Tenenbom develops a theme, but it is one that begins forming as he journeys through the land, as he slowly recognizes a pattern that becomes more and more obvious as he continues the journey.
The theme is that outsiders are funding mendacious “facts” about the Middle East conflict, casting Jews as outsiders and occupying villains, and Arabs as innocent and indigenous victims. Those outsiders, primarily Germans, but also American and European NGOs, are obsessively focused on the Israeli-Arab conflict, and they spend millions of dollars a year to promote their narrative.
There is a second part to this theme, and that is the role the “peace” activists – Israelis, Jews, Arabs, Americans, Europeans – play in this scheme as they are fed the foreign money to produce a new reality. It is the wholesale creation of history, paid for by those with…well, let Tenenbom explain that.
Tenenbom, the raconteur, fillets his subjects with their own hypocrisy or, occasionally, bald stupidity. Sometimes he just describes what he observed without including his own commentary; often none is necessary.
To pick one example of his interviews in isolation, or even two or three, would not do justice to the entire fabric. It is more helpful to mention those whom Tenenbom seems to view most favorably: Fania Oz-Sulzberger, the Haifa professor and daughter of Amos Oz, Jibril Rajoub, the Palestinian Arab terrorist, and Ayelet Shaked, the Knesset member from the Religious Zionist party, Bayit Yehudi.
What could possibly be the vein running through this disparate group to engender Tenenbom’s favor? Honesty. Honesty and a belief in one’s own position.
Tuvia recounts a conversation he had with one of the Jewish “peace” activists he meets, “I personally love the Palestinians, I tell him, because the Palestinians have pride in their identity, but I have no respect for self-haters, Jew or black. If I had a beloved daughter, I’d rather she married a proud Hamas activist than a self-hating Jew like him.”
Be forewarned: the book does not have a happy ending. But it is brutally honest, throughout. That is so, despite it being told by someone claiming to be many things he isn’t, in order to get at the truth.
This is exactly the kind of book young American Jews should read. How about distributing the book to them?
Michael Steinhardt, one of the biggest funders of Hillel and Birthright, gave Tenenbom a grant to publish his earlier book, “I Sleep in Hitler’s Room.”
But Hillel and Birthright refused to distribute “Catch the Jew.”
“Michael Steinhardt offered to buy 100,000 copies of the book for Hillel or Birthright to distribute,” Tenenbom told me. “They said no.” Could it be because they don’t want their students to alter their views about the Middle East? Is it too right wing? Too left wing? After you read the book it’s up to you to share it with every young person you know.