Globalizing Politicide

Three times since the start of 2009, including on 17 January and 11 February, Israel has attacked the sovereign state of Sudan. Reports vary, but it seems clear that Israel executed the bombings using American-supplied F-15 and F-16 fighter planes and unmanned drones and killed or injured at least 50 people. These attacks represent obvious violations of international law. Not as obvious, but more importantly, the attacks also represent a renewed globalizing of Israel’s policy of politicide. They are the most recent instances of Israel making global its policy of destroying the national existence of the Palestinians. As such they represent a very real and increasing threat to individual and international peace and security, particularly to the people of the post-colonial south, but also those of the imperial north.

Baruch Kimmerling defines politicide, with specific reference to Israel, as “a process that has, as its ultimate goal, the dissolution of the Palestinian people’s existence as a legitimate social, political and economic entity.” Furthermore, “[p]oliticide is a process that covers a wide range of social, political and military activities whose goal is to destroy the political and national existence of a whole community of people [the Palestinians] and thus deny it the possibility of self-determination.”

The bombings of the Sudan are not the first time Israel has extended this process far a field of Palestine. As a colonial movement Zionism has of necessity always pursued political activities in the service of politicide in, among other centers of imperial, reactionary power, London, Washington and Pretoria. Similarly, but more directly violent, in 1988 Israel bombed the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in Tunis, and in the same place that same year assassinated Abu Jihad. However, for the past 15 years Israel largely restricted politicide to Palestine, with some notable and devastating forays and debacles in Lebanon and Jordan. Israel realizes the process through the structural violence of its illegal military occupation of the West Bank, including Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip and policies such as land and resource expropriation, house demolitions, settlement and wall construction, curfews and the destruction of educational and social institutions. Properly historicized Israel’s “massacre,” to use the term Finkelstein deploys, of the people of Gaza is the most recent and directly violent articulation of this long and persistent process of politicide in Palestine. If we are to believe media reports, Israel’s bombings in the Sudan targeted convoys intended to provide Palestinians with means to resist being massacred in Gaza. This, in turn, means that Israel again globalized its campaign of politicide against Palestinians. The 2009 bombings of the Sudan represent a renewal of Israel’s genocidal campaign against Palestinians on a more global scale.

After the attacks then-Israeli Prime Minister Olmert was explicit on this point: “We operate everywhere we can hit terrorist infrastructure – in nearby places, in places far away.” He also explained that people should “know that there is no place where Israel cannot operate. There is no such place.” These statements are acknowledgement in no uncertain terms that Israel has the capability and willingness to take its destruction of the Palestinian community anywhere in the world. Obviously, they must also be read to mean that Israel will determine unilaterally the “terrorist infrastructure” to be targeted. Anyone who follows Israeli policy knows well that this is very inclusive terminology. All manner of social services including health clinics and charitable organizations have been deemed by Israel to be “terrorist infrastructure,” and now Israel has declared the global applicability of its lexicon.

The renewal of globalized politicide (and, of course, its attendant vocabulary) coupled with increasing global interdependence exposes more people to potential Israeli violence. The most recent violence destroyed the lives of Sudanese, Ethiopians and Eritreans. This, of course, is important in its own right, but it also does not signify the end or extent of the matter. First, just as the Lebanese and Tunisians have been victimized by Israeli violence in the past because Israel was destroying Palestinians and Palestinian communities in their midst, contemporarily, the increased global movement of people and extension of institutional connections vastly expands the geographic scope of potential innocent victims. Politicide knows no territorial bounds, which means that Canadians, Germans and Australians, any societies hosting potential targets of Israeli violence, are again threatened. Second, given Israel’s inclusive reading and global applicability of the “terrorist infrastructure” lexicon, the very real possibility exists that other individuals and institutions, not Palestinian per se, will be exposed to Israel’s none too tender mercies. Looking at Israel’s targeting, either by state agencies or through proxies, of individuals such as Norman Finkelstein, Joel Kovel, Rachel Corrie and Tristan Anderson and institutions such as the al-Jazeera network and the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), it is no great leap to assume that individuals and institutions, whoever and wherever they may be, refusing to subscribe to and support Israel’s ideas and practices, are again increasingly likely objects of Israeli politicide. For those who might scoff at and easily dismiss this suggestion it is instructive to recall here that the offices of both Alex Odeh, the regional director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination League (ADC) and Edward Said were fire-bombed in 1985, and that no one has ever been convicted of either crime.

Now, it should not be taken from the preceding, as Israel certainly wants it to be, that Palestinians and the realization of their inalienable rights are a liability for or a threat to other and/or host societies. Palestinians and the realization of their rights are not the “problem.” Palestinians and the realization of their rights are not a threat to individual or international peace and security. On the contrary, it is the denial of Palestinians and the realization of the rights that threatens individual and international peace and security. As the agent of this denial, this negation, Israel is the threat. This was, in fact, borne out by a 2003 European Commission poll which found Israel to be the single greatest threat to world peace. “In all Member States [of the European Union] (with the exception of Italy) the majority of citizens believe that Israel represents a threat to peace in the world.” As Tanya Reinhart notes citing the same poll: “Israel is considered a threat by 59 per cent of those polled. The United States, Iran and North Korea, come only second on this list, each considered a threat by 53 per cent of the EU population.” Despite the best efforts of the collaborationist media, Europeans recognize that neither Iran or North Korea pose the threat to international security that Israel does. Since the poll, and presumably re-enforcing its findings, Iran and North Korea, much less the Palestinians, have not conducted two bombings (Syria in 2007 and Sudan repeatedly in 2009) and one assassination (the killing of Imad Mugniyah in Damascus in 2008) against or in another sovereign state in the past two years. Such an impressive record of belligerence is Israel’s alone.

The surest way to realize international peace and security, and combat “terrorism” for that matter, is to demand the realization of Palestinian rights, notably the right to national self-determination in the form of a viable state. Alternatively, the surest way to ensure that more people, in farther flung regions of the world, get killed in Israel’s realization of politicide is to let its recent renewal of the global nature of this process go unchecked. Encouraging this renewal, as the U.S. and Canada among others, have regrettably and reprehensibly done, augurs more victims of Israeli violence, even possibly, in something that can only be characterized as betrayal of state responsibility, their own citizens and members of their societies.

SEAN McMAHON is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at The American University in Cairo. He can be reached at: smcmahon@aucegypt.edu


“How Israel Foiled an Arms Convoy Bound for Hamas,” Time, 30 March 2009 (accessed 8 April 2009). Available from http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1888352,00.html. “Report: Isrel used unmanned drones to attack Sudan convoys,” Ha’aretz, 29 March 2009 (accessed 30 March 2009). Available from www.haaretz.com. Instructively and in good Orientalist fashion, the Time article does not record the number of people killed in the Israeli attacks.

Baruch Kimmerling, Politicide: Ariel Sharon’s War Against the Palestinians (London: Verso Books, 2003), pp. 3-4.

Kimmerling, p. 4.

Naji Ali, “It’s Not About Rockets: Israel’s End-Game in Gaza,” Crossing the Line: Life in Occupied Palestine, 20 February 2009 podcast (accessed 21 February 2009). Available from http://ctl.libsyn.com/.

Yossi Melman, Amos Harel and Barak Ravid, “Olmert Hints at Israel’s Suspected Role in Sudan Air Strike,” Forward, 26 March 2009 (accessed 30 March 2009). Available from http://www.forward.com/articles/104317/. “Sudan strike targets weapons believed capable of hitting Tel Aviv, “Ha’aretz, 28 March 2009 (accessed 30 March 2009). Available from www.haaretz.com. And Yossi Melman, “Olmert after Sudan report: We will target threats abroad,” Ha’aretz, 27 March 2009 (accessed 30 March 2009). Available from www.haaretz.com.

“Sudan says Israel ‘most probably’ behind attack,” Ha’aretz, 27 March 2009 (accessed 30 March 2009). Available from www.haaretz.com. My emphasis added.


Directorate General Press and Communication, “Iraq and Peace in the World,” European Commission, November 2003, p. 81.

Tany Reinhart, The Roadmap to Nowhere: Israel/Palestine Since 2003 (London, Verso Books, 2006), p. 109.


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