Do Unto Others focuses on the Middle East, (nonviolent) social movements, and how I make sense of my place in the world. I'm currently based in Cairo, Egypt doing peacebuilding and community development.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Israel deals in nuclear weapons with apartheid-era South Africa

What makes this blog unique, at least from my perspective, is my firsthand account of what is happening - the Israeli occupation and the Palestinian nonviolent resistance - in the South Hebron Hills of Palestine.  Nevertheless, I also post excerpts of articles, quotes, and photos from articles relating to the struggle in Palestine and general politics in Israel/Palestine.  I don't claim to do this task well, and certainly not exhaustively, but I try to bring you, my readers, stories that you probably won't come across in the pages of the NY Times (read a phony, establishment paper).  There are other bloggers out there who do this posting/reposting much more professionally and exhaustively than I do, but I try to bring to you the news stories, from greater Palestine/Israel that really strike a chord with me.  This is one of those stories:

  The Guardian broke a story of leaked South African documents that reveal that Israeli was in discussions with the former apartheid regime regarding the exchange of nuclear weapons.  This is the first documentation which proves that Israel - which continually plays the "we can neither confirm nor deny" game - possesses nuclear weapons.  This from the Guardian:

The "top secret" minutes of meetings between senior officials from the two countries in 1975 show that South Africa's defence minister, PW Botha, asked for the warheads and Shimon Peres, then Israel's defence minister and now its president, responded by offering them "in three sizes". The two men also signed a broad-ranging agreement governing military ties between the two countries that included a clause declaring that "the very existence of this agreement" was to remain secret. 
The documents were uncovered by Sasha Polakow-Suransky is his forthcoming book The Unspoken Alliance: Israel's Secret Relationship with Apartheid South Africa.  The amusing thing about Polakow-Suransky uncovering these documents is that the current South African government had no qualms with breaking the secrecy/confidentiality agreement that the Apartheid government had made with Shimon Peres.  Not surprisingly, the current South African government would not have an interest in protecting the former defense minister of the Apartheid-era government.  I can just imagine the request for the documents being requested from a desk clerk at some government document archival facility.  

*Desk clerk: You want documents from what?
*Author: A meeting that took place between the Israel Defense Minister and the S.A. Defense Minister in 1975.  
*Desk clerk: (After some searching) Yeah, we have those meeting notes and documents but they are listed as classified.
*Author: Ok, well, can you declassify them? I really need them for my research. 
*Desk clerk:  Wait, what year was this? 1975? This was a meeting between apartheid Israel and apartheid South Africa?  Oh hell yeah, man, I can declassify them.  I don't even need to check with my superior.  Anything I can do to help with your research.  

There are more nuances to this collection of documents, which is explained in the Guardian article.  There are corroborating documents written the same day, or in the following days, by South African officials talking about the defense benefits that the attainment of nuclear weapons would bring.  I will not get into these other documents, I trust you can read more if you would like.  The fact is, the articles show that Israel has nuclear weapons, and was willing to deal them to an egregious colonialist state, South Africa.  

Here's an Al Jazeera interview with Polakow-Suransky, which provides a good summary of the important documents:

Now we'll move to another notable, and heartbreaking, news story.  Mordechai Vanunu is back in jail.  Mordechai Vanunu is the Israeli whistleblower who verified that Israel certainly possessed nuclear weapons.  Vanunu worked at the Dimona nuclear power plant and gathered information and photos over his years of employment at Dimona.  

Vanunu was released in 2004 after spending 18 years in prison, largely in solitary confinment, on charges of treason and espionage.  Vanunu was released under parole conditions that prohibited him from leaving the country, approaching foreign embassies, or speaking with foreigners - in effect, prohibiting his freedom of speech and movement.  Vanunu was convicted of parole violations (speaking with foreigners) and was given community service.  Vanunu requested  a community service option in Arab East Jerusalem because he felt his safety would be threatened around Israelis given that he is viewed as a traitor and anti-patriot.  His request was denied and was told he must serve in Jewish West Jerusalem.  Vanunu refused and was sentenced to 3 months of jail.  A Guardian editorial condemns Israel's denial of Vanunu's human and civil rights:
This cynical treatment of Vanunu is a clear indication, once again, that Israel cares nothing for human rights legislation, nor any attempts to limit the possession, development and general spread of nuclear weapons.
Amnesty International called Vanunu a prisoner of conscience.  I echo the prayer sent out by Sabeel:  
We remember also prisoners of conscience all over the world, and particularly Mordechai Vanunu, the renowned whistleblower for Israel's nuclear program, who was imprisoned on Sunday, having been sentenced to serve six months in jail for allegedly breaking parole.

Shame on you Israel, for not admitting you have nuclear weapons and instead using a poor, innocent, prisoner of conscience, as your scapegoat to permit your ongoing refusal to confirm nor deny your possession of nuclear weapons.  Shame of the United States and Israel for going to war - as well as ongoing threats to go to war - over the world's  possession of nuclear weapons, while at the same time being two of the nations with the largest supply of nuclear weapons.  Are Western countries more moral, responsible, and restrained with nuclear weapons?  Sorry but history was written differently.  Only one country has used a nuclear missile on people, the United States of America. 

Shame on us for allowing people of conscience to rot in jail, our silence is complicity.  


eileen fleming said...

In 2005, Vanunu told me:

"President Kennedy tried to stop Israel from building atomic weapons. Kennedy insisted on an open internal inspection.

"When Johnson became president, he made an agreement with Israel that two senators would come every year to inspect. Before the senators would visit, the Israelis would build a wall to block the underground elevators and stairways. From 1963 to ’69, the senators came, but they never knew about the wall that hid the rest of the Dimona from them.

"Nixon stopped the inspections and agreed to ignore the situation. As a result, Israel increased production. In 1986, there were over two hundred bombs. Today, they may have enough plutonium for ten bombs a year."

In a 2003, BBC documentary investigative journalist, Peter Hounam stated "Vanunu told the world that Israel had developed between one hundred and two hundred atomic bombs [in 1986!] and had gone on to develop neutron bombs and thermonuclear weapons. Enough to destroy the entire Middle East and nobody has done anything about it since.”

Doing Something @

eileen fleming said...

PS: Vanunu shot the photo of me in June 2009.

"A Sunday with Vanunu" @