Maxim Behar on the humanitarian crisis in the Middle East on BTV Talk Show Face to FaceOctober, 2023
Host (Tsvetanka Rizova) : Now we have in the studio PR expert Maxim Behar, who has Jewish roots. Hello Mr. Behar.
Maxim Behar: Good evening.
Host: Do you have relatives in Israel, do you have friends there? Have you heard from them? What do they tell you and how do you bear it?
Maxim: 80% of my family is in Israel. On my mother's side and on my father's side. I have over 60 relatives who are living there. My uncle, who is my mother’s brother and is 94, lives there in Rehovot. The city was under attack and this resulted in its vulnerability.
My cousins, nieces, nephews - all of those close relatives have been mobilized. I also hear often from my friends living there. Some of them were able to return to Bulgaria with the help of the government. They do not want to meet up even with me those days, because they are still dealing with all the suffering and oppression. Some even had close friends who went to that faithful rave party, where people were killed and kidnapped. They want to spend at least 10 days alone to cope with the current situation. It is really heartbreaking.
But we must understand: there are two wars going on at the same time. One is the military war, the other is the communications war. Nobody knows what is really going on at the moment as there are lots of miscommunications. You heard today about the hysteria concerning the bombing of the hospital in Gaza, where children died. It turned out that Israel is not standing behind it and has nothing to do with this.
Host: There is an information war going on and it is preventing people from being compassionate and having objective opinions on the matter.
Maxim: Emotions are at an all high right now. It is unlikely that the conflict will calm down soon. However, there are three extremely important things to consider.
First, the Hamas terrorist attack is the reason for this war. Metaphorically speaking, they vilely stabbed Israel in the back. Many people were killed and kidnapped. The second fact is that Hamas is not Palestine. Hamas fighters are terrorists and do not represent Palestine. Palestinian people suffer, just like Israeli people from Hamas. The third extremely important point is that all efforts must be put that history must now be forgotten. There is no way that we repeat one and the same story about someone who will claims this 20km or whatever strip of land is ours or not ours or not yours… We, the Bulgarians, can also claim lots of land. There is hardly a country in the world that has kept the same borders throughout its history. We must look to the future and forget the past.
Israel can overcome this extraordinary ordeal. This is the biggest tragedy, but also the biggest challenge since the notorious 1973 Yom Kippur war. But now is totally different, even only with the fact that now we have the existence of social media, which can be a source used for misinformation and also today there are absolutely new and different weapons such as drones and many others.
This is a test for Israel and for the whole world. For sure, Israel will come out from this terrible situation much more stronger and with honor and dignity.
But today the most important thing about the war is the cost of it. Both sides are paying in innocent human sacrifices for it and this should stop. And on the top - Israel is suffering kidnappings, murders and rapes. Ordinary people are the true victims of this insane mess.
Host: Many analysts say Israeli society is very divided. These demonstrations against justice reform, the criticism of the former heads of Israel's secret intelligence services constantly making remarks about the current heads and the admission that they were unprepared. Is this part of the problem that allowed Hamas to strike such a surprising and terrible blow?
Maxim:Most probably never ending elections, and the massive protests have weakened the military power and vigilance of the Israeli special forces, which are known to be one of the best in the world. Israel was one of the safest countries in the world before the 7th of October. People from all over the world – Jewish and non-Jewish moved to live there.
I have many Palestinian friends both living here in Sofia and also in Israel. I know them as peaceful, intelligent people who want to live in a modern state. Many people over the years went to Israel, because of the security it provided for its people. Now, this security is at stake and the country is facing the problem and dealing with the war at the same time.
Host: You say you have many relatives and friends in Israel. Are the Israelis ready to say, "We'll give up a bit so that two states can exist in peace and tranquility?”
Maxim: Israel has been doing this constantly for the last 20 years. There have been several diplomatic missions towards Morocco that have strengthened the friendship between the two countries. Israel was on the verge of signing a peace agreement with Saudi Arabia. Relations with Egypt and Lebanon were warmed up as much as possible. I believe a conflict of such caliber can be ended by both countries taking a step backward or forward toward reconciliation.
Host: And, you know, it seems to me that one of the most bitter results of what's going on right now is the manifestation of anti-Semitism in Europe. You see what's going on in Germany, you see the demonstrations, the posters. It seems to me that, apart from the death of so many people, which is an undeniable tragedy, this is one of the bitterest fruits of what is happening.
Maxim: Rather there is anti-Semitism everywhere, in Bulgaria unfortunately too. Now, I have a feeling it’s switching towards, let’s say, anti-Israelism if I can call it this way. For me it is clear: the emotions should be the ones driving us at this point. I know people have strong opinions and feelings, I know that the pain from the lost lives of the innocent victims is immense. However, we should be able to think objectively and pragmatically. We should forget the past and focus on living peacefully in the future.
You know, in 2011 I saw a house being bombed in front of my eyes in Ashkelon, a town on the borders of Gaza. I wrote a lot of articles about it.
As I said, the pain is immense, but I am trying to stay optimistic.
Host: Thank you for this conversation.
You can watch the whole interview here.