Steve Kramer

Catch The Jew! by Tuvia Tenenbom

The book CATCH THE JEW! has been heavily advertised in Israel by Gefen Books. At first I was put off by the book’s title and its somewhat facetious cover art, but after watching a television interview with the author I was intrigued enough to purchase the book.

Tuvia is an expat Israeli who has lived in Germany and elsewhere for several decades, working as a journalist and author. Holding many academic degrees, Tuvia is also a playwright, essayist, and the founding artistic director of the Jewish Theater of New York.

Previous to writing CATCH THE JEW! Tuvia wrote, “I Sleep in Hitler’s Room,” an eye-opening account of anti-Semitism in Germany. It was the success of that book that lead to Tuvia’s invitation to write a similar expose about Israel.

I was uncomfortable with the beginning of this book, until I became accustomed to Tuvia’s very idiosyncratic style. His sardonic personality goes well with his cherubic appearance, and the reader is soon caught up by Tuvia’s droll reporting of mundane encounters with Israelis and Arabs. The thing is, most of those interviewed either know almost nothing about what they are saying, or are consciously spreading a vicious, false narrative about Israel and Israelis. From left-wing Israeli tour guides, to hapless Israeli intellectuals, to European doctors and do-gooders intent on seeing the “real” (cruel, racist) Israel, to Christian Arab bigwigs, to Fatah leaders, and even to rabbis who believe everything the Arabs say, Tuvia blandly records their comments, while attempting to make them think about what they are saying, often impersonating a non-Jewish, German reporter.

As Tuvia puts it, “This developing scene … strikes me as a scene in a Franz Kafka novel. What happens here in front of my eyes is this: Israeli leftist NGOs are ever in search of their own people’s wrongdoing and in competition with each other for recruiting local spies.”

Here is just one example from the book:

I meet a very nice couple, both widely known, highly educated, highly intellectual, exemplary self-haters, optimal Arab lovers, and they touch me deeply. They are Israeli Jews and I won’t identify them, what they do, or in what part of the town they reside. They tell me three interesting stories.

(1) They live in a beautiful home, which was renovated for them by an Arab contractor whom they knew and blindly trusted. When the contractor was about done with his work, for which he was handsomely paid, he presented them with a wonderful gift, for which he did not want to get paid: a big olive tree that he planted in their garden. They were very touched by his gesture and thanked him profusely. He listened to their thanks, looked them straight in the eye and said: “You don’t have to thank me. I didn’t do it for you, I did it for myself and my family.” They did not understand what he was saying, and he explained: “Soon you will move out of this house.” How so? “Because soon this land will be free of Jews.” They were devastated. How could he say such a thing to them

(2) Years ago, many years ago, the lady was gang- raped by a bunch of Arab youth.

(3) Years later, their granddaughter was sexually abused by an old Arab friend.

These three stories are the total sum of their personal experience with Palestinians, yet they won’t allow themselves to be affected by any of these incidents. The man explains to me: “I believe in humanism, I believe that the Palestinians are good people and that they want to live with us in peace. I believe that we have done them wrong and I believe that they have not done us wrong. It doesn’t matter to me if what I believe in is factually right. I know it’s not, but I don’t care about facts! I want to believe, even if everything I believe in is false. Please don’t make me see reality. I have fought it all my life. Please!” At least he is honest. His wife looks at me, but keeps quiet.

I ask her what she feels, not her political views, but she just looks at me. Gently I push her to please share, and she gives me an intense look, yet keeps quiet. I ask her again to share her feelings; she moves her face away and up, looking for some magical intervention from somewhere above to help her. Finally, she opens up. She and her husband are fools, she tells me. She has come to this realization some time ago, but her husband cannot do the same. His worldview, the essence of his life, would collapse – and with it everything he has fought for in his life – if he allowed himself to see reality.

Before we separate, the husband tells me that I should read Gideon Levy’s articles [Haaretz newspaper], so that I can see how unfair the Jews are to the Arabs. I tell him that Gideon’s facts are questionable and that I can prove it to him. He tells me to please shut up. Reading Gideon’s articles makes him feel good and he doesn’t want me to disturb this strange happiness. Period.

It’s often hard to believe what Tuvia reports, but there it is. I would bet that the above couple religiously reads the left-wing, Israeli Haaretz newspaper (the same one constantly quoted in the Western press), imbibing the predominantly hateful analysis of Israel and Israelis. And, as the wife makes clear, it’s easy to see only what one wants to see and believe only what makes one comfortable.

By the way, if you question the tale about the contractor, I can quote my next door neighbor. When his house in Alfe Menashe was built 26 years ago, an elderly Arab gentleman would often come to watch the construction of the house (being built with mostly Arab labor). My neighbor asked him why he was so interested in this house. The elder blandly replied, because after you leave, my family will live here.

I recommend CATCH THE JEW! as an excellent look behind the scenes of what’s happening here in Israel. It’s especially valuable for those who rely for information on Western media such as The New York Times, the Associated Press, mainstream TV, or NGOs such as J-Street, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International (all sponsored by the New Israel Fund).

CATCH THE JEW! is available online from Gefen Publishing Co. or from Amazon and other book stores.

About the Author
Steve Kramer grew up in Atlantic City, graduated from Johns Hopkins in 1967, adopted the hippie lifestyle until 1973, then joined the family business for 15 years. Steve moved to Israel from Margate, NJ in 1991 with his family. He has written more than 1100 articles about Israel and Jews since making Aliyah. Steve and his wife Michal live in Kfar Saba.
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