ADC Mourns Death of Israel Shahak
Washington, DC — The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) mourns the death of Israeli chemist and human rights activist Israel Shahak, who passed away on Monday night in Jerusalem at the age of 68. ADC Chief Operating Officer Ziad Asali said “Israel Shahak was an extraordinary voice of moral courage and fearless honesty, who never shirked from confronting his fellow Israelis with the truth about their oppression of the Palestinians. He was a tireless champion of human rights and equality for all Palestinians and Israelis.”
Israel Shahak was born on April 28, 1933 in Warsaw, Poland. In 1943-5, Shahak and his parents were imprisoned by the Nazis in the Poniatowo and Bergen-Belsen concentration camps. The 12 year old Shahak and his mother emigrated to Palestine after the liberation of the camps in 1945. In the 1960s, while working as Professor of Chemistry at Hebrew University, Shahak became one of Israel’s leading voices of dissent. In 1970 he was elected chairman of the Israeli Human and Civil Rights League, and spent the next three decades strongly advocating equality and civil rights. In the 1990s, Shahak emerged as one of the strongest critics of the Oslo “peace process,” which he denounced as a fraud and a vehicle for making the Israeli occupation more efficient.
Shahak gained a wide international audience through his regular “Translations from the Hebrew Press,” which gave the non-Hebrew speaking world a unique glimpse into the extreme and racist rhetoric about Arabs, Palestinians and Jewish supremacy that characterizes much of “mainstream” discourse in Israel. The translations also clarified Israeli strategic thinking and policy goals in a manner that directly contradicted official “hasbara” (propaganda) which presented Israel as a besieged state struggling only for peace and survival. Shahak’s writings continuously exposed and denounced Israel as an expansionist, chauvinist and racist state bent on the domination of the surrounding Arab peoples, especially the Palestinians. His recent books, including “Open Secrets: Israeli Nuclear and Foreign Policies” (Pluto Press, 1997), “Jewish History, Jewish Religion: The Weight of Three Thousand Years” (Pluto Press, 1997) and “Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel” (Pluto Press, 1999), provide an invaluable insight into Israeli discourse and policy.
Shahak explained that “After 1967, when I ceased being just a scientist and became a political being, my first reason was that after 1967 the Israeli aim was to dominate is the Middle East, which every rational human being knows is impossible. My second reason was that there must be a Palestinian state.” Edward Said observed “As someone who spoke and wrote about Palestine, I could not have done what I did without Shahak’s papers and of course his example as a seeker after truth, knowledge, and justice. It is as simple as that, and I therefore owe him a gigantic debt of gratitude.”