With Israel Shahak's
Death, A Prophetic Voice Is Stilled
A Special Report on Israel and Judaism
By Allan C. Brownfeld
The death of Israel Shahak in July  has taken
from us a genuinely prophetic Jewish voice, one which ardently advocated
democracy and human rights, and rejected the ethno-centrism which has come to
dominate both the state of Israel and much of organized Judaism—not only in
Israel but in the U.S. and other Western countries as well.
This writer first met Israel Shahak on a
visit to Jerusalem in 1973. We kept in contact ever since, meeting when he
visited the United States. He wrote a number of very thoughtful articles for Issues,
a journal which I edit.
In many ways, Shahak was a victim of history
who tried to learn from his own experience and apply what he learned to
others. A Holocaust survivor, he preferred to emphasize his opposition to
racism and oppression in any form and in any country.
After being liberated from the Bergen-Belsen
concentration camp in 1945, Shahak and his mother emigrated to British Mandate
Palestine. He went on to have a distinguished career as a professor of
chemistry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and was repeatedly voted as
the most admired teacher by students.
Following the 1967 war, Shahak became a
leading member of the Israeli League for Human and Civil Rights and was
elected chairman in 1970. He devoted the rest of his life to opposing
Israel’s inhumane treatment inflicted upon its Arab citizens and upon
Palestinians in occupied territories.
While American newspapers, both Jewish and
general, completely ignored the death of Israel Shahak, a July 6 obituary in The
Guardian of London by Elfi Pallis notes that, “Shortly after the 1967
six-day war, he [Shahak] concluded from observation that Israel was not yet a
democracy; it was treating the newly occupied Palestinians with shocking
brutality. For the next three decades, he spent all his spare time on attempts
to change this. He contributed to various small … papers, but when this
proved to have little impact, he decided to alert journalists, academics and
human rights campaigners abroad. From his small, bare West Jerusalem flat
poured forth reports with titles such as ‘Torture in Israel,’ and
‘Collective Punishment in the West Bank.’ Based exclusively on mainstream
Israeli sources, all were painst