Menu JTA Search

Stephane Hessel, Jewish anti-capitalist activist, dies

(JTA) — Stephane Hessel, a member of the French Resistance, an Israel critic and an anti-capitalist activist, died in Paris.

Hessel, who inspired the recent Occupy Wall Street movement, died early Wednesday in Paris according to his wife, French media reported. He was 95.

In “Time for Outrage!,” his 2010 anti-capitalist pamphlet that became a best-seller, Hessel devoted a chapter to his outrage against Israeli policies on Gaza. A year earlier he had called Israel’s attacks against Hamas “a crime against humanity.” 

“Our opposition to his politics is well known,” CRIF, the umbrella group representing French Jewry, wrote in a statement after his death. “Specifically we opposed his obsessive tendency to present Gaza as the epicenter of global injustice and Hamas as a pacifist charity, which contrasted with his indifference to human tragedies that are met with utter silence.”

The UJFP, a French Jewish group that supports the Palestinian aspiration for sovereignty and a boycott of Israel, called Hessel a friend and a man “with a firm and sweet voice demanding justice.”

As a spy for the French Resistance, Hessel survived the Buchenwald concentration camp by assuming the identity of a dead French prisoner. As a diplomat, he helped write the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights. 

Born in Germany, Hessel and his parents immigrated to France in 1924, where they settled into an avant-garde life, hanging out with artists such as Alexander Calder and Marcel Duchamp.

NEXT STORY