After “What’s the book about?” the most common question authors must deal with is: “How did you come to write it?”
In the case of the book now in your hands, I’d much prefer the answer to be a joke: “Thirteen antisemites walk into a bar, followed by a Jewish publisher who changed his name from Schwartz, and then by a herd of feckless journalists.” But in truth, The Wrong Jew came into being because all of the above walked not into a bar, but into my life…and changed it.
No joke. In April 2019, a normally well-thought-of publishing house brought out The Siege of Tel Aviv, my fourth work of fiction. What’s that book about (I thought you’d never ask.) For an answer, think of the bloody horror that would certainly ensue should Israel ever be overrun by its Islamist enemies. As Stephen King put it on the front cover: “Hesh Kestin’s The Siege of Tel Aviv is scarier than anything Stephen King ever wrote—and then the fun begins as Israel fights back.” He added: “This novel will cause talk and controversy. Most of all, it will be read.”
With varying degrees of success, Steve has been generously recommending my novels to the public for a decade. Regarding controversy, he nailed it.
After thirteen tweets on the internet called The Siege of Tel Aviv “islamophobic” and “racist,” its chicken-hearted publisher was so frightened by this antisemitic micro-mob, he recalled all the copies in bookstores and ordered them all pulped. The Nazis preferred the bonfire. Then again, Hitler wasn’t much of an environmentalist.
My sin: I had taken the Islamist universe at its word and described the tragedy of an Israeli defeat, where yet another six million Jews (yes, I know) are herded into Ghetto Tel Aviv to be wiped out, while once again the world sits on its hands thinking of what to order for lunch. Apparently, according to our thirteen twidiots, a Muslim victory would mean little more than every Jew in Israel being flown via magic carpet to Miami Beach—no bloodshed at all. Suggesting the bloody opposite was, therefore, islamophobic.
In point of fact, the only time I have had a phobic reaction to Muslims is when they have come bearing down on me in tanks. Other than that, as a soldier in the IDF, I have had the honor of serving twice under Arab commanders (one Muslim, one Christian). Via marriage, members
of my family are Muslim. And as a former twenty-year resident of an Israeli village a stone’s throw (perhaps there’s a better term…) from the 1967 border known as the Green Line, many of my neighbors were Arabs. Poor things didn’t know I was a racist so they kept inviting me to their homes for coffee and to their weddings for kabob and ear-splitting Arab music. If the Jew-haters who labeled me islamophobic on Twitter had actually read The Siege of Tel Aviv, they might have noticed that in it three Arab characters are downright heroes—well, in Israeli terms. I guess that wouldn’t please them either.
We come now to our herd of feckless journalists. You’d think such defenders of free speech as The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal would have been all over a publisher who pulped his own book because it was selling well. Alas, despite my decades of personal and professional connections in journalism at the highest level, no one would touch the story. According to a friend at the Times, “They don’t want to piss off the Arabs—running the story is too risky.”
Perhaps worse, because reviews sell books: Though all my earlier prize-winning novels had been widely and positively reviewed, now…silence. Though within weeks after the pulping, I had digital and bound editions up for sale on Amazon (still there, still selling), though Stephen King was still recommending it, though it was anything if not timely…aside from a handful of positive notices, zip.
When the dust settled it didn’t take long to see the siege of The Siege of Tel Aviv as a metaphor for the horror story of what was happening in the world around me: Jew-hatred on the internet, gutless Jews like the former Schwartz cowering in fear, and the press—a good many of them Jews—and society in general unwilling to get involved.
The truth is my minor problem with Jew-hatred was as nothing compared to the antisemitic violence, verbal and ballistic, exploding across America. That the two are related is hardly a stretch: Antisemitism is a continuum—it starts with words, then desecration, then murder. Put simply, Islamists and white and black nationalists are on the march, encouraged by dog-whistle signals from scum at every level of government, shrugged off by a “neutral” press, and unopposed by Jews who either refuse to act or don’t know how. What everyone believed was a post-Nazi paradise where Jews are safe has been shown to be little more than a universe of antisemitism in hiatus. Reborn less than a century after Jew-haters burned books, they have set out once again on the path to burn Jews.
One thing is certain: Turning our backs on those who would make Jews a target will no longer do. If we allow ourselves to be destroyed, they will destroy us.
THE WRONG JEW
In The Wrong Jew, author Hesh Kestin doesn’t bother with the why of anti-Semitism but instead offers a battle plan for how to defeat those who would destroy the Jews. At a time when Jews are under attack from right and left, posting guards around synagogues is hardly the answer. Just as Israel takes the fight to its enemies, Kestin explains how American Jews must go on the offensive by teaching our kids to fight and our adults to use our financial, legal, political, and physical resources to make life miserable for Nazis of every stripe. According to Hesh Kestin, “When they pick on American Jews, let them learn they picked on the Wrong Jews.”