The Politicide of Palestinian People
by Baruch Kimmerling
Because Ariel Sharon's latest, more moderate incarnation has been so warmly received by the Bush administration, the US media, and the American public, it is crucial to understand both the context of his transformation and the actual behavior of the Israeli government toward the Palestinian people. The general context is that the primary goal of the present government is the destruction of the Palestinian Authority and the dismantling of the Oslo Accords. This can only be defined as the politicide of the Palestinian people, a gradual but systematic attempt to cause their annihilation as an independent political and social entity.
For this reason, Ariel Sharon has skillfully used the brutal and indiscriminant forms of Palestinian resistance - especially the suicide bombers - to create a chain of mutually escalating responses in order to induce both the Israeli and international community to accept his goal. Using the fight against terrorism as a pretext, he aims to divide the Gaza Strip and West Bank into tiny enclaves rules by local strongmen while claiming he is supporting the "reformation" and "democratization" of the Palestinian authority.
The final aim is to continue the Jewish colonization of the so-called "Greater Land of Israel" until Israel's exclusive and non-reversible control of the territories has been attained. Some analysts suspect or hope that one outcome of this project is to make daily life so miserable for Palestinians that large numbers will emigrate from the territories' something that has, in fact, occurred during the last few years.
Sharon learned from the Lebanon fiasco that, while such policies must be implemented militarily, they must cause minimal casualties. Otherwise, both international agencies and public opinion could turn against them. To minimize Jewish casualties, it is necessary to deploy large, heavily armed forces and to use cruel techniques like razing whole neighborhoods. Resistance is met with heavy fire power, as was the case in Jenin.
The immediate aim of "Operation Defensive Shield" was to disarm "bases of terrorism" by capturing weapons and explosives and to "liquidate" or capture those involved in Palestinian armed resistance. In other words, the goal was to dismantle any Palestinian security forces, not only to hamper their ability to fight Israel, but to dissolve the internal authority of Arafat's regime as well. For the same reason, Israel security forces also assaulted most of the national and public infrastructure and institutions and even destroyed databases like the one used by the Palestinian Bureau of Statistic.
Additional goals of the incursions, sieges, and extra-judicial executions were to demonstrate Israeli military might and its willingness to use it and to prove to the Palestinians that there were defenseless against any wanton action. The Arab states barely paid lip service to the Palestinian cause, denouncing Israeli actions just enough to avoid internal unrest, apparently because they feared Israel was looking for a regional war. Such a war could distract the Israeli public from the severe economic and social crisis within Israel ( such as a high unemployment rate and the beginnings of hyperinflation) and serve as a cover for uprooting large numbers of Palestinians from the land, as happened during the 1948 war.
However, the international community, including the United States, will soon recognize that in an era during which every nation (including the Jewish and Palestinian nations) has the right to self-determination, politicide is a crime against humanity that is very close in its severity to genocide.
Baruch Kimmerling is a professor of sociology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Among his recent books are The Invention and Decline of Israelieness (University of California Press) and with Joel S. Migdal Palestinians: The Making of a People (The Free Press and Harvard University Press).