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Israel vs. Utopia


Israeli American journalist Schalit distinguishes between the Israel he knows and the image of it in the minds of Americans.

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What people are saying…

“An incisive look at the connection between the US and Israel, and their respective roles on the world stage . . . Israel vs. Utopia is a book that could only be written by someone intimate with the ethos of both countries.”
Jerusalem Post

“[Schalit] refuses the polarities of Zionism/anti-Zionism and embraces a position on Israel that is critical but nonetheless understanding of the complex motivations of the protagonists in the conflict.”

“Schalit’s elegant, often digressive prose, together with his honest use of personal stories, further helps to break out of the sterile polemical style of much of the writing on Israel.”
The Forward

“In the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, there are few levelheaded voices to be heard in the mainstream . . . Joel Schalit, in his recent book Israel vs. Utopia, is a rare voice indeed . . . a quick, terrific read.”
The Daily of the University of Washington

“If the title doesn’t get armchair Zionists’ blood boiling, Israel vs. Utopia‘s flora-and-barbed-wire cover art will. And that’s a shame, because they’d find valuable revelations in Joel Schalit’s clear-eyed vision of Israel.”
Philadelphia City Paper

“Schalit does . . . a great job, going out of his way to present as fair a look at both sides of these issues as possible, despite his unhidden bias from being a liberal himself . . .”
—Chicago Center for Literature and Photography

“Joel Schalit is an unusually considered and nuanced voice, the sort rarely heard amid the maelstrom of Israel-Palestine news coverage. Few writers live and breathe news from the region as he does, and fewer still can analyze and blend it with such eclectic, rich, and informative life experiences. Joel’s work intuitively captures the pains, struggle, and contradictions of the Middle East, and offers a rare window into its possibilities for hope.”
—Arthur Neslen, author of Occupied Minds

“Behind Joel Schalit’s wit and humor lies a profound and exhilarating analysis of Israeli politics. His humanist thinking sends us a message both realistic and full of hope. A must-read for anyone who believes that peace is still an option in the Middle East.”
—Julien Pain, editor, France 24’s Observers

“Fresh thinking about the Middle East is rare, but that’s Joel Schalit’s specialty. Regardless of your politics, you probably won’t see Israel in the same way again after reading this admirable and engaging book—and that’s something we all need. And you’ll probably develop an irresistible appetite for good hummus along the way.”
—Doug Henwood, author of After the New Economy

Israel vs. Utopia is a compelling book about Israel’s perceived identity in the West and the reality on the ground. Schalit offers a genuine and honest look at both sides of the equation.”
—Jamal Dajani, senior director of Middle East programming, LINK TV

Critical Praise for Joel Schalit’s Jerusalem Calling: A Homeless Conscience in a Post-Everything World:

“This remarkable collection of essays by an astute young writer covers a wide range of topics [and] Schalit almost always hits his mark. This is the debut of a new and original thinker.”
Publishers Weekly

“Schalit’s genuine, urgent concern knocks down doors.”

“Schalit has risen to the forefront of a new left culture that’s postmodern and ultra-aware but still believes in the power of activism.”
SF Weekly

“Joel Schalit is part of a new generation of secular Jewish leftists who issue a challenge to state-authorized religion in Israel and throughout the world.”
San Francisco Bay Guardian


Israel is a synonym for many things: the ancestral home of the Jewish people, the hell of the Palestinians, the realization of a centuries-old dream of freedom, and the heart of the War on Terror. No country inspires as much debate about its rights and wrongs, its legitimacy and illegitimacies, than Israel. Historically associated with Europe, such debate finally became common in the US during the Bush era, as America deepened its involvement in the region, and Israel fought three wars.

In his new book, Israel vs. Utopia, Israeli American journalist Joel Schalit distinguishes between the Israel he knows, and the image of it that exists in the imagination of Americans. Israel is a state of mind, Schalit argues, as much as it is its own sovereign state. Exploring this tension, in America, in Israel, employing a combination of personal observation, political, and cultural commentary, Schalit defines the instability of Israel, as a metaphor, and America’s troubled love for it, as only an Israeli American would know.

Other books by Shalit include Jerusalem Calling: A Homeless Conscience in a Post-Everything World, and The Anti-Capitalism Reader: Imagining a Geography of Opposition.

Book Details

  • Paperback: 250 pages
  • Published: 10/1/09
  • IBSN: 9781933354873
  • e-IBSN: 9781936070329


JOEL SCHALIT is a writer and editor based in Berlin, Germany. The author of the critically-acclaimed Jerusalem Calling, and the editor of several collections including The Anti-Capitalism Reader, Schalit has edited some of America’s most influential independent magazines, including Punk Planet, Tikkun, and the legendary ’90s e-zine, Bad Subjects. His work has also appeared in AlterNet, the Forward, openDemocracy, and the Guardian. Schalit currently comments on Mideast politics for French global news broadcaster France 24, and is the editor of Seattle’s new politics and culture daily, Souciant. Israel vs. Utopia is his latest book.

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