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.

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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 his popular 2010 anti-capitalist pamphlet “Time for Outrage!,” 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 promotes 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.

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