Born in Bnei Braq, Israel, initiated to the rabbinical studies and educated in opposing Zionism, Tuvia Tenenbom was by chance exposed to secular literature. At a young age, Tuvia leaves the rabbinical studies and settles in the US, where he studies maths, computer science, drama composition and literature. He founded the Jewish Theater of New York, where he leaves. He also writes for the German “die Zeit”.
His best-seller book “I sleep in Hitler’s Room” analyses contemporary German society and exposes the vivid and rooted anti-Semitism. After this successful project, Tuvia and his wife travel to Israel, which he left 33 years earlier, and Palestine. He meets politicians, activists, common people, religious, secular, right-wing, left-wing. He writes the book “Tfos et ha-yehudi - Catch the Jew!” A journal and an analysis of Israeli and Palestinian societies. A collection of interviews and almost theatre plays. Short chapters, briefly introduced by context, disclose each a scene. These micro-dramas tell about a diverse Israeli society, about the oppressive Palestinian society, with a discrete narrator recounting of food, perfumes, Jerusalemite cats, Palestinian life, checkpoints and often emerging not without sarcasm at the end of each encounter.
The true drama on-the-spot is played by the Europeans, who, blinded by their mission to bring peace and love, cover NGOs and Palestinians in money. Their work, Tuvia says, is “to catch the Jew” who does something wrong. Crossing checkpoints takes a few minutes, contrarily as one is used to think. The European Union funded the reconstruction of a hamam in the Old City of Jerusalem, believing this means to preserve Palestinian culture. A group of Italians visits Yad Vashem, guided by an Israeli activist who promotes the boycott against Israel from within the Holocaust Museum.
I met Tuvia in Jerusalem, with his wife Isi, who speaks a spledind Italian, where they currently live in Nahlaot. Among coffee, cigarettes, fruits and biscuits, Tuvia tells me about faces and words of people he met, for explaining me the nonsensical, compulsive and unconditional support for the Palestinians. It tastes of the ancient anti-Jewish obsession, which makes Europeans believe that they love Jews: such a deep love that brings them to do anything against Israel. And therefore, in name of human rights, “catch the Jew!”
You spent time in Germany and in Israel getting to know many Europeans. Do you have a general view of what Europeans think regarding Israel and the Jews? I don’t believe in opinions, only in facts. Before starting the project on Germany, on which I wrote my book “I sleep in Hitler’s room”, my views of Germany were very positive. If anybody told me that the Germans were all Nazis, I laughed. What I thought of the Germans at the time was that they are all good, nice, and very enlightened people. During my stay in Germany I interviewed and talked to many people all over the country, trying to look deeper into their society. And that is how I discovered strong, deep anti-Semitic thoughts. Most of the Germans I got to know do not even realise they are anti-Semitic. All they say is: Jews control the money of the world; the financial crisis was created by a group of Jews; and Israelis (let’s not call them Jews!) wake up in the mornings and kill Arabs.
Germany has got special relations with the Jews and with Israel, for historical reasons. Is it not strange that Germany has these strong anti-Semitic feelings? These “good relations” are fake. Germans build Jewish schools, but most of the kids are not even Jewish; they build Jewish centres, but they are almost empty – like the one in Munich which cost 70 million EUR and is attended by 10 Jews, or the temple in Cologne, attended by one Polish Jew. It is a façade.
What is the reality? I found several neo-Nazi clubs, for example Club 88 – which stands for “Heil Hitler”, as “h” is the eighth letter of the alphabet – in Northern Germany that I spent some time inside. The bartender told me that the best way to get rid of any problem is to kill all the Jews. Germany does not seem to even plan to enforce its own law, of up to 5 years imprisonment for Holocaust denial, for if they did clubs such as this wouldn’t exist. Look: After my book was published do you think the German authorities closed that place? No.
How did the Germans react to your book? The first publisher wanted me to change all negative expressions referred to Jews with Israelis (“I hate Israelis” and not Jews for example) and to take out all references to neo-Nazis. I commented that such a censorship I would expect from an Iranian publisher in the ayatollahs’ regime, not from a German. In response, he called me “hysteric Jew” – the very phrasing is anti-Semitic. An article appeared in the Süddeutsche Zeitung, before the book was finally published by another publisher, in which I was referred to as “der Jude Tenenbom”, the Jew Tenenbom. Such a language was in the Third Reich, not today – and especially by a newspaper that constantly preaches “human rights” to Israel.
Is there any sign of change? There are Germans who are willing to learn from the past and they break away with anti-Semitism, but sadly they are the minority.
After that you started to work on the project about Israel? I was then asked to come to Israel. My wife and myself came last year, beginning of July. This is the land I was born in, and which I left 33 years ago. In between I seldom visited and only for short periods.
Did you have specific political views when you started this project? I am not affiliated with any political party or ideology. I do not even vote for elections, because expressing a political preference would infringe my objectivity. I do not take up any cause. For me, all causes echo the human thought; some of them may be true, some of them may show fallacies; others may be more honest. I do not see much of a difference among politicians either.
What were your first impressions? I came here, and I realised this is not the country I know. Years ago you could find European tourists in Eilat, spending their time sunbathing on the beach. Now it’s different; the tourists that you meet are activists, who come here to work for one or another NGO and their job is to catch a Jew doing something wrong.
They are activists working for the Palestinians? They pretend to be committed to the Palestinian cause, but they can hardly spell “Palestine”. It’s ridiculous. They call themselves human rights activists working for NGOs, which are strongly anti-Israeli. They claim they for peace and love, but in actuality they spread hate and live off wars. They tell Palestinians, for example, not to buy from the Jews in order to protect Palestinians… They don’t even make sense.
Are they aware that they are anti-Israeli or are they committed to a cause that they do not even fully grasp? Both things. A young German told me: “I came here because I felt bad about the Jews and I fell in love with the Jews”, but she was in Nablus “helping Palestinian kids”. How does it work, where is the logic here? How have you ended up in Nablus, after saying you love the Jews for what your grandparents did to them? But if you ask the Germans to explain the logic in what they do and say they look at you amazed and tell you: “Why are you asking me this? Are you a right-winger? Are you a Zionist?” You cannot speak sense and logic to them.
Do they know the Jews? They have no clue. An example: Another German young girl, another lover of Jews, came to Israel and settled down in Bet Hanina (an Arab neighbourhood): obviously she did not fell in love with a Jew. These days she’s working for a German foundation whose stated purpose is to teach Jews the idea of democracy. Makes sense? The short and sweet of this is: “I love the Jews so much that I want to be with the Palestinians”. It just makes no sense.
Why is it? It is impossible for the average human to comprehend, neither for those who practice this idiocy. The hate for the Jew is so deeply rooted that mere mind is incapable to understand. It is an amazing capacity of the human brain, an amazing psychological mechanism. I was in Jordan the other day, for a conference organised by a German foundation in Jordan, and they had all those nice posters about peace. The Jordanians, believe it or not, are the ones who totally understand these Germans. The Germans, to them, are working hard to “finish the job” they had started in WWII.
On the other hand, these organizations claim to love Palestinian culture and Palestine, but they do not really know it. Yes. It’s a similar story with the Israeli radical left activists and their various NGOs: they see only wrong in Israeli society and only good in the Arab society. These Jewish Israelis would tell you that they love Palestinian culture and they cannot live with the thought that one day there will be two states, with Arabs on one side and Jews on the other, because then there will be no Palestinian with them.
What is their connection to Palestinian culture? When you ask them if they speak Arabic, the answer is “no.” You ask them if they studied the Quran, and the answer is “why should I?”… Basically, whatever culture is – language and customs – it is the very thing these Israelis have no clue about the Palestinians. What, then, is the Palestinian culture that they love? And Palestinians realise it.
What do they think about it? Palestinians think that these people do not really respect them, because if they did, they would speak at least a bit of Arabic. The way the Palestinians view the Israeli leftists is not as people who care for the Arabs but as Jews who use Arabs in their fight with some other Jews, the right-wingers. If you ask me, the Palestinians are right.
And what about the young activists from Europe? Mostly they are young people who come here, handsomely supported by the European Union. For instance, you have the Italian NGO “Casa per la pace”: with generous European funding they bring teenagers to see Israel and Palestine and to understand the conflict. Very nice, indeed. But they select their Jews.
Likeminded Jews? One of those is a man by the name of Itamar Shapira. I join the Italians on their ride wit Itamar. First off, he introduced himself as an “ex Jew” and took them around to see how bad the Jews are. He took them, for example, to Yad Vashem where he told them that what they were seeing was the Jewish narrative, and then he went on to tell them the real “truth”: according to him, Jews came here after WWII and slaughtered Palestinians. He also told them that Theodor Herzl died of a sexual disease. In short: he made as much fun of the Jews as possible, then called for BDS against Israel, and all this was done inside the Jewish Holocaust Museum. The man hates his own people and he wants to cleanse his body from the Jewish dirt, as he feels it, and the EU is happy to oblige.
And in Palestine? Once they are done with the Jews, where do the Italians go? To Nablus! And don’t think that there they hear a Palestinian telling them how bad Palestinians are…
You said that Palestinians feel used by radical left Israelis. Do you think it is the same for Europeans, or are they totally aware? The Europeans give them money, not Israelis. If you go to Hebron, you can see how Members of the European Union build houses for Palestinians. You will see it written on the walls of the beautiful, great, private homes graciously built by Catalonia, Sweden, or other states. I visited one of the Palestinian families living in a house built by Catalonia. A gorgeous place! The lady who welcomed me in told me that her children were studying in Germany. For free, of course. Europeans are crazy! They are spending their money to implant hatred of Jews in Palestinians’ hearts, no matter how much this costs them.
And once these Europeans go back to Europe they portray an image of Palestinians as poor and oppressed. Of course, that is what happens. Jews like Itamar take care of this. Hebron is a good example. When Europeans go around Hebron, when guided by EU-funded people, they see locked shops and empty streets. But this is just the 3% of the entire city! They are never taken to the other part, the 97% of Hebron, where Jews cannot live or even enter. If they did they see thousands upon thousands of Palestinians live in one of the greatest cities in the Middle East. A city that’s lively, full of people, great stores, and wonderful restaurants. In reality, Hebron is one of the richest cities around here.
Do they blame Israel for the situation? Sure. They know what’s going on but do nothing to stop this. They commit their own suicide and nobody pays attention.
Are you being accused for being “Zionist”? I had three public debates, one in the Israeli radio “Reshet Bet”, one on the TV channel “Arutz 10” and one on the Knesset Channel. During these three occasions Yariv Oppenheimer, director of Peace Now, was facing me. He said that my book is not a book, but a propaganda pamphlet, but when one asked if he read the book he said that he did not and will not. He did not even want physically to touch the book… How can one say anything about a book he didn’t read even one line of? Well, if you are with Peace Now I guess you can…
Is it a personal hostility? It’s also much more complicated than just “don’t bother me with facts.” It is, if I try to understand this, something like “don’t even approach me with facts”. Yariv wouldn’t even shake my hand… although he would shake the hands of any Hamas leader.
You have also been attacked and threatened for this book? Yes. An Israeli lady who’s an author and a politician – she was on Meretz list for the Knesset in last election – wrote on her Facebook page that it’s time to kill me, and suggested ways to do it and how dispose of my body afterward. Her party, by the way, didn’t utter a single word against this call for murder.
They also accuse you of dishonesty because you disguised yourself as a German journalist. Well, I am sorry to say, but I am a German journalist. I write for German media. Between you and me, I wouldn’t mind to be a British journalist…
Would you? If the Guardian offered me a job, I would take it! But… I am a German journalist. During my journey here I introduced my self as Toby, short for Tobias, which is the German for “Tuvia”. What I didn’t do is this: I did not tell I am Jewish. Why should I? Have you ever heard of a journalist introducing himself as: “Hi! I am Johannes, I go to church every Sunday; I am a Baptist and I believe in Jesus; now I want to interview you”?
They say you gave another image of yourself. I did not do anything illegal, unethical or unprofessional. Maybe human rights activists will now introduce a law for which you need to declare your Jewishness in advance; in such an eventuality it would be illegal not to say you are Jewish….
Let’s talk about the Palestinians. You visited the Palestinian Territories, talked to Palestinians of all social and religious backgrounds. You also met with Hanan Ashrawi, a Palestinian Christian activist. She denies that Christians are persecuted in Palestine. Why? She defines herself as Christian, but I don’t really know what it means for her, since she doesn’t believe in Jesus, as she herself made clear to me. I met her during Ramadan. When I was making my way to her, people on the street yelled at me not to smoke. When I told her about this, she seemed to be surprised. She denies that Christians suffer under Palestinian rule because this is not good for her narrative. In reality, today Christians hardly exist in Ramallah or in Bethlehem, a supposedly Christian city.
But the Palestinians cannot deny the fact that the Christians left. What they say is that the Israeli secret agents disguised as Muslims killed some Christians, or that Israelis spread rumours that Muslims would kill Christians and that’s why the Christians fled… They do not deny the Christians have left, but they fabricate some theories to blame it on the Israelis. Of course, there was a Jew in the middle, in disguise, who caused this. And the funny thing is that they tell it to me!
Do the Palestinian Christian say the same thing? This story or another. You need to understand that Palestinian Christians are even more anti-Israeli than Muslim Palestinians. It is in line with 2000 years of anti-Judaism, since the Jews killed Jesus In Europe I met atheists who don’t believe that Jesus even existed historically yet they strongly believe that the Jews killed him. You must admit that the Palestinian Christians are more logical…
All the Palestinians you talked to spoke of the “occupation” almost as an abstract, supernatural entity. What is it about this “occupation”? Occupation, to them, started in 1948. In their perspective what happened is the following: We lived here and everything was fine; then, somewherw far, in the coldest parts of Europe, Europeans killed the Jews and suddenly the Jews came here. Why, they ask, should we pay for the crimes that Europeans committed?
Have you met anyone who is not into ideology? Sadly, I have not. It is too troublesome for them. Palestinians had no identity before the Jews came here. There was no Palestinian culture. But now they say that Palestine was founded 14,000 years ago. Yes, they really say so. They publish their own history books and then it’s part of history. They are re-writing Jewish history as well, and the Europeans support them. Before the Europeans got involved in this conflict, which is before the Oslo accords, the reality was different: there were no checkpoints, no barriers, you could go to Gaza with Israeli buses.
Now, how do the Europeans reconcile the fact that they increasingly invest money in peace and the Palestinians have exacerbated their anti-Israeli, anti-Zionist and anti-Jewish discourse? They share that discourse, although they would not dare to say it out loud. They tell the Palestinians “do not trust the Jews.” When they organise activities with the Jews, they carefully select those Jews who think that Israel is on the wrong side of history. They do not care about the Palestinians in Jordan, or in Syria. Even in their own countries the Europeans treat the Arabs like shmucks. In truth, Europeans think of the Arabs in the lowest terms possible. Look of what they have done with the Arab Spring. That’s reality. We would not have the Islamic State were it not for the European and the American involvement in Arab affairs. Where are the human rights activists? What are they doing for the foreign workers in Qatar, who are practically slaves? I was there and I saw it. It’s a shame!
So Europeans like the Arabs because they are against the Jews? It is going on for 2000 years already. The Nazis did not wake up one day and stopped murdering Jews because they suddenly realized that what they have done was wrong. No. They stopped killing the Jews because they lost the war, as simple as that. European history is full of blood, and it is hard for them to look at the mirror and see their own hatred, blood, and mass killings. It is much preferable to look away and concentrate on the Jew, with the big nose. The problem is that Jews do not fight back. Even worse, some Jews have bought into this story and they hate their own people.
Is Islamic anti-Semitism also part of the problem? There is Islamic anti-Semitism, but when we talk about it there is a one major fallacy, which reflects the discourse of the political right. Is there anti-Semitism in the Muslim world? Yes. Who is sponsoring this anti-Semitism? The Europeans. It is European anti-Semitic literature that circulates in the Islamic world. In the Islamic tradition both Jews and Christians are equally infidels. But this is not anti-Semitism, which is the obsessive hatred with one people only, as we know from Europe. The roots of Islamic anti-Semitism are in Christian anti-Semitism.
So what is your opinion about this? Stop focusing on the Muslims and start looking at Europe: see what they teach in universities, what European elites do, and they preach. And perhaps end, once and for all, all the fake NGO world. It’s time to rid humanity of this disease. Look at what human rights activists are doing: They are not human rights activists, but Jew-hater rights activists.