Prof. Phyllis CheslerThe writer, a Shillman-Ginsburg Fellow at the Middle East Forum and recipient of the 2013 National Jewish Book Award, is the author of sixteen books, including Women and Madness, Woman's Inhumanity to Woman, and The New Anti-Semitism. She has written four studies about honor killing, Her latest books are An American Bride in Kabul, (Palgrave Macmillan) and Living History: On The Front Lines for Israel and the Jews.Professor Chesler may be reached at her website www.phyllis-chesler.com
Many serious people have researched and written about anti-Semitism—but only a handful have attained a large, popular audience. This is understandable since the subject is sobering, even frightening. Often, our most distinguished experts find themselves preaching to the converted or only to other scholars who specialize in this area. How can we wake civilians up if they glaze over at our footnotes, taste despair, not triumph, in our documentation, and fail to understand our complex analyses?
And then there are the gatekeepers who refuse to review such work—and if they do, make it a point to find just the right kind of critic, (often someone Jewish), who will mock and minimize the idea that contemporary anti-Semitism exists, or that it endangers Jews or the Jewish state. They tend to deem such work “hysterical,” “Cassandra-like,” lacking in nuance, utterly misguided.
Enter Tuvia Tenenbom.
Tuvia is a very funny man, a cosmopolitan showman, a chameleon, a clown, just as Chaplin or Falstaff were clowns, a roly-poly court jester, a man with a thousand disarming identities. Tuvia uses humor surgically, precisely, in order to lance pretentions and hypocrisy and, above all, to document Jew hatred in a way that has us laughing as we groan.
Tuvia loves people and traveling, has a great heart for the underdog, and knows no fear when it comes to exposing corruption and prejudice among both the powerful and the downtrodden. He is neither a liberal nor a conservative, neither left nor right. If he is, one cannot learn about it from his work. He pokes fun equally at Church-goers and atheists; Seattle and San Francisco sophisticates and rural, Western cowboys.
In his new book, The Lies They Tell (Gefen Publishing) Tuvia takes his readers along for the ride in the most intimate and conversational of ways. We learn what car he’s driving, how difficult it is to smoke in America, what the motels, food, weather are all like from coast to coast. But he’s a good companion to have on this journey.
Tuvia has written two previous books: I Sleep in Hitler’s Room about Jew-hatred in Germany and Catch the Jew! about Jew hatred in Israel which also depicts how European governments continue their anti-Jewish policies by funding Israeli and other NGOs in order to mislead the entire world with defamatory and untrue propaganda about the Jewish state. His books have the tremendous merit of avoiding all that is somber, or “heavy.” One cannot put his books down. And one is laughing (and sighing) all the way to the last page.
These books were both bestsellers in Germany and in Israel. However, his German publisher backed out when Tuvia refused to remove what he’d written about Jews and Israel. (He hadn’t planned on writing about anti-Semitism at all but the subject kept coming up). Tuvia self-published the work and schlepped from city to city speaking, confronting his critics, charming his increasingly large audiences of readers. The Germans loved the book. European Jews were ashamed of “Tuvia the Jew”—until he was embraced by countless Christians in both Germany and Poland.
Tuvia’s latest book, The Lies They Tell, is about America. Yes, about We, the People. He traveled to more than 25 states. What he found was eye-opening.
He found that all those who believe that climate change is a crucial issue also believe that “Palestine” is as important. Thus, Americans who do not know where Palestine is on a map, who have never met a Palestinian, nevertheless believe that it’s an important cause. He also found that white people do not attend black Churches—where there is the best music and most soul. He found that Americans are reluctant to tell you what they really think, especially if they harbor racist thoughts—and if you ask them for whom they voted—they’ll remain mum. Above all, Tuvia found the most entrenched poverty, racism, and of course, both old-fashioned anti-Semitism and the more new-fangled versions.
Tuvia is discouraged from visiting the Chicago district that first elected President Obama. Both white and black people insisted that it was far too dangerous for him to visit the primarily African-American Thirteenth District. He wants to see what Obama has “done for them. “ He takes the bus to the end of the line and then walks. Here’s what he found:
“A few people walk by. Most are black, some are Spanish. I start walking around. One word comes to my mind: hell. As I walk, all I can see is poverty staring in my face. Store after store is locked, forever shut and clearly abandoned; even churches. I walk for some time… stare at the poverty and despair that this place projects in a deadly gaze that never ceases, and I am shocked that this exists in the same city as the (Magnificent) Mile. I have not even encountered such images in the Third World. I want to scream: Is this America? Am I in America?”
He sees abandoned stores, abandoned businesses. Only a few stores still function:
“A Salvation Army station, a gas station, a check-cashing business, liquor and lottery stores, and then a couple of restaurants. I enter the restaurants and in each of them I am welcomed by poor lighting, broken toilets, dirty floors, broken chairs and dirty walls. And they are empty of diners, save for one of them that has two people.”
And then he talks to the residents. They tell him about the gang violence, the high body count, the robberies of vulnerable senior citizens. As he writes: He’s in “Hell.”
In Hawaii, Tuvia visits an “encampment.” There are no white people there. All Tuvia sees is:
“A city within a city, a state within a state, a reality within a reality. This encampment, my guide tells me, is just one of a number of encampments in Hawaii. What’s an encampment? I let my eyes answer. Lines of tents, one after another, on both sides of the road, packed with people who have no home, no address, no future and hardly a life. Here are the voiceless and the forgotten: American citizens, seniors and infants, men and women, all members of the Red Zone Society of America. I make my acquaintance with some of them, and they break my heart. Here are little kids, and here are old people. Some are less than one year of age, and some are quite old, but all are deep into homelessness and most will likely never get out of it.”
Tuvia interviews a man born in American Samoa who is “touched” that Tuvia has treated him like a human being. His name is “Mad Dog” and he clarifies that he is not “homeless, only houseless.” Apparently, there are:
“Between five hundred and one thousand people living in tents from Ala Moana Boulevard to the ocean and the JABSOM medical school nearby, depending on how many the authorities have been able to kick out of here in the last sweep. Yes, they do this here. From time to time the authorities, who want to make sure that no tourist encounters the poor, come and make a ‘sweep,’ during which they push the people out and sweep their tents away.”
Tuvia has often been attacked by left-wing critics who are not comfortable with his devastating exposure of “Fakestinian” victimhood and all those who are part of this vast, left-wing and Islamist conspiracy of dunces. His critique of left-wing Jews (often the first to criticize Israel but no one else), has won him no points among them and, in arguing Israel’s case, even in a low-key and humorous way, Tuvia has been treated as a “right wing-conservative.”
This is ironic. Much of what he writes can easily have been written by a left-wing journalist. For example:
"The America I find is not the America I wished to find. It is racist, it is hateful and its citizens are bound to destroy themselves. Be they black and some Spanish who have nothing better to do with their time than shoot each other in the head; be they Jews who are possessed by a terrifyingly psychotic illness of self-hate; be they Indians who have given up any semblance of spirituality in exchange for acres and casinos; or be they all the others: whites, the rest of the Spanish, Muslims, Mormons and others who live in fear of one another."
"These American patriots, by a strange psychological coincidence, convince themselves that they are the only true guardians of culture and morality and therefore it is their duty to invade and bombard foreign countries that do not abide by their sense of morality and ethics...(Americans) have huge bombs and sometimes they like to drop them. America is also one of the strongest economies in the world, and at times the strongest of them all, but can humanity rely on this country? I wouldn't."
Left-wing, right-wing, wingless—I still hope this new book is also a bestseller.