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Neighborhood Bully

Neighborhood Bully

He's criticized and condemned for being alive. He's not supposed to fight back, he's supposed to lay down and die.

by Bob Dylan

Well, the neighborhood bully, he's just one man,
His enemies say he's on their land.
They got him outnumbered about a million to one,
He got no place to escape to, no place to run.
He's the neighborhood bully.

The neighborhood bully just lives to survive,
He's criticized and condemned for being alive.
He's not supposed to fight back, he's supposed to have thick skin,
He's supposed to lay down and die when his door is kicked in.
He's the neighborhood bully.

The neighborhood bully been driven out of every land,
He's wandered the earth an exiled man.
Seen his family scattered, his people hounded and torn,
He's always on trial for just being born.
He's the neighborhood bully.

Well, he knocked out a lynch mob, he was criticized,
Old women condemned him, said he should apologize.
Then he destroyed a bomb factory, nobody was glad.
The bombs were meant for him.
He was supposed to feel bad.
He's the neighborhood bully.

Well, the chances are against it and the odds are slim
That he'll live by the rules that the world makes for him,
'Cause there's a noose at his neck and a gun at his back
And a license to kill him is given out to every maniac.
He's the neighborhood bully.

He got no allies to really speak of.
What he gets he must pay for, he don't get it out of love.
He buys obsolete weapons and he won't be denied
But no one sends flesh and blood to fight by his side.
He's the neighborhood bully.

Well, he's surrounded by pacifists who all want peace,
They pray for it nightly that the bloodshed must cease.
Now, they wouldn't hurt a fly.
To hurt one they would weep.
They lay and they wait for this bully to fall asleep.
He's the neighborhood bully.

Every empire that's enslaved him is gone,
Egypt and Rome, even the great Babylon.
He's made a garden of paradise in the desert sand,
In bed with nobody, under no one's command.
He's the neighborhood bully.

Now his holiest books have been trampled upon,
No contract he signed was worth what it was written on.
He took the crumbs of the world and he turned it into wealth,
Took sickness and disease and he turned it into health.
He's the neighborhood bully.

What's anybody indebted to him for?
Nothin', they say.
He just likes to cause war.
Pride and prejudice and superstition indeed,
They wait for this bully like a dog waits to feed.
He's the neighborhood bully.

What has he done to wear so many scars?
Does he change the course of rivers?
Does he pollute the moon and stars?
Neighborhood bully, standing on the hill,
Running out the clock, time standing still,
Neighborhood bully.

From the album "Infidels", Copyright © 1983 Special Rider Music

November 10, 2001

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Visitor Comments: 14

(13) Nancy, October 14, 2016 11:42 AM

Mazal tov and Yasher Koach to Bob Dylan!

I have been familiar with his music and lyrics for a long time, but have not given them the attention they deserve. However, that began to change over the last 18 months when I listened to the song Forever Young. I was not familiar with neighborhood bully until reading about it on aish, but you can bet I will be listening to it on youtube. Mazal tov to Bob Dylan on winning the noble prize for literature.

(12) Anonymous, August 6, 2009 8:02 PM

good for you boychick

(11) Robbeh Shabti, September 23, 2005 12:00 AM

S'not our fault we rock >__>;

Way I see it is that there's a lot of jealousy, specially since the stereotype is that we own everything. What they don't realise (sp.?) is that we won our country thanks to old and outdated materials. On the Isreali Revolution as Bob Dylan said

He got no allies to really speak of.
What he gets he must pay for, he don't get it out of love.
He buys obsolete weapons and he won't be denied
But no one sends flesh and blood to fight by his side.
He's the neighborhood bully.

(10) Anonymous, January 16, 2004 12:00 AM

Superb interpretation


Your analysis of the song seems spot-on to me. I would just add that the lines "criticized and condemned for being alive" and "he's always on trial for just being born" speak to the understanding that there is nothing Israel/The Jews could do that would truly appease those that hate it/them.

The reason for the hatred is simply the existence of Israel/The Jews. Particular accusations or grievances are just today's excuses to these enemies.

The last lines speak to the horrible perpetual nature of this hatred - the "bully" is "running out the clock, time standing still." That's a very effective contradiction - "running out the clock" is what you do when you're just waiting for time to pass, for the bell to ring. To tack on to that, "time standing still," is a powerful evocation of the persistence of this dilemma.

Anyway, those are some of my thoughts, but your composition stands well on its own. Best of luck with it.

(9) susi, January 16, 2003 12:00 AM

my interpretation of this song


I have to write a composition about Bob Dylan and social criticism in his songs - of which one is "Neighborhood bully".
What do you think about it?! Any comments?


In the first nine stanzas, Dylan defends Israel by summing up several justifications, whereas in the last two stanzas, the accuser asks questions to an imaginary receiver or audience.

In the first stanza, he starts with a generalization people are likely to bring forward: As already mentioned, the “Neighborhood bully” – “he’s just one man” -
is supposed to be the people of Israel, ‘the Jew’. Furthermore, the whole variety of Israelis is narrowed down to just one opponent, who is treated like an outlaw with “no place to escape to, no place to run”.
The alliteration “criticized and condemned” in the second stanza stresses the fact that the accusations against Israel are unjustified and criticizing its people “for being alive” emphasizes that there is no real reason for criticism at all.
The third stanza blames the discrimination against Jews, whose families and people have been “scattered” and “hounded” due to expulsion and – in the 3rd Reich – genocide.
In the fourth stanza, Bob Dylan mentions a historical event, which led to further quarrels between Israel and Iraq. On June 7, 1981, Israel bombed a nuclear reactor near Baghdad, which was supposed to be used for the production of nuclear bombs being utilized against Israel. “He was supposed to feel bad” because the whole Western world condemned Israel’s attack harshly.
Israel’s image of an outlaw is stressed in the fifth stanza again, when Dylan says: “A license to kill him is given out to every maniac”, because he is the Neighborhood bully.
The next stanza shows the double-sided moral of Western policy by on the one hand supporting Israel with arms and on the other hand denying them allegiance.
The ‘bully’ survived all of his enslavers and turned the barren Sinai Desert into a fertile, agricultural area, not being hand in glove with anybody, as explained in the eighth stanza.
The following one condemns the disrespectful treatment of Israel’s religion and the betrayal due to many broken contracts. Despite all that, the sufferer took his small chances and prospered in several ways of “wealth”, which emphasizes the practical and businesslike side of Jews. The alliteration “world and (…) wealth” might want to show the tight connection of those two expressions. The last two stanzas both start with “What (…)” – this ‘what’ is asking for a reason appropriate for justifying the discrimination against Israel.
The following overstated questions of the last stanza don’t really require any answers, their only purpose is to defend the ‘bully’ standing on the hill like the ox in a children’s game.

Dylan complains about the double standard which is imposed on the inhabitants of the Middle East. Thus, it is always the Jew who is blamed for anything, whilst the true culprit – which could be the rest of the Middle East – gets away without any punishment or even criticism.
The “Neighborhood bully” could also be seen as a fake scapegoat, because it is easier to pin the blame on him than to deal with the real one – which demonstrates the cowardice of the Western world.

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