Monday, June 01, 2015

I mentioned recently that I was reading Tuvia Tenenbom's "Catch the Jew" and that it was great.

Tenenbom, who grew up Haredi in Bnei Brak and left Judaism and Israel, returned to Israel to write this book of his impressions as he met people around the country.. He goes where the wind (and his stomach) takes him, usually playing a German journalist, asking innocent and simple questions from people who aren't used to being questioned at all.

Arabs, upon hearing that he is German, often welcome him as a fellow antisemite. To an extent, so do some of the  never ending stream of Europeans who visit Israel and the territories to spend money against Israel. And that is exactly what they are doing - not trying to help Palestinians but to hurt Israel.

The book is amazing. It beautifully deconstructs the current culture of the Israel-hating crowd, from within and without Israel.

Every page has examples of malicious Europeans, lying Arabs and clueless (or self-hating) Israeli Jews. Here are only a tiny percentage of the many anecdotes that Tenenbom mentions - each of which would be worth an entire blog post or article.:
  • An Al Quds University professor tells Tenenbom that Israel won't allow the university to paint a small spot on the ceiling, and hours later he sees that the Israel is allowing the EU to spend 2.4 million euros to refurbish a Turkish bathhouse in east Jerusalem. 
  • As he walks from the Mount of Olives to Gethsemane, he sees the remains of thousands of Jewish gravestones lining the road, with Hebrew letters still visible.
  • Hanan Ashrawi says that Palestinians have lived there for "hundreds of thousands of years." She also gets upset when Tenenbom asks her why the Christian population has diminished so quickly under PA control. 
  • A PA spokesman, when asked for his definition of Palestinian culture, says "Tolerance and coherence." Tenenbom then asks him why he cannot smoke in public on Ramadan. "It is about respect." Tuvia then tells him that Ashrawi said that twenty years earlier, Christians could smoke on Ramadan in the daylight.
  • A Palestinian woman describes how Israel oppresses her but then mentions that she got free university education in Israel.
  • He relates to a Jewish liberal lady how intolerant the Arabs in Ramallah are, She insists that he is lying. He asks her how many times she's been in Ramallah and the answer is zero.
  • An Israeli leftist professor says she has studied Judaism for years and years. He then asks her a basic Bible question that stumps her.
  • Tenenbom sees multi-million dollar mansions in Hebron, with plaques outside saying that they are being paid for by the EU.
  • Gideon Levy describes how wonderful Palestinians are and how terrible Israeli Jews are. But he admits when questioned that he does not have a single Palestinian friend.
  • The Palestinian Antiquities Minister, when asked, makes it clear that she really wants all Jews to leave Israel even if she can't say it out loud.
  • There is an  EU-funded trip to Yad Vashem hosted by an "ex-Jew" who tells his tourists that Israelis just as bad as the Nazis were - and that Herzl died of syphilis.
  • Jibril Rajoub tells Tanenbom that the reason the EU funds "pro-Palestinian" NGOs is so that they won't get terror attacks like they did in the '70s.. (He backtracks when asked to clarify.)
  • Rabbi Arik Asherman, of "Rabbis for Human Rights," is exposed as being ignorant of the basics of the Torah, lying about his organization being apolitical, and shown to simper as the Arabs he pretends to love mercilessly treat him like dirt.
  • Tenenbom goes to Al Quds University to attend a "human rights competition" but finds out that it is a scam - the EU pays for competitions that are never held. (After this book was published, I saw that one was held the following year.)
  • An ICRC spokeswoman gets caught in a lie when she says she saw Israeli soldiers beat up a diplomat with her own eyes, then admits she wasn't anywhere near the alleged event.(In fact, the diplomat attacked the IDF.)
  • A movie house in Jenin is generously funded by Europeans, but has practically no customers.
  • A highly educated Jewish couple are told by their Arab friends that soon the land will be free of Jews, one of them had been gang-raped by an Arab gang and an old Arab friend had sexually abused their granddaughter. But the husband insisted that they really wanted peace. (After prodding, the wife admitted that they were fools.)
  • After much discouragement, Tenenbom visits.a run-down Bedouin shack in the Negev, and finds that while the outside is ugly, the inside is like paradise.
Tenenbom sees all of this and is amazed, and eventually angry. He exposes diplomats who behave the exact opposite of how diplomats should act, journalists who don't ask the simplest questions, and NGOs who pretend that they care about oppressed people yet would never, ever give a dime to a poor or oppressed Jew (or Egyptian or Yemeni, for that matter.)

The entire situation is quite literally theater, where everyone plays their parts and everyone denies the obvious - because the truth would destroy the illusions that so many people have invested their lives in. Tenenbom's genius is to expose the obvious to the players themselves, who react with anger or denial. Their world is surrounded with like-minded unthinking drones and they cannot abide a truth-teller, often reacting by accusing Tuvia of being a Jew. It is very clear that they would not act the way they act  or say the things they do initially if they knew he was Jewish. (At one point, a Norwegian asks him "Are you a J-" and Tenenbom lets the question hang there for a minute before saying he is German. The man, who had claimed that he is there because of a long tradition of Norwegian care about the poor and downtrodden, then admits that his country collaborated with the Nazis and deported their Jews, who were presumably not poor or downtrodden.)

The author also exposes Jewish charlatans and extremists, but his main target remains the self-delusional (or knowingly deceptive) Leftists and Arabs.

In the end, Tenenbom is pessimistic about the long-term prospects of Israel, given that he has seen so many Jews who have aligned with their enemies. However, he does not seem to realize that his methods of research - while very entertaining - are not a representative sampling of Israelis (nor Arabs.) Most Israeli Jews who are proud of their country and work to make it successful are not the ones who are hanging around in areas Tenenbom frequents. Most Israelis are normal and see quite clearly what kind of neighborhood they are in; but they are not as entertaining as the hypocrites at Haaretz or the latte-drinkers in Tel Aviv, so there was less effort to reach them.

All in all, this book is a must-read.

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