, Giving Terrorists a ‘Safe Haven’ in Its Gaza Facilities

The bloodied aftermath of a kindergarten in Kibbutz Be’eri attacked by Hamas terrorists on Oct. 7. Photo: Reuters/Amir Cohen

More than 100 Israeli victims of the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attack in southern Israel filed a lawsuit on Monday against the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) for allegedly “aiding and abetting” the Palestinian terrorist organization and helping it carry out the massacre last year that killed more than 1,200 people.

The lawsuit claims that the UN organization dedicated solely to Palestinian refugees and their descendants has spent years “sending over one billion dollars from UNRWA’s New York bank account in Manhattan that defendants then caused to be delivered to Gaza in cash US dollars to benefit Hamas.” UNRWA allegedly laundered billions in donor cash to Hamas, “greatly reducing humanitarian aid provided to Gaza residents and playing a key role in the Oct. 7 attack.” MM~LAW LLC filed the lawsuit against UNRWA in US federal court in the Southern District of New York on behalf of the plaintiffs.

Both the Israeli government and watchdog groups have unveiled evidence purportedly showing that many UNRWA employees actively participated in the Oct. 7 Hamas attack, assisted in kidnapping Israelis that day, tortured and hid Israeli hostages in their homes, aided in the transfer of Hamas weapons and trucks, and had other close ties to Hamas.

The UN has been probing the allegations in an ongoing investigation. In April, a UN spokesperson said that one case of an employee helping Hamas and its Oct. 7 onslaught had been closed and four others suspended, citing a lack of evidence.

Israel discovered that Hamas used UNRWA facilities in Gaza, including its schools, to run operations and attacks against Israel and to store weapons, both in and under UNRWA institutions. The Israeli military recently revealed that in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, Hamas terrorists were found in UNRWA’s central logistics compound alongside UN vehicles. A group of 3,000 teachers working in Gaza for UNRWA even praised the Oct. 7 Hamas attack. UNRWA operates 183 schools in Gaza that are staffed by over 9,400 employees, according to the lawsuit

UNRWA schools have previously been accused of inciting antisemitism, terrorism, and hatred of Israel in the textbooks it distributes to Palestinians students.

The Israeli victims of Oct. 7 claim in their lawsuit that UNRWA “knowingly and intentionally” employed Hamas members and “knowingly provided material support to Hamas in Gaza,” including providing them access to UNRWA facilities and offering “safe havens for terrorists and their materiel.”

They accuse UNRWA of facilitating “construction of Hamas command and control centers, attack tunnels and underground bunkers under UNRWA headquarters, UNRWA schools, medical clinics, and offices.” The UN agency is also accused of turning its facilities into “prison cells to hold hostages,” as well as “military storage and deployment bases, including the storage and guarding over weapons, ammunition, explosives, and other military supplies, to be used by terrorists.”

UNRWA “collectively spent over a decade prior to the Oct.7 attack helping Hamas build up the terror infrastructure and personnel that were necessary to carry out the Oct. 7 attack, including by knowingly providing Hamas with the US dollars in cash that it needed to pay smugglers for weapons, explosives, and other terror materiel,” the lawsuit charges.

The UN organization also allegedly “permitted installation of rocket launching platforms and terrorist firing positions within and/or adjacent to UNRWA schools, medical clinics and offices, in violation of international humanitarian law.”

The case includes accusations about UNRWA implementing a tactic to further fund Hamas by paying its Gaza staff in US dollars rather than local currency, which is the Israeli shekel. The lawsuit states that although other large, local employers in Gaza pay their employees in shekels, UNRWA instead pays its local staff in US dollars and in cash. As a result, UNRWA personnel are required “to turn to Hamas-affiliated moneychangers” to exchange their cash dollars for shekels needed to buy things like groceries and other necessities.

“Hamas runs the majority of the Gaza moneychangers, and those are that are not actually run by Hamas are required by Hamas to pay Hamas a share of the fees they earn (often ranging from 10 percent up to 25 percent) for such exchange transactions, thus ensuring that a predictable percentage of UNRWA’s payroll went to Hamas,” the lawsuit explained. “Hamas uses the moneychangers to finance its military activities, and there are multiple examples in recent years of Hamas using currency exchange facilities in Gaza to finance its military activities.”

The lawsuit continued, “Hamas desperately needed the US currency itself. US dollars in cash form are vital to Hamas for purposes such as obtaining weapons on the international black market to be smuggled into Gaza and used for terrorist purposes, including the Oct. 7 attack.”

The plaintiffs said that because UNRWA’s actions in aiding Hamas “occurred in significant part” in New York — like trips taken by UNRWA personnel to the United Nations in New York City to secure funding from donor countries — the federal court in New York in which they filed their lawsuit has jurisdiction to making a ruling in the case.

Plaintiffs include not only victims of the attack but also families and representatives of those murdered by Hamas on Oct. 7. They demand a trial by jury and are seeking damages “in an amount to be proven at trial.”

The post Victims of Oct. 7 Massacre Sue UNRWA for Funding Hamas, Giving Terrorists a ‘Safe Haven’ in Its Gaza Facilities first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Hundreds of Israelis have been moving to Canada since Oct. 7—and a Hebrew website has been here to help

When Michal Harel and her family moved to Canada from Israel in April of 2019, they had a hard time getting settled. Between learning English, finding a home, acquiring work permits, and of course navigating the more restrained social norms in Canada, Harel and her husband, Avital Epstein, struggled to get their new life in […]

The post Hundreds of Israelis have been moving to Canada since Oct. 7—and a Hebrew website has been here to help appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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Here’s What Has Happened on the Ground in Gaza Over the Past Month

Trucks stand at the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Rafah, Egypt, April 25, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

The Israeli offensive in the Rafah area gradually took all the ground adjacent to the border between Gaza and Egypt. Over the past few days, there have been reports of Israeli forces now conducting attacks from the area taken northwards, both in the relatively open area between the city of Rafah and the coast and inside Rafah itself.

Many civilians in Gaza have moved to the safe havens allotted by the IDF. The resistance by the US government to the Rafah operation was based on the premise this would not happen. Just as in the previous IDF offensives in northern Gaza and the Khan Yunis area, the rate of evacuation is one of the factors determining the rate of advance of the IDF units.

During the clearing operations in each area taken, IDF units have uncovered hundreds of tunnels, including dozens crossing the border into Egypt. These tunnels were used for smuggling weapons from Egypt into Gaza, as well as civilian traffic — both people and goods. Officially the Egyptians destroy all tunnels they discover on their side of the border, but apparently, over the past few years, they have reduced this effort considerably — these tunnels all have large openings on the Egyptian side of the border, they are not small or camouflaged, and the traffic through them was not a trickle.

Rocket launchers and stocks of rockets were also found adjacent to the Egyptian border. Additionally, more evidence has been found in Rafah of Hamas’ use of UN sites and mosques.

The IDF has also continued to conduct raids into northern Gaza and Khan Yunis whenever concentrations of returning Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorists are discovered, as well as raids into the Nuseyrat area, between Gaza and Nuseyrat. The Nuseyrat area is the only one in which the IDF has not yet conducted a major offensive operation.

In a much publicized raid on June 8, which was conducted by a Police Force special unit supported by the IDF, four hostages held in two separate private homes (one belonging to a news photographer who had published in Al-Jazeera) were rescued. An Israeli officer was killed in this raid, and a few others were wounded. The Palestinians, as usual, claimed enormous casualties to civilians living in the area of the raid. Again as usual, there is no evidence that the published number was anywhere near the truth.

Given similar events in the past — when numbers claimed by the Palestinians of hundreds of civilians killed by the IDF were later found to be grossly exaggerated, to have included many terrorists, and to have included Palestinians killed or wounded by Palestinian fire — the reliability of these numbers must be regarded as suspect.

Also found over the past few weeks were the bodies of a number of hostages killed on October 7 whose bodies were taken to Gaza, as well as a few who were kidnapped alive and then killed while being held. One more body was discovered inside Israel.

After spending an estimated $320 million on building a floating pier to provide humanitarian supplies, it seems the US will permanently dismantle it. It was incapable of withstanding the buffeting of waves, and broke apart once. The pieces were then towed to an Israeli port for repair and to await a calming of the sea. Afterwards it was returned to the Gaza coast, but when the sea conditions worsened again, the Americans pulled it out again. Because the IDF captured the Gaza side of the Rafah border crossing, Egypt refused to continue sending humanitarian supplies through it. However, supplies increased through the other crossings between Israel and Gaza, thereby bypassing Hamas tax-collectors. According to posts published by Gazans on social media, this lowered the prices of commodities in Gaza.

On June 9, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNHCA) published a report stating that the claim that there is a famine in Gaza is not based on supporting evidence:

The FRC does not find the FEWS NET analysis plausible given the uncertainty and lack of convergence of the supporting evidence employed in the analysis. Therefore, the FRC is unable to make a determination as to whether or not famine thresholds have been passed during April.

They qualify that statement by claiming they are physically incapable of acquiring sufficient reliable evidence. However, photographs posted on social media by Gazans show that the real problem is less a matter of lack of foodstuffs and more an issue of inefficient distribution. The IDF spokesperson has reported that much of the supplies are simply being stored inside Gaza and awaiting distribution because the organizations in charge of distribution are incapable of meeting the rate of supplies flowing into Gaza. Furthermore, Gazans are complaining openly that Hamas is deliberately taking much of the supplies and hoarding them to sell at high prices to raise funds for its operations. They also complain of theft of supplies by criminal organizations for the same purpose.

Lebanon

In a speech given on June 19 by Hezbollah General Secretary Hassan Nasrallah, he claimed that:

Hezbollah has 100,000 troops all told and has therefore turned down requests by other organizations of the Iranian-led Shiite alliance to send contingents to Lebanon.

Hezbollah has the full panoply of weapons to conduct ground, air and sea combat, it manufactures weapons at home, and it is receiving weapons from Iran despite Israel’s attempts to prevent this.

He also claimed that Hezbollah has information that Cyprus has agreed to allow Israel to use its airports if Israeli airports are damaged by Hezbollah fire. He threatened that if Cyprus does this, it too will become a target of Hezbollah’s firepower.

This is not the first time Nasrallah has mentioned the 100,000 troops figure. This is considerably more than all previous reports, which ranged from a low of 45,000 to a high of 60,000. The previous occasion was in October 2021 when internal tensions in Lebanon threatened to boil over into a possible civil war. If he is speaking the truth, then Hezbollah has more men than the official Lebanese army (85,000). The Hezbollah forces are certainly better trained on average than the Lebanese army, and they are also better equipped in some areas.

The exchange of fire on the Israel-Lebanon border continues at a varying but fairly low intensity. Over the past few weeks Israeli attacks have escalated in the choice of targets, which are now no longer only near the border but also include Hezbollah installations in central and northern Lebanon. Hezbollah has responded by increasing the size of its rocket and exploding drone salvos into Israel. There are reports that to reduce casualties Hezbollah has withdrawn many of its personnel several kilometers north of the border and is conducting almost all its fire from a distance.

Hezbollah has admitted that so far 349 of its personnel have been killed (another 50 since my last report). This does not include non-Shiite members of Hezbollah who probably add at least a few dozen to the list.

In addition to the numerical increase in Hezbollah casualties, there has also been an increase in their ranks and importance. The commander and some senior staff members of one of Hezbollah’s three divisions in south Lebanon were killed, as were some senior staff members of another division.

Israeli casualties

The total number of Israelis confirmed killed on and since October 7, 2023, is now 1,609, with another approximately 16,500 wounded.

There are still approximately 116 kidnapped Israelis and non-Israelis in Gaza. How many are alive and how many dead is not known. In the negotiations with Hamas, Israel demanded a list of those alive and those dead, but Hamas refused. Furthermore, Hamas claims not to know the whereabouts of more than a few dozen of the hostages. Some are in the hands of other groups or even “private” clans who joined the assault on Israel in the third wave of the Hamas attack on 7 October. Thus, for example, the four Israelis rescued since my last report were all held in the private homes of “civilians.”

In addition, 19 Israeli civilians have been killed in Hamas rocket attacks and seven by Hezbollah.

As of last month, a total of 662 IDF soldiers have been killed (42 more than my previous report) on all fronts since and including October 7.

Palestinian casualties

The Gaza Health Ministry, which is controlled by Hamas in its role as the government of Gaza, claims that approximately 37,500 Gazans have been killed so far, and approximately 85,000 wounded. They do not differentiate between personnel of Hamas and other terrorist organizations and civilians, but according to the IDF, at least 15,000 Hamas and other terrorists have been killed. The IDF has also captured many terrorists, though the exact number has not been divulged. From anecdotal information it can be estimated at 3,000-3,500 (there have been no reports of major surrenders over the past month).

Given that Hamas and the other groups had 40,000-50,000 personnel between them (different sources provide different numbers, and there is a problem counting part-timers as opposed to regulars or official “reserves”), these numbers represent a sizeable chunk of their manpower. However, we have no information on the recruitment rate of new personnel, who are perhaps less trained but still add to the numbers. Hamas youth movements (equivalent to Boys Scout movements) conduct basic firearms training from an early age, so they have a recruitment pool of teenagers available to join the fighting.

Until early May, the UN claimed (quoting Hamas numbers) that of the nearly 35,000 Gazans killed in the war till then, 9,500 were women and 14,500 were children; i.e., approximately 68.5% of the killed. Suddenly, two days later, the UN approximately halved the numbers to nearly 5,000 women and 7,800 children; i.e., approximately 36.5% of the killed.

It should be noted that Israel has been consistently claiming its combatant/non-combatant ratio is one of the best and perhaps the best ever achieved by any army fighting in urban areas. These new numbers prove it. In fact, given that the term “children” includes anyone under 18 and that Hamas and the other organizations employ teenagers younger than that as combatants (15-18 year-olds), the ratio is in fact even better than these numbers show. Any civilian deaths are regrettable, but they are unfortunately inevitable whenever combat occurs where civilians are present. When one side deliberately uses them as human shields, this of course happens even more.

Dr. Eado Hecht, a senior research fellow at the BESA Center, is a military analyst focusing mainly on the relationship between military theory, military doctrine, and military practice. He teaches courses on military theory and military history at Bar-Ilan University, Haifa University, and Reichman University and in a variety of courses in the Israel Defense Forces. A version of this article was originally published by The BESA Center.

The post Here’s What Has Happened on the Ground in Gaza Over the Past Month first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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