At a book opening in Jerusalem to promote his recently translated Catch the Jew, Tuvia Tenenbom spoke about how he came to write his book and his experiences as “Toby the German,” a best-selling German journalist.
Not revealing that he was Jewish, he was able to meet pro-Palestinian advocates, like Haaretz’s Gideon Levy and Arik Asherman, head of Rabbis for Human Rights, as well as NGOs like B’Tselem and Peace Now, where he uncovered the real story: a huge, foreign-funded propaganda machine to demonize Israel.
As “Toby” he also became friendly with Jabril Rajoub, the top Palestinian leader in the Hebron area. Had Arafat been alive, “Toby” would no doubt have met with the top terrorist himself.
Tenenbom spoke about rampant anti-Semitism throughout German society, editors who refused to publish what he had discovered in textbooks and on the street, and what he concluded was an attempt to camouflage “anti-Semitism” by substituting “anti-Israel.”
That explained, he said, why European governments, churches and institutions so generously funded anti-Israel NGOs.
By focusing on Arab Palestinians as victims of Jews, Europeans, Germans especially, were able to not only assuage their guilt feelings, but condemn Israel – and Jews – with impunity.
Arab anti-Semitism, he claimed, was learned from European Jew-haters.
Following Tenebom’s lecture, several German students, young ladies in their early 20s, approached him to express their “offense.”
This wasn’t the Germany that they knew; he had maligned their country.
Afterwards, I asked them what had brought them to Israel. “Volunteers working with Palestinians,” they were opposed to “the occupation,” the “humiliation” of Arabs at checkpoints,” and the denial of an “independent Palestinian state.”
“Which occupation,” I asked, “the one in 1967, or the one in 1948, the Nakba?” They seemed dumbfounded.
“What do you mean?” “Well, for Arabs, the ‘original sin’ was the establishment of the State of Israel.”
“Oh,” they assured, “we support Israel – except for the occupation. That’s why there’s so much hatred. It’s the settlements.”
“But the rage against Israel didn’t begin in 1967,” I said. “So where does it start?” “The occupation,” they repeated. “End the occupation and there will be peace.”
“Peace? End of conflict? Recognition of Israel’s right to exist?” “Well, of course, the ‘right of return.’ Palestinians have that right, just like Jews.”
“And what would happen if Israel agreed? No more Jewish state?” “There will be peace.”
“You hope. But look at what’s happening in every country in the region: chaos, war, Islamic State [IS] and Iran/Hezbollah. And what happened when Israel withdrew from Southern Lebanon and Gaza? Hezbollah and Hamas.”
“Ah,” they smiled knowingly, “but Israel created Hamas.”
“How do you know?” “Everybody knows! And the checkpoints – they humiliate....”
“And if there were none? Would you get on a plane which contained passengers who had not been checked?” “If the Palestinians had a state there wouldn’t be violence. It’s Israel’s fault.”
“And if that state was led by Hamas, or Islamic Jihad, or IS? If Hezbollah could put nuclear warheads on a few of the 100,000 missiles which they have targeted on Israel?” Silence echoed in the hallway. They seemed restless.
“So you want to get rid of the Palestinians who live here?” they asked. ”It’s their home as much as yours.”
“I don’t want to ‘get rid’ of anyone. People who want to live in peace are welcome; people who wage war are not.”
“But they want their own state.”
“Well, sometimes you can’t have everything you want. Relatively, they have a pretty good life here. And if living in a Palestinian state is so important, they could move to Jordan. Or live under the Palestinian Authority, as nearly all of them do now.”
“But they don’t have a state of their own.”
“They have everything that constitutes a state – institutions, a flag....”
“But they aren’t independent.”
“They don’t have an army, or the ability to invite troublemakers to help them or to smuggle serious weaponry. It isn’t ideal, but it may be the best we can do for now. And, if they were independent, what would happen? If a Palestinian state meant the destruction of Israel, or even tens of thousands of Jews killed, is it worth it?” Uncomfortable with my questions, they walked towards the exit speaking quickly in German. I watched them disappear in the distance and wondered if I had said the right things, or enough.
Tuvia Tenenbom had left, but the dialogue and inquiry that he initiated did not end.
The spreading cancer of Jew-hatred in Europe is inevitable, especially in a generation that did not experience the Shoah.
Inexplicable, however, are those that enable it by condemning Israel, i.e. Jews, for “the occupation,” and demanding that Israel commit national suicide. Incomprehensibly, institutions of the Israeli government and political leaders have ignored or failed to respond to this threat.
Brainwashing against Israel is not only happening in Berlin and around the world; it is also here, at home.