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May 10, 2015 10:51 am

‘Catch the Jew!’ Replete With Diverse People in an Ideological Minefield

avatar by Amelia Katzen /

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Tuvia Tenenbom (left) with Jibril Rajoub, former head of the Palestinian Authority's intelligence and security apparatus, in Ramallah. Behind them is a photo of Yasser Arafat. Photo: Gefen Publishing. – Alan Dershowitz is fond of pointing out that, were a Martian to land in the middle of the United Nations, he would think that Israel was the worst place on the earth, which is otherwise perfect.

In the recently published Catch the Jew! Tuvia Tenenbom is a German journalist playing the role of that Martian, but he lands in middle of the state of Israel. His publisher has given him the assignment of writing about Israel by interviewing its inhabitants over the course of seven months. He arrives in Israel more or less a tabula rasa, a blank slate, with no political agenda or expectations. What does he find? People of all sorts, who are surprising, predictable, infuriating, self-serving, dedicated, funny, sad, uplifting, depressing, and enlightening. There’s something for everyone.

Tenenbom was born in Jerusalem to an ultra-religious and anti-Zionist family, left the fold as a young man to live in the United States, and later moved to Germany, where he works as a journalist. He is fluent in Hebrew, English, German, and Arabic, all of which he uses both as cover and to ingratiate himself as needed with the subjects of his interviews.

Tenenbom talks to Palestinians and Jews, the religious and the secular, leftists and conservatives, Bedouins and settlers, streetwalkers and Members of Knesset. He asks Jews what it means to be an Israeli, Palestinians what it means to live in Israel, Bedouin women what their sex life is like (and can they please invite him inside their house?), NGOs where they get their money. Though they are initially evasive, Tuvia persists, and what they tell him is amazingly revealing.

Tuvia starts his Israeli sojourn with a visit to the Old City of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount. He is puzzled by his inability as either a Jew or a Christian (he tries both identities) to visit the mosques without being denied access by Israeli police or chased away by Arabs. In contrast to other places in the world, he discovers, “Here the ones occupied, the Arabs, dictate to the occupiers, the Jews, that they, the Jews, must protect them, the Arabs, from their brethren, the other Jews, and from the Christians.” This type of insight is typical.

Among the Arabs that “Tobi the German journalist” befriends is General Jibril Rajoub, a charismatic leader jailed more than once by the Israelis for terrorism and previously head of the Palestinian Authority’s intelligence and security apparatus. Jibril invites Tobi to a Palestinian Independence Day party in Bil’in, site of ongoing protests against the separation wall and the star of the film “5 Broken Cameras.”

As it turns out, Tobi is not the only guest, and it’s not exactly a party. He mounts a bus full of European diplomats and NGO workers, some wearing Hermes scarves with their keffiyehs, which takes them to a spot guarded by a handful of Israel Defense Forces soldiers. European journalists set up their cameras in one area; Palestinians are praying in another. An imam incites the crowd, youths start to throw rocks, the soldiers do nothing. Eventually the rocks become boulders, then firebombs. Now the soldiers respond with tear gas, the cameras start to roll, and the party guests run for cover. Once the journalists have enough and begin to pack up, the “protest” ends.

As he travels through Palestinian towns, Tuvia learns that funding for the beautiful homes and Arab cultural centers comes from the European Union (EU), especially Germany. He visits Gerald Steinberg of the NGO Monitor research institute. Of 150 international NGOs operating in Israel, 50 are funded by Germany or German foundations, and all of them are pro-Palestinian. Tuvia wonders why these young Europeans are so dedicated to protecting the Palestinians from Israeli oppression.

Tuvia finds his answer as he follows a group of Italian youths touring the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum, led by an Israeli named Itamar, “a proud ex-Jew.” The educational trip has been arranged by an Italian institution in Milano and paid for by the EU. Tuvia wonders what these Europeans will think about the “Dead Jews’ Museum.” But Itamar the educator does his best to turn the World War II story into a contemporary one, by making comparisons between then and now—that is, between yesterday’s Nazis and today’s Israelis.

Thanks to their guide, at each exhibit, the Italians see the dead Jews of the camps but hear the name “Palestine.” They watch a film of Nazi officers but hear the name Israel. As Tenenbom puts it, the Europeans are “using Yad Vashem, the monument for millions of Jews slaughtered at their hands, as a platform for poisonous propaganda against the survivors of their butchery.”

“Catch the Jew!” is filled with such realizations, small and large. It is at once a breezily written travelogue and a voyage through the political landscape, spotted with ideological landmines at every step. Even if you think you know everything there is to know about Israel, you’ll meet people you never knew existed and you’ll have fun getting to know them. But beware: in June, Tuvia told, he will be starting his research for a new book—about the U.S.

“Catch the Jew!” by Tuvia Tenenbom, Gefen Publishing House, February 2015, 484 pages, $24.95.

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  • While parts of this book may be factual, it is a wonder that the author can contemplate anything other than himself. He make Woody Allen seem altruistic and concerned with others, not and easy accomplishment. Perhaps a better title for this
    book should be “All About ME!”

  • M. Otero

    There was no reason for our participation in WWI which made it certain that we would be expected to be involved in WWII and French Indo China. The munitions laden Lusitania or Pearl Harbor were both the results of provocative behaviors on our parts. Hitler capitalized on the long standing German resentments of the Jews’ presence in Europe. Germany had only a half of one per cent Jewry. We tend to heap all the blame on Hitler, but it was his cunning to use the German prejudice which is still there. His supporters were among the large industrialist, anti communists, and aristocracies of both England and Germany who found Hitler useful. There are abundant other causes that fill libraries.

    • m otero, either a jew-hater arab troll, or an 8 year old paid anti-jew 3rd world propaganda troll. either way, just because you write “our participation” do not think that the world doesn’t see through your game. Nazi game — tell the lie enough and they will start to believe. You give it away as you praise Hitler, your love of evil oozes through your trash talk … ooooh, his cunning, his supporters and how “useful” Hitler was … go troll elsewhere then an article that outs your garbage … HATER, WE KNOW WHO YOU ARE!

  • M. Otero

    When detractors say that Israelis don’t belong in the Middle East they should be reminded that the majority of Israel’s Jews are the Mizrahis who are 1948-67 Jewish refugees from the Muslim world from Iran to Morocco.
    OR if they repeat that Palestinian lands were stolen by the Jews, they may be reminded that the Mizrahi lands twice the size of Israel were stolen from them.
    When the Pope calls Abbas “an Angel of peace”, he is using the kind of school master psychology that can’t work with this thug of the Arab League which would “bump him off” within a week.

    • motero, this doesn’t cover your previous comment. you are outed!

  • john rowan

    Ffun fun fun let’s nuke Iran

  • Alexi

    Neither a shooting war nor a propaganda war can be won playing defense.

    This goes for tolerating intolerance in the name of tolerance itself.

  • Have the Mossad visit this jerk.

  • Michael

    What does this article have to do with that cretin Dershowitz?

  • Tuvia has been

  • Mireille Mechoullam

    If Israel knows about the YAD VA SHEM controversy why they permit this nonsense to go on and on. This is why Israel is loosing the propaganda and when people don’t know any better they believe what they are telling them. In my humble opinion Israel is not doing herself a favor.

  • manley kiefer

    I guess their premise is, if they lie enough people will believe it. With time and enough lies they may even convince themselves that the lies are true.

    • Francis Figliola

      Winston Churchill: A lie gets halfway around the world before the TRUTH has time to put its pants on!

    • manley — israel, and the jews of the world , have to fight wars to exist. when the arabs learned that they could not kill all the jews directly with guns, tanks and their soldiers a new war front was begun, the old war of propaganda. they stole that idea from the Nazis, how to dehumanize, how to kill Jews. Do you remember when the skyjackings, terrorist human bombings, kidnappings, murders stages started? They learned that they could shoot mortars and missiles and get away with keeping the entire society on edge indefinitely. Loss of property, anxiety and loss of sleep, torturing a society is a form of warfare. It’s all part of the big lie… and to the world the emperor is wearing clothes … can’t you see how magnificent they are … can’t you see the poor Palestinians … look …don’t you see?? … poor oppressed Palestinians … poor occupied Palestinians … manley, don’t kid yourself, the world didn’t need much convincing and believes, financially supports and would see every last Jew dead for their lies. READ THE BOOK!!!!

  • Leo Toystory

    Israel has acted stupidly for many decades by allowing so much anti-Israel activities by foreigners go on within its borders. The liberal ideals from which such misguided tolerance generates are one thing in a country the size of the US but are suicidal in one as small as Israel.

    • Genghis Cohen

      This will not console you. Liberal machinations will as likely destroy America as Israel. As ham handed as some of their theatrical productions are (some even plagiarized) the liberal reviewers always treat them with respect. The recent opera, The Death of Klinghoffer and, a few years ago, a TV production on Public TV about a Palestinian widow whose lemon grove is destroyed by a heartless Israeli governor. This was totally plagiarized from an ancient Sumerian tale written thousands of years before Israel existed. It was recounted by S.N.Kramer in his book, History Begins In Sumer. As long as such theater is presented by respectable venues money will be made and the authors will prosper as injustice reigns.

      • Judah I Jacobs

        What? Your post is incomprehensible. Nada.

  • Eric R.

    Just goes to show what filthy, degenerate, morally depraved savages, monsters and scum that the Europeans mostly are.

    We nuked the wrong place at the end of WW 2.

    • zadimel

      Had WW2 continued much longer than it did, the USA would have initially used its nuclear weapons against Germany before using them against Japan.

    • jnl

      Well put. I could not agree more. Europe has given untold suffering to the world. Granted they have made some cultural contributions, but much of them came from the Jews.

      Great description.