Posing as “Tobi the German”, author of Catch the Jew!, Tuvia Tenenbom, hides his knowledge of the land, politics, and all three official Israeli languages (plus German) to interview high-ranking politicians, celebrated writers, religious leaders, political activists, West Bank settlers, and Arab Palestinians. His sarcastic wit exposes the hypocrisy of those he meets in a laugh-out-loud-then-stop-to-think manner. For example, he quips, after visiting the village where 5 Broken Cameras was filmed that “Personally, I don’t believe in “Death to the Arabs” and I don’t believe in “Death to the Jews,” even if the latter has been nominated for an Oscar.”
He also asks why, if the land is divided, that Jews can’t live in Palestine just as Arabs now live in Israel – “In what book of law is it decreed that a land must be free of Jews?”
Like many of the more confronting questions in this book, there is no good answer from his interview subjects.
Catch the Jew! is a journey through the complexities of Israel but has a strong focus on the Europeans who support the Palestinians. European aid money is ubiquitous in the Palestinian controlled areas and a force behind the “human rights” organisations (when it’s not being siphoned off) that Tenenbom infiltrates with a pretence of naïve interest. For example, at Al Quds University in East Jerusalem Tenenbom tries to attend a “human rights competition” funded by the EU but there was no such event.
Reflecting some of today’s diversity of thought outside the region, “Tobi” is also told that the Holocaust didn’t happen by one of the people he meets and hears praise for Nazis from another. Both commentators were introduced to “Tobi” by officials of “human rights” and “academic” organisations funded with EU money, and with an agenda to seemingly “catch the Jew”.
It is easy to see, then, why two of Tenenbom’s observations are “human rights activists are the biggest racists there are” and “There’s no point in arguing with a fanatic man, as there would be no point in arguing with an intellectual, intellectual just being a nicer word than fanatic.”
For all its dry humour, Catch the Jew! offers a troubling question – if “Tobi”, who is really an ex-Orthodox Jew, can uncover such hate and corruption, why does European (and American) money continue to finance the NGOs?
Catch the Jew! is an easy and enjoyable read, until one contemplates for a moment the absurdity of an uncovered reality. No wonder it has been a best-seller.
Paperback: 467 pages