IF I AM NOT FOR MYSELF by Mike Marqusee

IF I AM NOT FOR MYSELF

Journey of an Anti-Zionist Jew
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KIRKUS REVIEW

Bound-to-be-controversial argument that “Zionism has coursed through the [Jewish] diaspora like a poison.”

“The blindness of American and British Jews to the criminality of Israeli behavior towards the Palestinians beggars belief,” continues Marqusee (Wicked Messenger: Bob Dylan and the 1960s, 2005, etc.) in a passage of characteristically overheated rhetoric. In the eyes of this secular, agnostic, yet still Jewish commentator, Palestinians are simply victims of Zionist oppression. He firmly rejects the charge that anti-Zionism is the same as anti-Semitism or an example of “Jewish self-hatred.” He resents “the Zionist claim to speak for all Jews everywhere,” offering his family history as an instance of the complicated nature of Jewish identity. Marqusee devotes the bulk of the book to the story of his maternal grandfather, Edward V. Morand, a complex, belligerent liberal active in New York leftist politics before, during and after World War II. A champion of intermarriage, assimilation and tolerance, EVM (as his grandson calls him), became a steely Zionist as well, and Marqusee describes his 1948 editorials in support of Israel’s creation as providing “a slow-motion, close-up view of a man of conscience committing a colossal historic error.” In support of his own inflexible opposition to the state of Israel, a disaffection nursed since his teens, Marqusee offers selective historical tidbits. Valid points about Jewish racism against Arabs and the moral ambiguities of the Six-Day War are compromised by the author’s refusal to acknowledge that there are militant jihadists who call not just for the destruction of Israel but for the death of all Jews everywhere. Self-righteous and reductive, his polemic won’t convince anyone not already in his camp. It also seems unlikely that EVM would agree with his grandson’s contention that “my anti-Zionist politics are actually an evolution of your legacy, working its way through another half-century of history.”

Fairly interesting as a family saga, but stridently unhelpful as analysis.

Pub Date: April 14th, 2008
ISBN: 978-1-84467-214-1
Page count: 308pp
Publisher: Verso
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 2008