Catch the Jew!
By Tuvia Tenenbom
Gefen Publishing House
Catch the Jew! is both one of the funniest and most disturbing books I have ever read.
Posing alternatively as a German investigative reporter named Tobi, a Muslim named Abu Ali, and sometimes as a Jew named Tuvia, author Tuvia Tenenbom spends seven months travelling through Israel and Palestinian-administered territories to find out what people on all sides really think about Israelis and Palestinians. The multilingual, multicultural Tenenbom, an Israeli-born playwright, author and journalist based in New York and Germany, has “countless encounters” with everyday people, politicians, religious leaders and, above all, human-rights activists, gaining their confidence and encouraging them to divulge their opinions and attitudes.
The main theme is that there is a toxic brew of Jew-hatred in Palestinian society, masquerading behind purported human rights activities. The vast majority of those are not only funded, but also directed on the ground by some 150 European-based non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
Here are some of Tenenbom’s findings:
• The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) invests great sums of money and effort in finding fault with Israel. Its agents actively search for stories to paint Israel as a warmonger and Israelis as war criminals. Its scholars compose sophisticated tales masked as reports. In the Internet age, most people therefore see the Red Cross as a society of human angels and Israelis “as a bunch of animalistic devils”;
• The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) helps Palestinian refugees, defined as “persons whose normal place of residence was Palestine during the period June 1, 1946 to May 15, 1948, and who lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict.” The agency has extended this definition to their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. An UNRWA official says they now number 11 million, but admits UNRWA doesn’t know the original number of refugees. This means there is absolutely no basis for its current estimates;
• The Bethlehem Peace Center, whose printed guidebook says that a total of 368,000 Zionist colonists immigrated to Palestine, massacred Palestinians and then planted fast-growing pine trees to cover up their crimes. According to another publication, these people weren’t even real Jews;
• European Commission-funded trips to Yad Vashem, aimed at naïve, idealistic young Europeans, led by “Itamar,” a self-proclaimed ex-Jew and educator. He turns the Holocaust story into a comparison between yesterday’s Nazis and today’s Israelis, telling one audience the Israeli army is doing exactly the same thing to illegal African migrants as the Nazis did to Jews in the concentration camps, and that Israel orders the Palestinian Authority to turn over Palestinians to be executed just as the people of the Lodz ghetto were forced to deliver Jews to the Nazis;
• Al-Quds University, which gives a lecture series financed by the European Commission focusing on the denial of Palestinians’ human rights. Tenenbom chats with several professors, mostly from European countries. One says the Israeli occupation began in 1948, while another says the Israelis crucified Jesus. Yet another, a Palestinian, claims Palestinians can’t own houses, but later discloses that he owns two.
Energetically supporting these undertakings are an assortment of left wing journalists and intellectuals who oppose the idea of a Jewish state, while continuing to live, work and thrive in Israel. Some have renounced Judaism, while more have no knowledge of Arabic or Arab culture, relying on translators for their information. Many have no Palestinian friends and few have ever visited a Palestinian home. These journalists and intellectuals support the Palestinian cause as they think they know it. But they don’t.
None of this concerns one journalist, who is highly critical of Israel’s human rights record and tells Tenenbom that he isn’t interested in Palestinian human rights violations because what they do isn’t his business. Another files a 1,000-word story, completely false, about the destitute Palestinians living in Khirbet al-Makhul, a place he has never visited.
Tenenbom uses humour to underline absurdities. When a human rights spokesperson claims Israel demolishes 1,000 Bedouin homes per year, Tenenbom calculates that a total of 65,000 homes must have been demolished, an impossibility given the size of the community. The official quickly changes his figure “with the stroke of the tongue.” This official has an iPhone, drives a Mercedes and has a law degree from an Israeli university, all of which Tenenbom says are “the truest trademarks of the poor Bedouin community” he has taken him to.
When an ICRC official claims to have seen Israeli soldiers throw a bomb into a Palestinian house and Tenenbom asks for proof, she says she has pictures on her phone but “the phone, how sad, has broken.”
Tenenbom’s concludes that Israel will eventually collapse, not only because of direct attempts by Europeans (including their NGO funding) to undermine it, but also because of the deep hatred held for the country by influential Jews, notably left wing Israeli academics and journalists. I can’t disagree with many of his criticisms about Israel, especially relating to the toxicity of its political and religious fanaticism. However, I feel – or, maybe better, hope and pray – that the resilience of Israelis and their willingness and proven ability to respond to their constant existential challenges will enable them to turn the tide against these scoundrels as well as the organizations that fund them.
The Hebrew-language version of Catch the Jew! was Israel’s best-selling book of 2014. The English-language version was published in North America last month.