Mike Marqusee has an amazing story to tell in If I Am Not For Myself. Although the book follows his own journey through life, it reaches well beyond this and becomes a fascinating hybrid of family autobiography and detailed history of the Jewish left during the 20th century. The book traces the threads of leftist radical thought and Zionism through three generations of his family.
As a young adult, Marqusee’s anti-Zionism put him at odds with his family and many other Jewish Americans. Marqusee illustrates how his views were a logical result of the values he was exposed to in Jewish and leftist American culture.
Marqusee’s grandfather left personal papers which provide a window into a time when the state of Israel was young and its identity hadn’t yet fully formed. The arguments and positioning around the state of Israel are traced by Marqusee through to the present day. Marqusee make some very insightful and important points about the conflation of Zionism with Jewishness. He questions whether any single group or set of individuals can authentically claim to represent the views of an entire culture or religious group.
Marqusee’s book goes into far more historical and personal detail than can be easily summed up in a short review. He tells this important story with mastery as he explores the complicated questions of belief, politics, and identity.