Zeev Sternhell

Zeev Sternhell

Infobox Person
width = 350
name = Zeev Sternhell

image_size =
caption =
birth_date = 1935
birth_place = Przemyl, Poland
alma_mater = Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Institut d'Études Politiques de Paris
death_date =
death_place =
occupation = historian, writer
known_for = supporter of Peace Now award: Israel Prize, 2008
spouse = Ziva
children = two daughters
awards = Israel Prize, 2008
religion = Jewish

Zeev Sternhell (born 1935) is an Israeli historian and one of the world's leading experts on Fascism. [Roger Griffin. "The Nature of Fascism". Routledge. 1993. p. 6] Sternhell headed the Department of Political Science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and writes for "Haaretz" newspaper. Sternhell was awarded the Israel Prize for Political Science in 2008. [ [http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/952468.html Ha'aretz] 8 February 2008 "Haaretz's Sternhell wins Israel Prize in political science" By Tamara Traubmann]


Zeev Sternhell was born in Przemyl, Poland to an affluent secular Jewish family. His grandfather and father were textile merchants. [http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/961668.html Amazing grace - Haaretz - Israel News ] ] When Russia occupied eastern Poland, Russian troops took over part of his home. His father died of natural causes. A few months after Operation Barbarossa, the family was sent to the ghetto. His mother and older sister, Ada, were killed by the Nazis when he was seven years old. An uncle who had a permit to work outside the ghetto smuggled him to Lwow. [http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/952468.html Haaretz's Ze'ev Sternhell wins Israel Prize in political science - Haaretz - Israel News ] ] The uncle found a Polish officer who was willing to help them. Supplied with false Aryan papers, Sternhell lived with his aunt, uncle and cousin as a Polish Catholic. After the war, he was baptized, taking the Polish name Zbigniew Orolski. He became an altar boy in the Cathedral of Krakow. In 1946, at the age of 11, Sternhell was taken to France on a Red Cross children's train, where he lived with an aunt. He learned French and was accepted to a school in Avignon despite stiff competition.

In the winter of 1951, at the age of 16, Sternhell immigrated to Israel under the auspices of Youth Aliyah, and was sent to Magdiel youth village. In the 1950s, Sternhell served as a commander in the Golani infantry brigade. He fought in the Six-Day War, the Yom Kippur War and the Lebanon War.

In 1957-1960, he studied history and political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, graduating with a BA cum laude. In 1969, he was awarded a Ph.D. from the Institut d'Études Politiques de Paris [ [http://www.nias.knaw.nl/en/oudfellows/research_group_1997_1998/summaries_97_98/zeev_sternhell/ Zeev Sternhell (nias) ] ] for his thesis on "The Social and Political Ideas of Maurice Barrès".

Sternhell lives in Jerusalem with his wife Ziva, an art historian. They have two daughters.

Academic career

In 1976, Sternhell became co-editor of "The Jerusalem Quarterly," remaining an active contributor until 1990. In 1981, he became a professor of political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In 1989, he was elected to the Léon Blum Chair of Political Science at the Hebrew University and became a member of the Editorial Board of "History and Memory". In 1991, the French government awarded him the title of "Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres" for his outstanding contribution to French culture. In 1996, he was a member of the Editorial Board of the "Journal of Political Ideologies".


Zeev Sternhell traces the roots of Fascism to revolutionary far-left French movements, adding a branch, called the 'revolutionary right', to the three traditional right-wing families cited by René Rémond - (legitimism, orleanism and bonapartism). The main influences, according to Sternhell were:
*"Boulangisme", a populist far-right movement led by Georges Boulanger who almost succeeded in his attempt at a coup d'état in 1889;
*Revolutionary syndicalism, pointing out how some Italian anarcho-syndicalists, influenced by George Sorel's thought, embraced fascism in its early stages;
*Cercle Proudhon's intellectual influence and the synthesis it would have provoked (the activities of Georges Valois and Edouard Berth).

His research has sparked criticism, in particular from French scholars who argue that the Vichy regime (1940-1944) was of a more traditional conservative persuasion, although belonging to the far-right, than it was counter-revolutionary, counter-revolutionary ideas being a main characteristic of fascism. René Rémond has questioned Sternhell's attribution of 'boulangisme' to the revolutionary right-wing movements. Some scholars say that Sternhell's thesis may shed important light on intellectual influences of fascism, but fascism in itself was not born of a sole ideology and its sociological make-up and popularity among the working classes must also be taken into account.

Stanley G. Payne, for example, remarks in "A History of Fascism" that "Zeev Sternhell has conclusively demonstrated that nearly all the ideas found in fascism first appeared in France". [Stanley G. Payne, "A History of Fascism", pg 291.] But Fascism itself developed as a political movement in Italy, from where it exercised a prolonged influence on Nazism.

Sternhell's identification of Spiritualism with Fascism has also given rise to debate, in particular his claim that Emmanuel Mounier's personalism movement "shared ideas and political reflexes with Fascism". Sternhell has argued that Mounier's "revolt against individualism and materialism" would have led him to share the ideology of Fascism [See Zeev Sternhell, "Sur le fascisme et sa variante française", in "Le Débat" , November 1984, "Emmanuel Mounier et la contestation de la démocratie libérale dans la France des années 30", in "Revue française de science politique", December 1984, and also John Hellman's book, from which he takes many of his sources, "Emmanuel Mounier and the New Catholic Left, 1930-1950", University of Toronto Press, 1981. See also Denis de Rougemont, Mme Mounier et Jean-Marie Domenach dans "Le personnalisme d’Emmanuel Mounier hier et demain", Seuil, Paris, 1985.] .


Sternhell was taken to court by Bertrand de Jouvenel, in 1983, after Sternhell published his work "Ni Droite, ni gauche" ("Neither Right nor Left"). Jouvenel sued Sternhell on nine counts, and Sternhell was subsequently convicted for defamation. In his book, Sternhell accused Jouvenel of having had Fascist sympathies. Convicted on two counts, Sternhell did not however need to retract his remarks from the book. [Robert Wohl. French Fascism, Both Right and Left: Reflections on the Sternhell Controversy. "The Journal of Modern History", Vol. 63, No. 1, (1991), pp. 91-98.]

Political views

Sternhell is a long-time supporter of the Israeli peace camp and writes critically in the Israeli press about the Israeli occupation and policy toward the Palestinians. In "The Founding Myths of Israel" (published in Hebrew in 1995) Sternhell says the main moral justification the Zionists gave for the founding of Israel in 1948 was the Jews' historical right to the land. In the epilogue, he writes:

In fact, from the beginning, a sense of urgency gave the first Zionists the profound conviction that the task of reconquering the country had a solid moral basis. The argument of the Jews' historical right to the land was merely a matter of politics and propaganda. In view of the catastrophic situation of the Jews at the beginning of the century, the use of this argument was justified in every way, and it is all the more legitimate because of the threat of death hanging over the Jews. Historical rights were invoked to serve the need of finding a refuge. [Z. Sternhell, 1998, 'The Founding Myths of Israel', ISBN 0-691-01694-1, p.338]

Sternhell argues that after the Six-Day war in 1967, the threat to the Jews had disappeared, which changed the moral basis for retaining conquests:

No leader was capable of saying that the conquest of the West Bank lacked the moral basis of the first half of the twentieth century, namely the circumstances of distress on which Israel was founded. A much-persecuted people needed and deserved not only a shelter, but also a state of its own. [...] Whereas the conquests of 1949 were an essential condition for the founding of Israel, the attempt to retain the conquests of 1967 had a strong flavor of imperial expansion. [Z. Sternhell, 1998, 'The Founding Myths of Israel', ISBN 0-691-01694-1, p.336]

Sternhell sees Jewish settlement on the West Bank as a wish of religious Zionism and part of labour Zionism, that the more moderate part of labour Zionism was unable to withstand because this wish was in line with deep Zionist convictions. He sees settlement on the West Bank as a danger to "Israel's ability to develop as a free and open society", because it puts nationalistic aims over social and liberal aims.

He says something fundamental changed with the Oslo agreements: "In the history of Zionism the Oslo agreements constitute a turning point, a true revolution. For the first time in its history, the Jewish national movement recognized the equal rights of the Palestinian people to freedom and independence." [Z. Sternhell, 1998, "The Founding Myths of Israel", ISBN 0-691-01694-1, p.339] He ends the epilogue with: "The only uncertain factor today is the moral and political price Israeli society will have to pay to overcome the resistance that the hard core of the settlers is bound to show to any just and reasonable solution." [Z. Sternhell, 1998, 'The Founding Myths of Israel', ISBN 0-691-01694-1, p.345]

Controversy with settler movement

Sternhell won the Israel Prize in political science in February 2008. His political views, thrust into the media spotlight, provoked a stormy reaction, especially amongst supporters of the Settler's movement. Supporters of Sternhell have said he was repeatedly threatened with violence for his views. [ [http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1024412.html Dichter: Prof attack takes us back to days of Rabin assassination] Shahar Ilan and Roni Singer-Heruti, Haaretz, 26/09/2008] His opponents have said that Sternhell's writing supports terrorism and promotes state violence against Jewish settlers in the West Bank and other occupied territories.

Opponents of Sternhell's nomination circulated English translations of quotes in press releases during February 2008. [ [,+they+would+concentrate+their+struggle+against+the+settlements%22&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=11&gl=us&client=firefox-a Googla cache] ] They quote Sternhell in Davar newspaper in 1988 supporting the use of force by the Israeli government against Israeli settlers at Ofra, and quote him in Haaretz (2001) supporting "the legitimacy of armed resistance" by Palestinans. [http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/125186 Israel Prize to go to Pro-Terror, Pro-Civil War Prof.] Gil Ronen, IsraelNationalNews.com, 02/08/08.]


On September 25, 2008, Sternhell was the victim of a pipe bomb attack at his home, and was lightly hurt.cite web
title = Israeli peace advocate attacked
publisher = The Guardian
accessdate = 2008-10-03
author = Rory McCarthy
date = September 26, 2008
url = http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/sep/26/israelandthepalestinians.middleeast1
] Jerusalem police, who said they found at the scene fliers offering more than 1 million shekels (approximately $300,000) to anyone who kills members of Peace Now, suspected that he was attacked by right-wing extremists for his views. From his hospital bed, Sternhell said that "the very occurrence of the incident goes to illustrate the fragility of Israeli democracy, and the urgent need to defend it with determination and resolve". "On the personal level," he continued, "if the intent was to terrorize, it has to be very clear that I am not easily intimidated; but the perpetrators tried to hurt not only me, but each and every one of my family members who could have opened the door, and for that there is no absolution and no forgiveness." [ [http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1024412.html Dichter: Prof attack takes us back to days of Rabin assassination] , by Shahar Ilan and Roni Singer-Heruti, Haaretz, 26 September 2008]

After his release from hospital, he said he will continue to voice his opinions. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner condemned the attack, saying "The assault on Professor Sternhell is an assault on values of peace and brotherhood that served as an inspiration to Israel's founding fathers".Cite news
last = Glickman
first = Aviad
title = Prof. Sternhell: I'll continue to voice my views
work = Ynetnews
accessdate = 2008-09-26
date = 2008-09-26
url = http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3602507,00.html


Published Work

*"Fascist Ideology", "Fascism, A Reader's Guide, Analyses, Interpretations, Bibliography", edited by Walter Laqueur, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1976. pp 315-376.
*"Neither Right nor Left: Fascist Ideology in France", Princeton Univ. Press, California ISBN 0-691-00629-6
*"The Birth of Fascist Ideology", with Mario Sznajder and Maia Asheri, published by Princeton University Press, 1989, 1994 (ISBN 0-691-03289-0) (ISBN 0-691-04486-4)
*"The Founding Myths of Israel: Nationalism, Socialism, and the Making of the Jewish State" Princeton Univ. Press, 1999 (ISBN 0-691-00967-8; e-book ISBN 1-4008-0770-0) ( [http://student.cs.ucc.ie/cs1064/jabowen/IPSC/php/art.php?aid=243 abstract] )
* "Maurice Barrès et le nationalisme français" ("Maurice Barrès and French nationalism") – Brüssel : Editions Complexe, 1985

ee also

*J. Salwyn Schapiro

External links

* [http://www.nybooks.com/articles/17985 "The Anatomy of Fascism", article by Zeev Sternhell, New York Review of Books, May 12, 2005]
* [http://www.resistances.be/sternhell.html Interview (in french)]
* [http://web.archive.org/web/20060803051322/http://www2.coloradocollege.edu/Dept/PS/Finley/PS425/reading/Sternhell.html "Fascism: A Reader's Guide", paper by Zeev Sternhell] * [http://mondediplo.com/1998/05/03zion "Zionism's secular revolution"] article by Zeev Sternhell in "Le Monde diplomatique" (English edition)
* [http://student.cs.ucc.ie/cs1064/jabowen/IPSC/php/customSearch.php?m1=1&m3=110&sMask=ynnynn&lv=2&d0=1&d1=n&w5=Ze%27ev+%28Zeev%29+Sternhell&c4=e&o1=n Select material from Zeev Sternhell - english]
* [http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/1998/378/pal2.htm "New History, Old Ideas"] by Edward Said on Sternhell, in "Al-Ahram Weekly On-line" 21 - 27 May, 1998Issue No.378
* [http://student.cs.ucc.ie/cs1064/jabowen/IPSC/php/art.php?aid=6322 "The War of the Israeli Historians"] by Avi Shlaim, in "Miftah", 18 March 2004
* [http://www.denistouret.net/textes/Sternhell.html Short extracts]

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