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Israeli Historian Critical of Settlements Wounded in Bomb Attack


File picture shows the West Bank settlement of Maale Adumim. Sternhell frequently contributes to the liberal Haaretz newspaper, writing columns critical of Israel's right-wing settlement movement and in favour of a negotiated peace with the Palestinians.(AFP file)

JERUSALEM - Israeli historian Zeev Sternhell, known for his criticism of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, was wounded when a pipe bomb exploded at his home on Thursday, police said.

Sternhell suffered light injuries to his right leg when the bomb exploded as he was trying to close the door to his house and was hospitalised in Jerusalem.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said a special investigative unit was set up to look into the incident after police found fliers in nearby streets calling for the killing of left-wing activists.

"When we were searching the nearby neighbourhood looking for evidence after the attack we found fliers offering a reward of 1.1 million shekels (320,000 dollars, 221,000 euros) for attacking and killing members of Peace Now," Rosenfeld said.

Peace Now, an Israeli rights group devoted to ending the occupation of the Palestinian territories, said extreme right-wing groups were behind the attack.

"Law enforcement authorities must abandon their lenient policy when it comes to law-breakers from within the settler community and their supporters," the group said.

"Those who don't enforce the law on violent settlers in the territories will find (themselves) with a Jewish terror organisation in the heart of Israel."

Sternhell frequently contributes to the liberal Haaretz newspaper, writing columns critical of Israel's right-wing settlement movement and in favour of a negotiated peace with the Palestinians.

In one of his more controversial articles he said "if the Palestinians exhibited more foresight, they would have concentrated their actions against the settlements instead of attacking women and children (in Israel)."

He has also staunchly opposed the Israeli blockade of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, calling it both "immoral and ineffective."

Geula Cohen, an ultra-nationalist member of parliament, condemned the attack on Sternhell in an interview with public radio but denounced his political positions.

"Of course I strongly condemn this act, but we must not forget that Zeev Sternhell has in the past called for tanks to destroy the settlements and incited (Palestinian) terror organisations to kill settlers," she said.

Meanwhile, Defence Minister Ehud Barak warned that "we are returning to the sinister phenomenon of using bombs against people, in this case against a very capable man who has never been afraid to voice his opinion.

"We will not allow anyone, from any dank corner of Israeli society, to persecute anyone else," he was quoted as saying by Ynet News.

Sternhall, who was born in Poland in 1935, fled the Nazi Holocaust. He teaches at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, specialising in the emergence of fascism, and is an expert on extreme right-wing ideologies in France.

In February he was awarded the 2008 Israel Prize in political science.


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