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Wounded Israeli Activist Warns of Threat to Democracy


A wounded Israeli activist has lashed out at right-wing opponents believed to have targeted him in a bombing. Robert Berger reports from the VOA bureau in Jerusalem.

A day after he was wounded in a bomb attack, prominent Israeli professor and activist Ze'ev Sternhell has accused Jewish extremists of threatening democracy. He said that when extremists take the law into their own hands and use violence against their opponents, democracy is beginning to crumble.

Police believe right-wing Jewish militants carried out the attack because Sternhell is an outspoken critic of settlers in the West Bank. The pipe bomb exploded as the professor emerged from his home in Jerusalem.

Police found posters in his neighborhood offering a $320,000 reward to anyone who kills a member of the dovish Israeli Peace Now movement.

The settlers were furious over an article by Sternhell in which he urged Palestinians to avoid attacks on Jews in Israel proper, and instead to target settlers in the West Bank.

He defended his remarks as he was released from the hospital.

"The occupation is illegitimate... and must be ended," he said. "The settlers see that as treason, but it is a legitimate point of view."

The bomb attack brought sharp condemnation across the political spectrum. Parliamentarian Reuven Rivlin is from the right-wing Likud party which supports the settlers.

"We have to warn everybody not to hate, not to hate the settlers and not to hate those who hate the settlers," Rivlin said. "Hatred between brothers is something that brought upon us disasters in the past and could bring upon us disasters in the future."

The attack touched a raw nerve here. Israelis have been extremely sensitive to political violence since Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by a right-wing Jew opposed to his peace policies in 1995.

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