Baruch Kimmerling, Politicide:
Ariel Sharon’s War against the Palestinians.
London: Verso, 2003. 243 pages.
Review by Reg Whitaker
Ariel Sharon is an embodiment of paradox. Over a half-century career in war and politics, “The Bulldozer,” as he is widely known in Israel, has sown violence everywhere in his wake, yet thrives on the very chaos he himself encourages. Sharon is a self-fulfilling prophecy: a man on horseback who continually restores order while persistently fomenting disorder. This downward spiral became positively vertiginous after Sharon won prime ministerial office in 2001. The Camp David “peace” process is a distant memory, the Bush “Roadmap to Peace” an endless detour. The reality on the ground is suicide bombers, gunship strikes from the sky, death, destruction and despair. And bobbing atop the roiling sea of hatred is Ariel Sharon, avatar of anarchy and guarantor of order. Now in 2004, Sharon has seemingly reinvented himself: advocating a unilateral Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, he is bitterly attacked by hardliners in his own Likud party, while incongruously drawing support from the Israeli peace movement.
How much of the disaster of Israeli-Palestinian relations can be laid at the feet of one man is, of course, a debatable question. Baruch Kimmerling, who holds joint appointments at the University of Toronto and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and is the coauthor of a distinguished history of the Palestinian people, has taken on the task of assessing the impact of Sharon on Israel and on the Palestinians. In his view, structure and agency must be kept in balance in any analysis. He sees a process at work in Israeli policy post-2000 that he calls “politicide” of the Palestinians, but argues that this process did not begin with Sharon. Rather, it is a consequence of the 1967 war when the West Bank and Gaza were brought under occupation, and even more profoundly of the “very nature and roots of the Zionist movement,” reinforced by a series of regional and global events and processes. But Sharon does play a leading role in pushing these consequences – so much so in Kimmerling’s subtitle he calls the present crisis “Ariel Sharon’s War.” It is Sharon’s own personal history, as soldier and politician, that forms the thread of Kimmerling’s analysis of the course of Israel’s descent into the abyss.