Baruch Kimmerling: Controversial critic of Israel's origins and its role in the Middle East





Baruch Kimmerling, who has died aged 67, was probably the first Israeli academic to analyse Zionism in settler- immigrant, colonialist terms. He described his homeland as being "built on the ruins of another society". A devoted atheist, he lamented Jews' and Arabs' failure to "separate religion from nationality".
Though associated with the "new historians" who question the official narrative of Israel's creation, Kimmerling was a sociologist by training. In his book, The Interrupted System: Israeli Civilians in War and Routine Times (1985), he began anatomising what he saw as the deleterious, if disguised, militarisation of Israeli civil society. Challenging the notion of Israel as a beneficent "melting pot", he called on fellow citizens to embrace their multiple origins - Arab and Jewish, oriental and western, religious and secular.

In 1993, he co-wrote (with Joel Migdal) what Library Journal in the US called "the best descriptive treatment of the Palestinians to appear in decades". The book, Palestinians: The Making of a People, noted how Israel's victory in the six-day war of 1967 paradoxically reunited and politically revived Palestinians, and returned the Middle East conflict to its pre-1948 inter-communal cockpit.
The book's publication coincided with the apparently successful Oslo peace accords. Ten years later, with the peace process in ruins, Kimmerling released his controversial Politicide: Ariel Sharon's War against the Palestinians. What began as a biography became an analysis of "a gradual but systematic attempt to cause Palestinians' annihilation as an independent social, political and economic entity".

To his adversaries Kimmerling was a tendentious polemicist who let ideological bias overrule academic sobriety and gave succour to Israel's foes. Yet he called himself a patriot, and while decrying the "monstrous practices of Zionism" he valued Israel's "islands of marvellous humanism and creativity". He feared that a one-state solution to the Israel-Palestine dilemma would just cause further Balkanisation and bloodshed in the Middle East, and he opposed boycotts of Israeli universities....

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