Published in November of 2022, the message of We Are Not One: A History of America’s Fight Over Israel is that American Jews no longer share much in common with their brethren in the Jewish state and shouldn’t want to. Its author, Eric Alterman, a leading leftwing journalist who in the past has defended Israel against some of its fiercest detractors, seems to argue in this book that Jews in the U.S. have never had good reason to sympathize with the country. Allan Arkush writes in his review:
The brief historical account of Zionism with which We Are Not One begins is almost too perfunctory and disorganized to deserve attention, but it is nevertheless revealing. Alterman explains Theodor Herzl’s transformation into a Zionist as a response to the demoralizing “anti-Semitic fury” directed in Paris against the alleged spy Alfred Dreyfus. This is a well-known biographical myth; . . . Herzl was not particularly moved by the anti-Dreyfus outbursts at the beginning of 1895. He was, however, profoundly affected by the pervasive anti-Semitism he witnessed throughout Europe—the racism, the implacable prejudice, the discrimination—especially in Vienna, where he lived. Alterman, for his part, gives his readers very little sense of the true magnitude of “the Jewish problem” in Herzl’s day.
Such slipshod history, Arkush writes, characterizes much of the book, which goes on with familiar accusations about mistreatment of Arabs and Jewish neoconservatives. Arkush concludes:
It seems as if Alterman’s latter-day rejection of Israel has led him to a rather jaundiced reassessment of the Zionist project as a whole. . . . We Are Not One has almost nothing favorable to say about the state of Israel apart from some brief words of praise for Yitzḥak Rabin’s efforts at peacemaking. This is either because Alterman genuinely believes there is nothing else that can be said in favor of the country or he doesn’t want to admit that there is. . . . It seems more likely . . . that Alterman really believes that only people wearing Exodus-tinted glasses could possibly see much that is worthy of praise in the way that the Jewish state has conducted itself over the past 75 years.
But this doesn’t give Alterman the right to recast Israeli history to suit his new convictions, or to impugn the motives, in facile and misleading ways, of Israel’s more constant—if not untroubled—friends. . . . And the story of American and American Jewish support for Israel is richer and much more complicated than the vicarious search for thrills that Alterman disdainfully describes.