If I Am Not for Myself: Journey of an Anti-Zionist Jew


If I Am Not For Myself
Journey of an Anti-Zionist Jew

by Mike Marqusee

If I Am Not For Myself: Journey of an Anti-Zionist Jew

If I Am Not For Myself

“When I had finished this book, I wanted to cheer… The personal and the political coalesce, making this book, subtitled “the journey of an anti-Zionist Jew”, a rare and precious work. Its polemical force is anchored in experience…If Jewish adolescents got Marqusee’s book as a barmitzvah present, there might be a chance of avoiding the repetition of history’s mistakes .”

- Michael Kustow,

The Independent

“A tour-de-force of political and cultural analysis of various aspects of Jewish, Zionist and anti-Zionist history and politics. Marqusee touches on many painful spots … The comparisons he draws between Zionism, Hindu nationalism, and other similar and dissimilar political phenomena are incisive and accurate. He shies away from no controversy, and his account of recent dealings with incidents in and around the anti-war movement – which attracted accusations of antisemitism – are penetrating and intellectually honest…. a manifesto for a whole generation of Jewish radical activists who refuse to be deterred by the threat of being labelled, and libelled, as self-haters.” – Daphna Baram,

The Guardian

“Once I got used to the roller coaster rhythm of his narrative technique I was exhilarated by the scope and variety of the story he was trying to tell … Whether he is pointing up the striking affinities of Hindutva and Zionism or explaining the reasons for the collapse of anti-Zionist Jewish organisations in America like the America Council for Judaism, or dissecting the depressing failure of some Left-leaning and liberal critics of Zionism to distinguish between the ‘Jewish lobby’ (with its anti-Semitic implications) and the ‘Israel lobby’, his insights are driven by his intellectual commitment to understand the world in a materialist and unsectarian way. To read his book, to follow him as he tries to be true to his creed of radical internationalism, is an education for any Indian politically committed to a pluralist India. Just as anti-Zionism draws the venomous charge of selfhatred, so does an anti-Hindutva stance provoke the analogous charge of selfloathing… When Marqusee confronts the accusation towards the end of his book, in a chapter called ‘Confessions of a “self-hating Jew”, he seems to speak so directly for the cause of pluralism that you want to cheer … There’s nothing I can recall in any book that describes the impulse behind anti-sectarian politics better … a genuinely cosmopolitan writer who looks to the world to understand his place within it. ”

- Mukul Kesevan,

Biblio

“Erudite and well-argued… he should be lauded for this provocative and timely book, which throws up a host of important questions.” -

Times Literary Supplement

“Zionists will take issue with his secular stance and Jewish loyalists will perhaps be offended by his denial of their claims upon his Jewish identity, but his vigorous voice speaks clearly and decisively for the old Jewish radical tradition.” – Sunday Times

“Marqusee’s thoughtful book blends family memoir and history to bring Marqusee to his own well-informed reservations about Israel and knee-jerk Zionism of any kind. An important book that may be a difficult but salubrious encounter for many Jewish (but also Christian) readers.” – Library Journal

“Superb.” – Mark Thwaite, The Book Depository

“Marqusee’s arguments are beautifully arranged and pulsate with the philosophy of the great rabbis.” – Camden New Journal

“A most personal and deeply felt exploration of the connections between family, Jewishness, nationalism, Zionism and its wrongs. It is a brave endeavour… the areas of the book are spread widely but connected: Jewish history, philosophy. Zionism, Judaism and scripture which amply illustrate Marqusee’s intellectual prowess and commitment to a socialism defined by its humanism…. Marqusee’s book is an important contribution to the debate both within and outside the Jewish community.” – The Spokesman

“Compelling, passionate and hugely impressive in both its depth of historical research and its lucid, life-affirming humanism, this book should be read by everyone, Jewish or not, who wishes to comprehend some of the central issues and problems in today’s world.” – Rab McWilliam, N16 Magazine

“A fascinating, if quirky exploration of the Zionism-versus-anti-Zionism debate, to which it adds fire.” – Julia Pascal, Jewish Chronicle

“It’s such a liberation to read ‘If I Am Not For Myself’, the new book by Jewish socialist Mike Marqusee. It’s a joyous meander through history, theory and personal memoir, that bounces from a section about the book of Amos in the Old Testament, (who turns out to be one cool multicultural prophet), to an account of his grandfather’s journey from dedicated socialist to devout Zionist, and Mike’s upbringing in New York, and later life in London … The account that follows performs the marvellous service of disentangling Jewishness from Israel. And that means countering an idea that many Jewish organisations repeat as an incontestable fact … This is an account that aims higher than just to counter the defenders of Israel, it also seeks to explain how so many people, including many spirited opponents of injustice, somehow ended up accepting the horrors that Israel routinely carries out in the name of the world’s Jews.” – Mark Steel

“Marqusee elegantly tells the story of the Grandfather he hardly knew, putting himself in Morand’s shoes in an attempt to understand the path that led him from the fringes of the Communist Party to militant Zionism… If I Am Not For Myself is a valuable addition to the collection of modern anti-Zionist literature, and it’s personal reflections will reach people that perhaps a more technical or historical account might not… a well written and engaging book.” – Asher Goldman, Scoop Review of Books

“The book beautifully weaves together a broad, yet intimately personal, history of anti-Zionism and radicalism in Judaism. Equal parts biography, autobiography, history and commentary, Marqusee powerfully strips Zionism of its claim to represent and speak for all of world Jewry.” – Socialist Worker (USA)

“Where Marqusee is so strong is that instead of demonising or caricaturing Zionism he takes pains to crawl inside it and explore the psychology that led those who had stood against oppression whenever they found it to support ethnic cleansing and violence when it came to the foundation of the “Jewish State”. He takes their ideas seriously enough to explore them with sympathy – even when this becomes difficult or frustrating. Whilst he movingly recognises their human failings and is clearly not always approving of what he found in his journey there is no taint of moralism or pretence that people are easy to label and define, rather than complex and often nuanced mixtures. In fact, so well written and engaging is this book that I caught myself occasionally thinking “Why do I ever read books by people who are not Mike Marqusee?”" – Jim Jepps, The Daily (Maybe)

“In this extraordinary journey through family memory and New York leftwing history, Marqusee introduces us to unforgettable Jewish heretics and heroes, including his brawling grandfather and the Prophet Amos. In proudly reclaiming the Jewish radical tradition, he reminds us that cultures are not the exclusive franchises of nation-states, and that Zionists and anti-semites share the same sinister, racialized concept of group identity. Both in the eloquence of his writing and the deep humanism of his vision, he stands shoulder to shoulder with the spirits of Isaac Deutscher and Edward Said.”
- Mike Davis, author of Planet of Slums

“In If I am Not For Myself, Mike Marqusee confronts some of the most sensitive political issues of our time, weaving them into a compelling personal narrative. Re-appropriating his own past, the author reclaims an authentic secular Jewish identity that is not centred on Israel. A clear, distinctive, provocative voice speaks throughout the book. You do not have to agree with Marqusee’s central contentions to respect the clarity and integrity of his voice. This-worldly and life-affirming, scathingly candid and painfully honest, If I am Not For Myself is in the best tradition of ethical, diasporic Jewish writing.”
- Brian Klug, Senior Research Fellow in Philosophy, St. Benet’s Hall, Oxford, and Co-founder, Independent Jewish Voices

“Mike Marqusee confronts in his characteristically lucid manner the dilemma of being an internationalist secular Jew opposed to all forms of oppression, including those that speak in his name. Weaving personal reflections with political insight and biographical and autobiographical narrative with historical analysis, he sets forth a principled, thoughtful, and compelling anti-Zionist vision that is urgently needed today.”
- Anthony Arnove, coauthor, Voices of a People’s History of the United States

“Different as the two men are, Ed and Mike are bound together by an element of conviction – that one cannot deny what one sees close at hand, no matter how strong the argument against such obvious truths. Marqusee is, therefore, a child of the Haskalah in his belief that no one ideology can claim Jewish loyalty and that the chief claim to such loyalty must be based on reason. The diaspora, with its history of diversity and openness, will always remain the most authentic embodiment of Jewishness.”
- Telegraph, Calcutta

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