Baruch Kimmerling was a professor of sociology and anthropology at Hebrew University. Born in Rumania on October 16, 1939, he immigrated to Israel in 1952 and eventually became an Israeli citizen. He was a member of the Middle East Studies Association and authored numerous books on Middle Eastern political and social issues.
Kimmerling was a leading figure in the “post-Zionist” movement, an anti-Zionist campaign whose luminaries also include such professors as Ilan Pappe, Avi Shlaim, Oren Yiftachel, Uri Bar-Joseph, and Benny Morris.
Two books by Kimmerling were published in 2003 and received considerable public attention. They were widely reviewed, especially by magazines and websites hostile to Israel, and were produced in Arabic in the West Bank.
One of these books, The Palestinian People (co-authored with University of Washington political scientist Joel Migdal) was lauded by the Palestine Liberation Organization. In this publication, Kimmerling and Migdal contended that Palestinian nationhood dates back into the distant mists of history, their purported proof being the fact that there were Arabic-speaking people living in what was once called Palestine ever since the Muslim empire arose, and that there were Arabic tribes there even earlier, some of which are mentioned in the Bible.
As further evidence, Kimmerling and Migdal cited the fact that: (a) by the 1800s some Arabs in Palestine were participating in various rebellions and turf battles within the Islamic world; and (b) when the local Turkish pasha revolted against the suzerainty of the Egyptian overlord Mohammed Ali, he was backed by some local sheikhs and effendis in Palestine.
Kimmerling and Migdal declared that local Arabs had developed a Palestinian self-definition by 1908. But their citation for this finding was an old book which actually emphasized that Palestine had been regarded by Arabs in the early 20th century as Southern Syria. The authors did not mention that.
Contrary to Kimmerling’s claim, the historical record shows that while there was some talk as far back as 1920 of creating an independent Palestinian state, there was no grassroots Palestinian nationalism before 1967. Prior to 1900, Palestine was an under-populated backwater within the Ottoman world, a sparsely populated area with a heterogeneous population. Local Muslims in Palestine in the nineteenth century were a hodgepodge of Arabs, Turks, Circassians, Bosnians, and others.
In the first edition of Kimmerling and Migdal’s book, there was no mention at all of the Grand Mufti or of Palestinian collaboration with German Nazism in World War II. (In the second edition there was only the briefest passing mention.) Neither was there more than the barest reference to the wave of atrocities carried out in the 1950s by fedayeen terrorists.
Kimmerling and Migdal offered no discussion at all of the corruption of the Palestinian Authority and the human rights atrocities it committed against Palestinians. The authors claimed that between 500,000 and a million Palestinian Arabs became refugees in 1948-49, most of them victims expelled by Israel. But in fact, even Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has confirmed that his people became refugees because Arab leadership ordered them to flee the battle zones while five invading Arab armies tried to annihilate the infant Jewish state.
The second half of The Palestinian People was mainly a discussion of the Oslo years. In these chapters, readers were told that Israeli intransigence was the chief obstacle to a peace accord with the PLO, and that even Ehud Barak’s offer to Yasser Arafat at Camp David II was little more than a sham. Readers were not informed that Arafat had signed the early peace accords simply to gain access to the “occupied territories” from which he planned to launch a campaign of terrorist atrocities. Nor were they informed that Arafat began ordering terrorist strikes on Jews almost as soon as the Oslo ink was dry.
In another of his 2003 books, Politicide: Ariel Sharon’s War Against the Palestinians, Kimmerling contended that Israel’s raison d’etre was “politicide,” by which he meant the destruction of the Palestinian nation. He asserted that Israel was nothing more than a “Herrenvolk Republic,” a state based on presumptions of Jews being a master race, something morally equivalent to Nazi Germany. He characterized then-Prime Minister Sharon as an “agent of destruction” who endorsed the ethnic cleansing of Arabs. The author also portrayed Palestinian terrorism as a legitimate form of protest against Israeli injustices. Denouncing Israel as a “Thatcherist and semi-fascist regime,” he regarded any two-state solution as worse than the Bantustans which South Africa once tried to establish.
Additional books penned by Kimmerling include: Zionism and Territory: The Socioterritorial Dimensions of Zionist Politics (1983); Zionism and Economy (1983); The Interrupted System: Israeli Civilians in War and Routine Times (1985); The Invention and Decline of Israeliness: State, Culture and Military in Israel (2001); The End of Ashkenazic Hegemony (2001); and Immigrants, Settlers and Natives: Israel Between Plurality of Cultures and Cultural Wars (2003).
Kimmerling died of cancer on May 21, 2007 in Israel.
This profile is adapted from the article “Hebrew University’s Leading Anti-Zionist,” written by Steven Plaut and published by FrontPagemag.com on September 2, 2004.