Dr.Israel Shahak of the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, was mistakenly identified yesterday in The Washington Post as a professor of law. He is a professor of chemistry.
Israeli government policy in conquered Arab territories was repeatedly condemned this week in a forum where criticism of Israel is rare - the corridors of the U.S. Senate.
Not that there is any apparent change in the entire Senate's overwhelming support for Israel. This week's criticism was sponsored by just one senator, James Abourezk (D-S.D.), and it came from a string of Arab and Israeli witnesses avowedly hostile to the Israeli occupation on the West Bank of the Jordan River.
The witnesses charged that the Israeli military government on the West Bank has systematically deprived Arab residents of civil political and human rights while confiscating Arab land for Jewish settlements and deporting local Arab leaders.
These were views to which Abourezk - the only member of the Senate who regularly speaks out in defense of Arab interests - obviously adhered. He encouraged the Arab witnesses at his hearings for two days, and gently rebuked the one pro-Israeli witness, a law professor from Jerusalem, for contriving "one of the most ingenious legal arguments I've ever heard" to explain why Israel need not respect a Geneva convention on administration of occupied territory on the West Bank.
Aides to Abourezk and representatives of pro-Arab groups in Washington said the two days of hearings amounted to a uniquely direct airing of Arab views in a congressional hearing. Arabs and their friends have long argued that U.S. officials and public opinion here too rarely hear their side of the Middle East story.
Abourezk held the hearings as a member of the refugee subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
At yesterday's hearings three present or former Arab residents of the West Bank testified on conditions there.
One, Salim Tamari, a professor of sociology at Birzeit University in the occupied territory (it was administered by Jordan until the 1967 war), said "it is very painful for us" to watch European and American Jews move into the former Arab sector of Jerusalem and claim the area as their own, while indigenous Arab residents of the same areas have been forced to leave them.
Tamari charged that the Israeli military government on the West Bank harassed the students at his university, applied "extreme censorship" to written material and theatrical productions, and arbitrarily punished Arabs. One professor at his university was held for three years without a charge under 'administrative detention" rules inherited by the Israelis from the day sof British rule in Palestine before 1947, Tamari said.
The president of the University was deported to Lebanon in 1975, Tamari recalled.
Ibrahim Dakkak, an engineer and chairman of the engineers' association of the West Bank, listed numerous cases of engineers and other professionals who, he said, were arrested or deported arbitrarily by the Israeli military government.
Dakkak also charged that Israeli authorities had destroyed historical Arab structures in Jerusalem without making any record of them.
A third witness, Fouzi el-Asmar, a poet and editor, testified that the Israeli authorities refused to deal with Arab students and other groups. He also charged that the military government censored a book of poetry he had written.
Abourezk asked rhetorically if censorship of poetry was consistent with Israel's claim to be the only real democracy in the Middle East.
Monday the committee heard a strongly worded attack on Israeli occupation policies from an Israeli citizen and law professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Dr. Israel Shahak. Shahak charged that the occupation authorities regularly violated the rights of West Bank Arabs.
"The two most significant aspects of those violations," Shahak said, "appear to be the confiscation of the land, carried out in a particularly cruel and unjust way, and the creation of a regime of inequality and racist discrimination."
Shahak is chairman of a group called Israeli League for Human and Civil Rights.
Another Hebrew University professor, Dr. Yehuda Zvi Blum, a legal scholar, argued Monday that, technically, Israel is not an occupying power on the West Bank, and therefore the 1940 Geneva covenant on occupation practices does not apply.
Zvi claimed that Jordan had no legal right to incorporate the West Bank in 1950, so Israel's advance into that area in 1967 could not legally be called an occupation.
Blum disputed the contention that Israel deprived West Bank Arabs of their human rights, though he acknowledged that Jordanian citizens living in the area had been deported to Jordan.
An American legal scholar, W. T. Mallison of George Washington Univeristy, dismissed Blum's legal reasoning as unworthy of "serious consideration." Mallison said the wording and negotiating history of the 1949 Geneva covenant - which requires adhering parties, including Israel, to protect the human rights of citizens in occupied territory - makes clear its applicability to the present West Bank situation.