top of page

When Doves Cry - the Be Good Tanyas

In the American terminology of the 1950s and 60s, hawks were those who championed an agressive foreign policy, often involving armed forces, invasion of foreign countries and military support of rebels against democratically elected regimes. Doves, in contrast, were those who advocated peaceful approaches overseas such as diplomacy, negotiation without the threat of force.

When I was a child, growing up in Bahrain, my father, while talking with my mother, once decribed Palestinians as "the Jews of the Middle East". This was in a conversation in which he was ruminating on the fact that among all the Arabic employees at the oil refinery where he was a corrosion engineer, the Palestinians were by far and away the hardest working and most responsible. Looking back, I realise that he was commenting not so much on their industriousness as the fact that, like the Jews in Europe, they were seen, in the Arabian Gulf at least, as a refugee nation, a people without a home.

In 1963 my parents took me with them on a short holiday to what they called "the Holy Land". You can imagine what a great impression this made on an eight year old brought up on a diet of Sunday School and daily morning services at his primary school in Awali, Bahrain. I can remember we visited Bethlehem and Jerusalem taking in the Mount of Olives, Calvary, the Garden of Gethsemane, and the walk of the stations of the cross. We also spent a day beside the Dead Sea, floating in it as though in invisible armchairs, my father reading the obilgatory newspaper for a photograph.

One day in Jerusalem, I walked toward an Arab soldier standing to attention by a barbed-wire fence, hoping to snap him with my brand new Instamatic camera, only to run away crying when he unshouldered his machine gun and pointed it at me. Our guide hastened us away and I was suitably chastised by my parents for having gone where I shouldn't have, namely: too close to the border between Israel and Jordan, which ran through the middle of the city.

In fact, all of the sites we visited in 1963, which were then in Jordan, are now part of Israel and its occupied territories and have been since the Six-Day War of 1967, just four years later.

Both the Be Good Tanyas' covers of Townes Van Zandt's "Waiting Around to Die" (see last post) and Prince's terrific "When Doves Cry" evoke memories of parents, both good and bad, of neglected responsibilities, of strife and love. Imagine the agony be a parent on either side of the current conflict, feeling unable to protect your children, innocent collateral in someone's hawkish concept of justice.

May the doves on both sides carry the day tomorrow or as soon as possible, so that negotiation and peace can prevail.


bottom of page