Shammas was one of the founders of the Arabic magazine "The East" (Arabic: الشرق), which he edited from 1971 to 1976. His first poem was published in the literary supplement of Haaretz newspaper. In 1974, Shammas published his first collection of poetry in Arabic, "Imprisoned in my Own Awakening and Sleep" (Arabic: اسير يقظتي ونومي ), as well as a collection of Hebrew poems, "Hardcover" (Hebrew: כריכה קשה). In 1979, he published his book of poems "No Man's Land" (Hebrew: שטח הפקר). He also wrote for some Hebrew newspapers. Some of his articles explored the problem of Arab identity in a Jewish state.
Shammas is known mainly for his writing in Hebrew and Hebrew translations of Arabic literature, such as the novels of Emile Habibi. His acclaimed Hebrew novel Arabesques (1986) was translated into eight languages, including English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, although it has never appeared in Arabic. It was reviewed upon its American publication on the front page of The New York Times Book Review (by William Gass), on April 17, 1988. It was chosen later by the editors of The New York Times Book Review as one of the best seven fiction works of 1988. Shammas has also translated Arabic poetry into Hebrew and English.