Israel Shahak

Anthony writes:

Dear Mr Ford:

Having recently recently your interesting article on Israel Shahak (and having been alerted to your work by E. Michael Jones) I am writing, on the offchance, to ask if you can help me with a problem.

I am considering writing a piece on the late Dr. Shahak with specific reference to the incident you discuss and which he used to recount (the piece may also examine certain claims made against him).

As you know, the opening of his work Jewish History, Jewish Religion contains Shahak’s recollection of the events of 1965-1966 when he witnessed an "ultra-religious" Jew refuse to call an ambulance on the Sabbath that would have aided a Gentile.

Shahak recounted the experience to Haaretz, and Maariv took up the story also. Shahak stated that: " I asked for a meeting which is composed of rabbis nominated by the State of Israel. I asked them whether such behavior was consistent with their interpretation of the Jewish religion. They answered that the Jew in question had behaved correctly, indeed piously, and backed their statement by referring me to a passage in an authoritative compendium of Talmudic laws, written in this century….Neither the Israeli, nor the diaspora, rabbinical authorities ever reversed their ruling that a Jew should not violate the Sabbath in order to save the life of a Gentile. They added much sanctimonious twaddle to the effect that if the consequence of such an act puts Jews in danger, the violation of the Sabbath is permitted, for their sake."

This statement (the validity of which is not doubted by Tom Segev in his recent book 1967) has been continuously derided by opponents of Dr Shahak. The following claims are repeatedly made (and are all over the internet) – a) Dr Shahak fabricated the whole incident b) he was never able to identify the "ultra-religious" Jew he referred to c) no rabbinic court (or meeting with rabbis composed by the State of Israel) ever answered Shahak’s question in the way he said that they had.

I present here a link to an article by the late Lord Jacobivitz, Jewish Medical Ethicist and Chief Rabbi of England: A Modern Blood Libel – L’Affaire Shahak

You refer to this article on your blog – but as far as I can see it is in no way an "interview" with Shahak – more an article containing an assertion that Shahak admitted to lying (to whom he admitted this we do not know).

The above article is continually cited by opponents of Dr. Shahak as the final word on the matter – and as a reason to dismiss his work as fraudulent. I have yet to see a single rebuttal.

I have never been able to get to the bottom of this dispute, not least because Dr. Shahak is no longer with us. I am writing to you to ask if you can shed any more light at all on this distressing episode. I would very much like to produce an article on the matter (I am a medical ethicist by training) in the hope of producing the final word on this matter Dr. Shahak’s name. If you could in any way assist me in this matter I would be most grateful to you.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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