To return to the new Peace Now website click here.

YNET: "Livni: Bomb attack against Professor Sternhell 'intolerable'"

Peace Now Secretary-General Yariv Oppenheimer said the "radical right" posed an existential threat to Israeli democracy.

Sep. 25, 2008 Staff , THE JERUSALEM POST

Kadima Chairman Tzipi Livni on Thursday spoke with Prof. Ze'ev Sternhell's family and criticized the attack against him, saying that it was "intolerable." "This is a lawful state, and Israeli society has firm values," Livni said, adding that both the government and the whole society must condemn this behavior

The Israel Prize laureate was lightly wounded after a small pipe bomb at the entrance of his home in Jerusalem exploded overnight Wednesday. He was taken to a Jerusalem hospital early Thursday.

Sternhell was in good condition at Jerusalem's Sha'are Zedek Medical Center, where he arrived at 1 a.m. Thursday with light wounds to his thigh and leg. He did not need surgery but only bandaging and antibiotic treatment.

Sternhell refused to be interviewed or photographed.

Police speculated that the attack against Sternhell was "ideologically motivated" and was likely carried out by extreme right wing activists. Police and Shin Bet officials announced the establishment of a special task force to investigate the attack.

Pamphlets calling for physical assault of Left-wing activists were found near the professor's home on Wednesday night, reportedly promising a NIS 1,100,000 reward to anyone who murdered someone associated with the Peace Now organization.

The professor, who returned to Israel on Wednesday after a long period overseas, had received intimidating phone calls for several months.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak responded to the attack at a Labor faction meeting Thursday morning, saying that "this is a case where an intellectual came under attack because of his views. We are returning to a dark period."

"We won't allow anyone, of any dark corner of Israeli society, harass people, not in general and especially not when it comes to people with a voice as rare and clear as Ze'ev Sternhell's," Barak said.

The Knesset's Internal Affairs and Environment Committee was scheduled to hold an urgent meeting following the attempted attack on Prof. Sternhell.

The committee's chairman, MK Ophir Pines-Paz called the attack against Sternhell "a cowardly terror activity carried out by miscreants. I call on the police and Shin Bet to make every effort to quickly find those behind the incident and to ensure they are imprisoned for many years."

Far-right activist Baruch Marzel denied that his organization, the National Jewish Front, was involved in the attack against the professor, but would not condemn it. Marzel said that "we are not condemning the incident because in the past, Professor Sternhell expressed his views that it was legitimate to hurt settlers."

Education Minister Yuli Tamir, considered a friend of Sternhell, called for the tightening of security measures around the professor's home.

"The police must take the incident seriously and use their professional knowledge to guarantee Ze'ev Sternhell's safety. I think this attack is extremely grave and worrying. It should receive our full attention and mustn't be taken lightly," Tamir told Army Radio on Thursday.

MK Haim Oron, leader of left-wing Meretz party, expressed his hope that Sternhell would recover quickly and said that "this thuggish dangerous incident is the result of a continuous blind eye turned to the severe violence toward soldiers, police and anyone who doesn't hold the same views as the bullying, radical right wing."

MK Zehava Gal-On (Meretz) also commented on the attack against the professor, saying that "the attempt to hurt Professor Sternhell is the result of the authorities' lenient attitude and helplessness in face of the radical right, which enjoys a Knesset lobby."

Peace Now Secretary-General Yariv Oppenheimer said the "radical right" posed an existential threat to Israeli democracy.

"The law-enforcing authorities must stop their lenient policy toward lawbreakers from within the settlers and their supporters before another political assassination occurs in Israel," Oppenheimer said.

He added that "those who don't enforce the law amongst the violent settlers will eventually have to deal with a Jewish terror organization operating in the heart of the State of Israel."

In response to the calls for violence against prominent leftists, police were guarding Oppenheimer's house.

MK Menahem Ben-Sasson, chair of the Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, said that "the combination of nationalism and religious fundamentalism promotes bloodshed and is destructive for the State, and not only for outstanding persons such as Professor Sternhell."

"This assassination attempt mustn't be dismissed under the pretense that it was just meant to scare someone. The attack threatens Israeli society entirely ," Ben-Sasson added.

Sternhell, a political science professor at Hebrew University celebrated for his research on fascism, is known for his comments against the settler movement. The professor has expressed his objection to any Israeli settlements in territories beyond the '67 borders.

Only five months ago the High Court of Justice rejected a petition filed by the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel to revoke the decision to award Sternhell with the Israel Prize.

Sternhell has been repeatedly quoted for controversial remarks in an article published in Haaretz where he wrote: "Had the Palestinians the least bit of sense, they would have concentrated their struggle against the settlements and would not plant explosives on the western side of the Green Line. In this manner, the Palestinians would themselves draft the solution that will be reached in any case."

Judy Siegel-Itzkovich contributed to this report