Tuvia Tenenbom has a problem. His books sell so well he can’t find a publisher in the English-speaking world.
His last book, Catch the Jew!, was a spectacular international success. Published in Germany and, in English, in Israel, it shot to the top of numerous best-seller lists. His previous book, I Sleep in Hitler’s Room, was also a German best-seller.
Tenenbom writes for Die Zeit
. Although he was born in Bnei Brak, his fair hair nevertheless leads people to assume he is a German gentile and as such, that he harbors anti-Jewish views. Declining to disabuse people of this mistake, he goes round asking pointed questions on issues people try to avoid. The result is as devastating as it is funny.
In I Sleep in Hitler’s Room
, he revealed persistent German Jew-hatred. In Catch the Jew!
, he discovered that the German and other European governments were outsourcing the incitement of Jew-hatred to NGOs, many of which were run by Jews.
He has attracted rave reviews and an international fan base. He’s been called “Michael Moore and Borat in one” (Die Welt
), “A force of nature” (La Repubblica
) and “a free artist who fights for truth and tolerance” (Le Vif/L’Express
His new book, Don’t Quote Me
, is to be published in Germany at the beginning of September. It is about America. He has repeated there his tactic of traveling around and writing down what people say to him.
He asks people what they think of Obama and they talk about their support for the Palestinians.
Warned off visiting places he is told are “too dangerous” for white people to enter, he finds ghettos of black people living in third world poverty and despair. White American liberals never visit these places but agitate instead about the plight of Palestinians and the awfulness of Israel.
In Detroit, he finds museum guides trained to look blank if the public asks them about Henry Ford’s anti-Semitism. At a conference in Washington for Christians United for Israel, he is called a “f***ing, filthy Jew” by a demonstrator from Jewish Voices for Peace.
In a Jewish temple in St Paul, Minnesota, he hears a black convert to Judaism say that since her conversion she has discovered Jews are racists. The Jews applaud. In Chicago, he attends a meeting in which the Jewish community listens to a Jewish Obama administration official extol the wonderfulness of the Iran deal, and then to an Israeli diplomat begging them to stand with Israel against it. The Jews finally decide not to make a decision.
As may now be apparent, Tenenbom has again written a book that is unputdownable. His German publishing house has made it its book of the month to capitalize on the US election. So you might think it would be snapped up by English-speaking publishers, particularly in America.
Not a bit of it. One publishing house after another has turned it down. At this juncture, it seems this savage, disturbing, comical and important book about how Americans think will be published in Germany and Israel but not in America.
Remarkably, Tenenbom hit the same problem with his previous two books. Initially he was forced to self-publish I Sleep in Hitler’s Room because German publishers wouldn’t print it. One said he would do so only if the attacks on Jews were written up as attacks on Israel.
US literary agents refused to touch Catch the Jew!
Even after it had become a best-seller, one agent told him she was so appalled she didn’t even want the text in her mailbox.
American publishers said the book wouldn’t appeal to American Jews. When a philanthropist offered to make hundreds of copies available to Hillel and Birthright, they refused to take it.The Forward
, America’s venerable and liberal Jewish newspaper, trashed the book in its review.
Tenenbom, who had written for The Forward
for two years, says that when he wrote a column about the black woman in Minnesota who claimed Jews were racists the paper refused to publish it.
He found a similar reaction in Britain. He presented some of his American findings at Limmud, Britain’s annual Jewish educational gathering. The audience, he writes, went ballistic. How dare he say there was so much racism in America, they cried! How dare he say American Jews were self-hating! Then they disinvited him from his remaining planned presentation.
The reason Tenenbom has such difficulty is that Diaspora Jews, often outwardly seeming so confident, are in fact profoundly afraid. What are they afraid of? They are afraid of the truth.
Tenenbom holds up a mirror they want to smash.
It shows them a reflection of the deep prejudice in English-speaking society against Israel and the Jews, a prejudice many Jews want to deny and that too many themselves dismayingly share.
One of the ugliest truths Tenenbom unmasks is the succor given to Jew-hatred by so many Jews on the Left. And Jews on the Left tend to be disproportionately represented in the publishing world.
Tenenbom tells truths that liberals, including liberal Jews, try to airbrush away. He sees Jews everywhere craven and cringing, trying to hide their Jewishness. He says so. And for that they will not forgive him.Melanie Phillips is a columnist for The Times (UK).