Today I went to Glasgow to hear Mike Marqusee speak about his new book If I am Not for Myself – Journey of an Anti-Zionist Jew. You can read about the book on Mike’s blog, and details of the remainder of his short Scottish tour are here. In his talk, he described the starting-point for the book as his refusal to accept the label “self-hating”–a description of an anti-Zionist which can only make sense if you accept Zionism’s claim to be the sole representative of the Jewish people. To dispute that claim, he brought forward evidence from the prophets, from haskalah (Jewish enlightenment), and from the history of the Bund (the Jewish trade union federation of Eastern Europe and Russia). He emphasised that Zionism was not the inevitable path of European Jewry, but the product of accident and of mistakes (and also, I would add, of ruthless determination by Jews emulating the right-wing nationalists of Eastern Europe). Even though I came in more or less convinced of his arguments, I still found his talk informative and thought-provoking. (Incidentally, in case it worries you too, he gave a pretty good answer to my misgivings about adopting the label “anti-Zionist” in the twenty-first century).
I bought a copy of the book (well, my dad and I bought half a copy each ) and I’m looking forward no end to reading it. I strongly recommend that you catch one of Mike’s talks if you get the opportunity.