Sygmunt Bauman, the Jewish sociologist and one of the greatest philosophers of our time, castigated Israel harshly this week, saying it did not want peace and was afraid of it.

Bauman said Israel was "taking advantage of the Holocaust to legitimize unconscionable acts," and compared the separation fence to the walls surrounding the Warsaw Ghetto, in which hundreds of thousands of Jews perished in the Holocaust.

In a long interview to the important Polish weekly "Politika," Bauman said Israel was not interested in peace. "Israeli politicians are terrified of peace, they tremble with fear from the possibility of peace, because without war and without general mobilization they don't know how to live," he said.

"Israel does not see the missiles falling on communities along the border as a bad thing. On the contrary, they would be worried and even alarmed were it not for this fire," the Polish-British sociologist said.

Bauman, who lived in Israel briefly, referred to an article he wrote in Haaretz, in which he expressed concern that the younger Israeli generation was being raised on the understanding that the state of war and military alert were natural and unavoidable.

The Polish public has not heard such a diatribe against Zionism and Israel since the anti-Semitic propaganda campaign the Communist regime conducted after the Six-Day War.

Not surprisingly, leading Jewish figures came out against it.

"Politika" published the criticism alongside the letter of Israeli ambassador in Warsaw Zvi Bar, who rejected Bauman's "half truths" and "groundless generalizations."

Bauman, who was born in Poland in 1925, has been living in England since he left his lecturer's chair at Tel Aviv University in 1971.

He is seen as one of the greatest sociologists of our time and has dealt extensively with the ties between the Holocaust and modernism, globalization and consumer culture in the postmodern era.

Some of his books have been translated into Hebrew, including "Liquid Love."

His grandson is attorney Michael Sfard, of the human rights group Yesh Din.