A decidedly contrarian reading of recent Israeli history by a noted dissident-scholar.
For Kimmerling (co-author, Palestinians, 1993; Sociology/Univ. of Toronto), who considers himself “an Israeli patriot,” his nation took a hard turn toward fascism with Ariel Sharon’s rise to power; this rightward trend has only been worsened by the declining Israeli economy, which has led Israeli citizens to “demand more activities against ‘the other’—the Arabs.” Sharon, whom Kimmerling openly brands a war criminal for his role in the deaths of civilians during the 1982 invasion of Lebanon, has been happy to oblige them, forging a strong alliance of once disparate political parties in the Knesset to the single end of committing “politicide” against the Palestinian people, removing them physically and otherwise from the landscape. The ongoing settlement of the West Bank and encroachments on the Gaza Strip are but two manifestations of this process, Kimmerling argues—a process, he suggests, that is the moral equivalent of the ethnic cleansing practiced elsewhere in our time. Sharon, he adds, has long practice in such work, having served as Moshe Dayan’s willing lieutenant in the anti-Palestinian campaigns of the early 1970s; “cooperation between Dayan and Sharon was so perfect,” he asserts, “that the minister of defense [Dayan] never had to give written orders to the general [Sharon], he had only to express wishful thinking about an issue (for example, ‘How nice it would be if there were no Bedouins in a certain area’), and Sharon would consider it an order.” Inflammatory words, those, and Kimmerling has long been criticized in Israel for voicing them. Politicide should prove similarly divisive, though it reflects well the current torn emotions of the Israeli majority, which is inclined to despise Arafat and vote Likud—but also, against Sharon’s wishes, to favor the creation of an independent Palestinian state in place of a status quo that clearly is not working.
A work of ideology as much as reportage, and a wake-up call for the perpetually bogged-down state of affairs in the Middle East.