July 3, 2015
Tuvia Tenenbom, an Israeli-born journalist and playwright who spent much of his adult life living abroad, returned to Israel posing as a German journalist and talking to Palestinian politicians, foreign journalists, left-wing Israeli activists and intellectuals, and European NGOs. The things they said to him are included in his recent book, Catch the Jew! Jonathan Neumann writes in his review:
But it is [Tenenbom’s] encounters with . . . anonymous individuals and [the members of an] an array of non-governmental organizations that are most illuminating. There’s the Holocaust denier from the Israeli human-rights group B’Tselem. There’s the British journalist in the Golan Heights who tries, under the guise of objective reporting, to convince a reluctant Druze to condemn Israel. Staffers from the Arab human-rights organization Adalah and from Rabbis for Human Rights carefully choreograph what they show visitors (they’ll show only what looks like Arab hardship, but do their utmost to prevent a visitor from seeing real Arab life). Officials at the International Committee of the Red Cross and United Nations Relief and Works Agency condemn Israel on the basis of their reading of international law while encouraging Arab aspirations to destroy the Jewish state. . . .
What is perhaps most remarkable is that the book recounts only what these interlocutors are happy to tell journalists, for at all times they know Tenenbom is a journalist and appreciate that everything they say and do is on the record (even if they’re unaware where and how it will be publicized). This tells us how rarely they must meet reporters prepared to scrutinize them. But it also invites the reader to imagine what they are not saying—what they actually believe and hope in their heart of hearts.