Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Ze'ev Sternhell's Story

Sterhnell, an important historian and a prominent publicist, turns out to be a Holocaust survivor with a fascinating story, full of twists and turns. Here it is, as told to Ari Shavit, with the added benefits of insightful analysis of each of his own stages. Read the whole thing, as they say.


Lydia McGrew said...

A fascinating story. I didn't know that about the intense and apparently worse-than-before-the-war anti-semitism in Poland after the Nazis were all gone.

But in my opinion he's talking the language of Israeli suicide, even as he says he wants to preserve something. The rockets continuing to rain down on southern Israel tell a different story. He seems to know that the "national ambitions" of the "Palestinians" include destroying Israel, yet he continues to be committed to realizing those ambitions. And then what? When one nation attacks another, there is a right and a responsibility to respond, which may end up curtailing the "national ambitions" of the attacking nation. So if Israel defends itself (which it is not doing), it will all come to the same thing in the end--which end _he_ calls "colonialism." Strange how someone can have seen so much and yet still be so blind.

Yaacov said...

You see, Lydia, this is a case study of coming at the same story from different directions. I know Sternhell as a prominent speaker of the political camp in Israel that is always convinced that if we did things better, there would be peace with the Palestinians - so much so that I don't read his columns more than I do, since I find them tiringly predictable. Thus, this interview was interesting for me (beyond his fascinating story) because in it he moves back into the consensus - or maybe, he was there all the time, but he usually positions himself on it's left edge. You don't know him (why would you?), and are struck by how lefty he is. We're both right, of course, but each seeing it from the opposite direction.

Lydia McGrew said...

Quite right. Absolutely correct. I'd never heard of him, because I'm ignorant of Israeli politics.

His story is very compelling. Astonishing, even. I wonder what my Catholic friends would say. :-) I understand his comment to the effect that Protestants (he also includes Jews) are "alone" in contrast to the Catholics, who have "Mary and Jesus." He might be surprised to see how un-alone many Protestants are in their much less liturgical relationship to Jesus. But his experience of Christianity was of Polish Catholicism, a thing with its own unique cultural nature. It's interesting to me to see his reaction to it--where he calls it "a religion of genius," for example. That's fascinating.

And I was much struck by his saying that, although he rejects the politics of the religious right in Israel, in a sense he needs Israel more than they do because he is non-religious and has nothing _but_ Israel. That was quite a "huh" sort of statement.

News Service said...

Dear Yaacov,
As a defender of Israel's right to exist, you should be a bit wary of Sternhell. What he does not tell people in this nice interview is that he wrote a tendentious and inaccurate book, "The Founding Myths of Israel" that gratuitously smeared the Zionist movement, using the usual quota of out-of-context Ben-Gurion quotes and the like. Sternhell's concern with the occupation leads him at times to throw out the state with the occupation. Though he says that is not his intention, his writings are used for that purpose and certainly can be understood as delegitimizing Zionism.

His Holocaust experience should be respected, but that does not provide a license for making false and defamatory statements.