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

If I Am Not For Myself: Journey of an Anti-Zionist Jew [Kindle Edition]

Mike Marqusee
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Product Description


"A tour de force of politics and cultural analysis... - penetrating and intellectually honest." --Daphna Baram, The Guardian

"When I had finished this book I wanted to cheer... 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, Independent

"His vigorous voice speaks clearly and decisively for the old Jewish radical tradition." --The Times

Product Description

An eloquent and deeply felt memoir exploring the author's complex relationship with his Jewish identity.

If I Am Not For Myself is a passionate, thought-provoking exploration of what it means to be Jewish in the twenty-first century. It traces the author’s upbringing in 1960s Jewish-American suburbia, his anti-war and pro-Palestinian activism on the British left, and life as a Jew among Muslims in Pakistan, Morocco, and Britain. Interwoven with this are the experiences of his grandfather’s life in Jewish New York of the 1930s and 40s, his struggles with anti-Semitism and the twists and turns that led him from anti-fascism to militant Zionism. In the course of this deeply personal story, Marqusee refutes the claims of Israel and Zionism on Jewish loyalty and laments their impact on the Jewish diaspora. Rather, he argues for a richer, more multi-dimensional understanding of Jewish history and identity, and reclaims vital political and personal space for those castigated as “self-haters” by the Jewish establishment.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 570 KB
  • Print Length: 320 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1844674355
  • Publisher: Verso (23 Aug 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00G2DO17C
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #663,427 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Mike Marqusee was born in New York City in 1953, emigrated to Britain in 1971 and has now lived in London for more than 35 years.

Among his books are the prize-winning 'Anyone But England: an outsider looks at English cricket' (first published in 1994, revised and expanded 2005), 'War Minus the Shooting: a Journey through South Asia during cricket's World Cup'(1996), 'Redemption Song: Muhammad Ali and the Spirit of the Sixties' (1999), 'Wicked Messenger: Bob Dylan and the 1960s' (first published 2003, revised and expanded 2005), 'If I Am Not for Myself: Journey of an Anti-Zionist Jew' (2008) and 'Saved by a Wandering Mind: Poems' (2009).

In addition to his writing, Mike has been active for several decades in numerous campaigns for social justice. In the early 80s he was a youth worker and trade union activist. For twenty years he was an active member of the Labour Party and editor of Labour Briefing. In 1995, he helped set up Hit Racism for Six, the campaign against racism in cricket. After leaving the Labour party in 2000, he helped establish both the Stop the War Coalition and Iraq Occupation Focus. On February 15, 2003, he was a speaker at the the half million strong anti-war demonstration in New York City. He is currently a member of the NUJ and lives in Hackney with his partner Liz Davies.

As well as his books, Mike has published articles on a wide variety of topics in (among others): The Guardian, The Independent, the Daily Telegraph, The Observer, London Review of Books, Index on Censorship, BBC History Magazine, New Left Review, Red Pepper (in UK), The Nation, Colorlines (in USA), The Hindu, India Today, Hindustan Times, Indian Express, Frontline, Outlook (in India).

Mike has also published longer articles and essays in a number of book-length collections and anthologies, including: 'Nothing Sacred: the New Cricket Culture' (Two Heads, 1996), 'Race, Sport and British Society'(Routledge, 2001), 'The New Ball' (Mainstream, 2000-2002), 'Beyond September 11th: An Anthology of Dissent' (Pluto, 2002), 'Following On: Post-Colonial Cricket' (Routledge, 2005), 'Selling US Wars' (Olive Branch Press, 2007) and 'A Time To Speak Out' (Verso, 2008). A chapter of his work is anthologised in 'The Picador Book of Cricket' (2005), and there is a lengthy interview with Mike in 'Muhammad Ali: Through the Eyes of the World' (2003). An essay on US sport in a global context has been reproduced in a widely used Prentice Hall textbook / reader entitled 'Common Culture' (6th Edition) edited by Michael Petracca.

Mike currently writes 'Level Playing Field', a column on politics and culture for The Hindu Sunday magazine, one of India's largest circulation English language publications, and 'Contending for the Living' for Red Pepper.

In 2004, he wrote and presented an hour-long BBC Radio documentary on the history of Pacifica, America's alternative radio network.

In 2005, Mike Marqusee was named an Honorary Faculty Fellow by the University of Brighton in recognition of his "contribution to the development of a critically-based form of journalistic scholarship in the social, cultural and political nature of contemporary global sport."

Mike's articles on a wide variety of topics can be found at:

Customer Reviews

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3.7 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Excellent - in parts 1 Nov 2008
By Leon
The strength of this book is that rather than being an isolated polemic, Marqusee roots it in his family history. Specifically, it encapsulates a biography of his grandfather.

That is also its weakness. The balance of the book is too heavily weighted towards a detailed biography based on his grandfather's papers, which is not quite what it `says on the tin'. Perhaps two dozen pages of his grandfather's life would have been sufficient to illustrate the continuity of values that Marqusee identifies, as well as the contradictions between traditional Jewish ethics and the practices of Zionism.

None the less, it is worth reading, even if a reader unrelated to Marqusee, or unfamiliar with the minutiae of New York politics in times past, may be tempted to flick through chunks of the central part of the book. It's like a sandwich in which the bread is the best part. (Maror in matzah for anyone)?

I fully identified with the young Marqusee's transition from a secular Jewish identity with a feeling that Israel was in some way part of his inheritance to an articulate critic of Zionism in general and its treatment of the Palestinians in particular. The book brings humanist and Jewish ethics to this critique in a direct and powerful way.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What hope for humans? 17 July 2012
The intellectual formation of an American Jew who's now a Brit, incorporating some of his grandfather's papers, this journey is both exciting (on p58-60 we see it begin) and eminently reasonable. Along the way we meet Moses Mendelssohn, remarkably early pioneer of the Haskalah (Jewish Enlightenment), and Napoleon's famous Sanhedrin, or Jewish council, which doesn't seem to have been quite as trail-blazing as it's painted; '[n]ot surprisingly.. [it] ruled that the Torah taught obedience to the laws of the Empire'. Zalkind Hourwitz (1751-1811) you probably won't have heard of ('to be a citizen.., in this country of equality and liberty, it suffices to be the owner of a white foreskin'); Spinoza you will (the Jews' 'continuance so long after dispersion.. [has] nothing marvellous in it.. [They] have been preserved in great measure by Gentile hatred'). But mostly we're in modern-day America. The evolution of Reform Judaism from its high water mark of 1885 ('ever striving to be in accord with the postulates of reason') to 1937 to 1999 is eye-popping (imagine the C of E going into reverse), as is the NYC politics; did you know Fiorello La Guardia was Jewish? (Italian Jewish, to be sure.) As for Israel, don't even talk about it. This is a fascinating voyage among people and ideas - not least that bit player of a grandfather - and not at all doctrinaire. If it gets bogged down in places - enough politics already! - it ends in a cri de coeur that every Jew should read (this means you, Jonathan Sachs! fat chance) and as many of the rest of us as care for humankind in the round. In the din of present-day triumphalist mumbo-jumbo, assertion and counter-assertion, we are in greater need than ever of such individual voices, quiet or combative, heroic or ironic
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good book 12 April 2010
By Alan A
Well written, good turn of phrase, although the author does tend to meander away from his point. Would've been better with an editor that forced him to stay on the point.

Also, many arguments seemed arbitrary and did not take into account the other side of things. Could've been more rigorous.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.7 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
25 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Zionism does not speak for me! 2 July 2008
By S. Bernstein - Published on
As any anti-Zionist knows, raising opposition to Israel and Zionism immediately draws accusations of anti-Semitism, or if the dissenter is Jewish, accusations of self-hatred.

It is precisely these attempts by Zionism to squash all criticism of Israel -- especially criticism by Jews -- that Mike Marqusee takes head on in his latest book, If I Am Not For Myself: Journey of an Anti-Zionist Jew. Starting with the papers of his late grandfather and Marqusee's own personal experiences being raised as a Jew in post-war America, 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 fundamental claim to represent and speak for all of world Jewry.

Central to Marqusee's task is the re-appropriation of Jewish, anti-Zionist, and leftist history -- a history that is consciously buried by the Zionist establishment. In this process, he shows the strong connections between history, how we understand the present, and the frameworks we can utilize in determining the future.

Marqusee weighs in on an impressively diverse and rich array of subjects including (but far from limited to) the Jewish workers' Bund, Jewish Enlightenment philosophy, political struggles within the New Deal coalition, the parallels between Zionism and right-wing Hindu nationalism, "left-wing anti-Semitism," discussions with Muslims about Zionism, Jews in the Middle East, and the parallels between anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.

These discussions and explorations all radiate out from Marqusee's narrative center: the life of his maternal grandfather -- Edward V. Morand (aka EVM) -- a Jewish leftist active in New York politics in the 1930s and 1940s.

Despite being involved in virtually every left-wing cause of his time, EVM increasingly became an ardent Zionist -- forcing him to unconsciously sacrifice many of his radical principles. Marqusee is particularly horrified by EVM's political positions in 1948 -- the year of Israeli "independence", or al-Nakba (the catastrophe), as it's known to Palestinians. Marqusee writes: "In the midst of [Israel's] one-way process of destruction, displacement and plunder, EVM's constant cry is 'no retreat.' He seems to have entirely lost his former distaste for war and militarism...In this war, there seems to be only one kind of victim, Jewish."

Marqusee attributes EVM's political twists and turns, in part, to "[a] failure to imagine the people on the receiving end of your dreams. It's a failure rooted in Western and white supremacy, a network of unexamined assumptions that has proved much more ineradicable and insidious than anti-semitism. EVM's writings of 1948 resound with it, and offer inadvertent testimony to the racist character of the Nakba and Nakba denial."

These political contradictions and hypocrisies are exactly what led Marqusee himself out of the Zionist trap.

In a very candid section, Marqusee relates an experience that is no doubt familiar to many Jewish anti-Zionists: the first time he was accused of self-hatred. He describes hearing an Israeli soldier speak to his Sunday school class just after the 1967 Israeli war that began the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. The soldier was going on about how "the Arabs are better off now, under Israeli rule. You have to understand these are ignorant people. They go to the toilet in the street." Marqusee responds: "Now something akin to this I had heard before. I had heard it from the white Southerners I'd been taught to look down upon. I had heard it from people my parents and my teachers described as prejudiced and bigoted. So I raised my hand and when called upon I expressed my opinion, as I'd been taught to do. It seemed to me that what our visitor had said was, well, racist." The young Marqusee was immediately denounced. Angrily, he went home to share this experience with his normally supportive parents. At the dinner table, he added to the story, putting forward his opinion, heavily influenced by the anti-Vietnam War movement, that, "'It was wrong for one country to take over another, or part of another, by military force'...Suddenly [my dad] barked, 'Enough already!'...Like my Sunday school teacher, he made me feel that I'd said something obscene...'I think you need to look at why you're saying what you're saying,' he said...'There's some Jewish self-hatred there.'"

In the end, Marqusee answers the question set out by the title, "'If I am not for myself...', then others will claim to be 'for me'...[I]n defining myself as an anti-Zionist Jew, I am for myself, and at the same time and without contradiction for others...I find in anti-Zionism emancipation both as a Jew and as a human being...Jews today can no more escape the question of Zionism than they could the question of anti-semitism in earlier eras. The problem today isn't that Jews are in denial of their Jewishness or of the threat of anti-semitism, but that Jews are in denial about Israel, Zionism, the Nakba, the occupation, the wall...The people who call us self-haters want to steal our selves from us -- appropriate our selves for their cause -- and speaking as a self, I'm damned if I'm going to let them get away with it."

The task of anti-Zionists is to explain the role that Zionism serves in the US imperial project while also breaking the notion that Zionism has anything to do with Jewishness. As Marqusee puts it: "[T]he Zionist dominance of the diaspora, and especially the diaspora in America, is a mutable, historical phenomenon -- not the inevitable expression of 'Jewish self-interest' -- and the continuation of that dominance is by no means guaranteed."

Easier said than done, right? In addition to reclaiming history, we have to understand that Israeli war crimes and the logic of Zionism itself can shake even the most veteran of Zionists. Just look at Marqusee's dad's own development -- the same dad that first called him a self-hater: "[I]n the end, the Zionists tested his humanity beyond endurance. After the news broke about the Sabra and Shatila massacre in 1982, he phoned me from New York. 'Ok,' he said, 'you were right. They're bastards.' He started to make contributions to Palestinian causes and to raise the issue among his friends."

The struggle against Zionism's dominance over Jews and Palestinians won't be easy, but Marqusee has made an important and captivating contribution to that fight. If you've ever had trouble arguing that anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism or if you just want to get a sense of the rich diversity of Jewish history and its relationship to radicalism, then you should pick up this book. I just bought a copy for my dad -- the first person to call me a self-hater. If Marqusee can convince his dad, then I guess I'll hold out hope for mine as well.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fizzing with ideas 17 July 2012
By Simon Barrett 'Il Penseroso' - Published on
Both a personal trajectory and the story of a people, this entertains as it informs. Try pages 58-60, when the fourteen-year-old Marqusee's intellectual journey may be said to begin. Watch in horror as Marqusee's impeccably left-liberal idealist grandfather turns warmonger. Eminently level-headed
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Personal becomes truly political 13 Mar 2014
By martin.morand - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Marqusee uses his own life as a lens through which to examine the personal and philosophical balance between being NOt a "self-hating" Jew and, nevertheless, not a narrow Zionist in the sense of insensitivity to the need and rights of Palestinians/ Truly a citizen of the world.
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