Zeev Sternhell, critic of French fascism and the Israeli leftist flagship, is dead

This Israeli fascist historian and peace activist with the Palestinians died on Sunday. He was born into a Jewish family in Poland and found refuge in France after the Second World War. He had made it his adopted homeland.

Historians of French fascism, militantly linked to peace with the Palestinians, staged against the rising right in their country, historian Zeev Sternhell, who died Sunday, June 21 at the age of 85, was one of the leading intellectual and political figures in Israel.

He was also one of the most Francophile of the great personalities of this country, a legacy of his tragic history: that of a child born into a Jewish family in Poland. His father, who fought in the Polish army, died at the beginning of the war, after which his mother and sister were killed by the Nazis.

To survive, his uncle and aunt may pass for a Catholic in full hunting of the Jews at the time his homeland sees himself set up on his territory of extermination camps.

After the war, as a young teenager, he took refuge in France, a country that would become his adopted intellectual homeland and the purpose of his research, before joining Israel shortly after its creation in 1948.

A well-informed observer of Israeli political life, a Francophile, he devoted part of his work to the right-wing history of the French Right with essays such as “Neither Right nor Left: Fascist Ideology in France” or “L” Reprinted History – La Rocque, Les Croix de feu and French fascism “, published in 2019.

Sternhell was interested in the “French roots of fascism” and suggested a “conscience test” to France about this thorny subject, which threw him into lively debate and controversy, reminiscent of his former student Denis Charbit, today a lecturer at the Open University of Israel.

For the historian, “Vichy is not a parenthesis, it is preceded, prepared by writings, theories, publications, organizations, leagues, factions, etc. … And it is true that from this point of view it challenged a more indulgent reading of France”, said AFP Denis Charbit, who remembers a professor “very demanding” but also “attentive” to his best students.

“He was for all historians of my generation, the one who opened a significant field of analysis to French fascism,” commented French historian Benjamin Stora.

Immerse your pen in the city’s wounds

Zeev Sternhell, professor of political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, liked to step down from his academic tower to throw his pen into the city’s wounds and commit, sometimes at risk, to peace with the Arab neighbors and Palestinians.

In September 2008, he had been hit in the right leg by the explosion of a bomb that exploded while closing the fence for his home.

The historian had participated in the Yom Kippur War in 1973 before becoming involved‘NGO Peace Now, “Peace Now,” in favor of a peace agreement between Israel and Egypt.

The NGO is now involved in the fight against the development of Israeli settlements, a sensitive topic and currently in the headlines because of the project to annex parts of the West Bank occupied by Israel, considered by the Palestinians. just like the “death of the two state solution”.

“As a child, Sternhell had the terrible experience of fascism and throughout his life he had the courage and strength to fight it. For decades he was a fundamental voice for Palestinian rights and against the occupation territories,” said Ayman Odeh, head of the list of Israeli Arabs portions.

With AFP