If you are looking for a numbingly unreadable book of anti-Israel diatribes written by a deceased sociologist with Marxist tendencies, you can do no better (or worse?) than Clash of Identities. Kimmerling, who died in 2007, devoted his long career as a sociologist to doing little sociology while preening as a New Historian. Clash of Identities is the reprint of twelve previously published articles venting against Israel and Zionism.
Just about everything that was wrong with Kimmerling's work as an academic is on display in this new book, which is long on diatribe but short on evidence. Data and numbers are almost completely missing. Other than a few tables from a questionable public opinion survey, nothing is measured quantitatively in this supposed investigation of identity.
Kimmerling seems to have had little interest in measurement and analysis and seemed more interested in preaching and advocating. He saw himself as a historian of the Palestinian people, seeing shades of Palestinian identity decades, even centuries, before the U.N. partition vote of 1947. Ironically, when he actually stumbled across evidence of importance, he tended to ignore what it actually showed. Thus, in describing the birth of Palestinian national identity, he mentions petitions sent to British authorities in the 1920s by thousands of Palestinian intellectuals and professionals, demanding to be made Syrian citizens.
This book may be eye-opening for people who have never read a book before about the Middle East. They will learn that both Jewish and Arab identities have something to do with religion, that both nationalist movements have flirted with socialism, and that many Israeli resources go into its military. However, Kimmerling chooses to ignore or hide the fact that the bulk of Palestinians in 1948 were recent migrants or temporary workers who came to the area from other Arab countries attracted by the increase in economic opportunities brought about by Jewish enterprise and British rule of law. The reader will also fail to learn that, until 1967, there was little Palestinian nationalism beyond Arab nationalism or beyond the Arab desire to see the Jews driven into the sea.
The most interesting part of the book is its long preface. There we learn that when Kimmerling first approached the dean of Israeli sociology, Shmuel Eisenstadt, to be his dissertation advisor, Eisenstadt turned him down cold because Kimmerling was planning on writing a pro-Arab diatribe as his thesis. Other senior professors at Hebrew University also showed him the door. Eventually he managed to twist the arm of a junior faculty member, Moshe Lissak, to serve as his supervisor. Lissak, who became one of Hebrew University's most distinguished professors also became one of Kimmerling's harshest critics.