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Commentary Last Updated: Feb 9th, 2007 - 15:21:44

Israel�s double nuclear standard is no standard at all
By Jerry Mazza
Online Journal Associate Editor

Feb 7, 2007, 01:19

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This is old history, but given the standard of public ignorance (SPI) it�s worth repeating. Nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu defied his own government while he worked as a nuclear technician at Dimona, Israel�s secret nuclear installation from 1976 to 1985.

As DemocracyNow tells us �he worked there at a time when Israel insisted it would not be the first to introduce nuclear weapons to the Middle East.� What Vanunu discovered was �that Israel had secretly developed an extensive nuclear program, hiding its existence from the Israeli people and parliament, and the world.� And?

Vanunu put his life where his convictions were and leaked both information and photos of Israel�s nuclear weapons program to the Sunday Times in London. His reward was that he was kidnapped by the Mossad, the Israeli CIA, in Italy and thrown in prison for 18 years, 11 in solitary confinement. He was released on April 21, 2004, under severe government restrictions.

The Dimona facility, by the way, contained an underground plutonium separation plant that operated in complete secrecy.

As time passed, Vanunu realized his work was part of Israel�s nuclear bomb program. In 1985, troubled by what he knew, he took extensive photos of the factory before he left Dimona. You can read the linked article for the whole story. The bottom line was that by October 5, 1986, the publication date of the Sunday Times article, Israel had reached the status of a major nuclear weapons power, with material for some 200 nuclear warheads of advanced design. That is more than 20 years ago and no one has censored or surrounded Israel. In fact, America had been kept in the dark just as the rest of the world was as this program progressed.

So what is the ruckus now about Iran building a nuclear power plant? In fact, as John Pilger writes in Iran: The War Begins, �In fact, Iran possess not a single nuclear weapon, nor has it ever threatened to build one; the CIA estimate that, even given the political will, Iran is incapable of building a nuclear weapon before 2017, at the earliest. Unlike Israel and the United States, Iran has abided by the rules of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, of which it was an original signatory, and has allowed routine inspections under its legal obligations -- until gratuitous, punitive measures were added in 2003, at the behest of Washington. No report by the International Atomic Energy Agency has ever cited Iran for diverting its civilian nuclear programme to military use.�

Ah, but let�s not let the facts interfere with our lack of judgment. Let Bush and Company beat the war drums and deploy carriers and marines to the Persian Gulf, and move US attack aircraft to Turkey and other countries on Iran�s borders. How reminiscent is this of the unfounded �wolf cries� that Saddam Hussein had Weapons of Mass Destruction and was about to use them against us and the world? Absolutely the same echo. And look at that disaster, as now the US, like a wounded tiger, cornered by its own policy, roars menacingly at Iran, and threatens the safety of the world.

But let us return both to Iraq and Israel. During the same time Israel was amassing nuclear warheads, in 1981, when the US had successfully managed to convince its boy, Saddam, to attack Iran, and the war between Iraq and Iran was in progress, and would be for eight years, yielding a million dead and 2 million displaced, during this time none other than Israeli�s Prime Minister Menachim Begin decided to bomb a French-built nuclear plant near Baghdad. Sacr� bleu, what was he thinking?

Once again, Israeli paranoia and self-righteousness sprung into action. Begin told us they believed the reactor was designed to make nuclear weapons to destroy Israel. And what were his hundreds of nuclear weapons built for, the Fourth of July? Also, this was the world�s first air strike against a nuclear plant; thank you, Mr. Begin. In fact, the above linked article tells us, �An undisclosed number of [American built] F-15 interceptors and [American built] F-16 fighter bombers destroyed the Osirak reactor 18 miles south of Baghdad, on the orders of Prime Minister Menachem Begin. The army command said all the Israeli planes returned safely.� Ah well, we wouldn�t want one of their boys to get hurt, would we?

In fact, the 70-megawatt uranium-powered reactor wasn�t even finished nor �had it been stocked with nuclear fuel so there was no danger of a leak, according to sources in the French atomic industry.� Well, at least someone was using his head.

Nevertheless the Israeli government responded, �The atomic bombs which that reactor was capable of producing whether from enriched uranium or from plutonium, would be of the Hiroshima size. Thus a mortal danger to the people of Israel progressively arose.� Of course. And damn the rest of the world, and sit on your stockpile, above and beyond any international standard of proliferation, and attack others for far less than your sins.

French Prime Minister Jacques Chirac cultivated France�s relationship with Iraq during the 1970s, to keep a foothold in the region dominated by Anglos and Americans, and to boost trade links with the oil-rich Iraq. More old history that has a way of coming back to haunt us.

And so is Israel, the US hammer in the Middle East, dying to let loose its cache of nuclear warheads today on Iran, Iraq�s ex-enemy, as Iraq is also said now to be under the influence of Iran, if you can follow all of that. For the record, Mr. Chirac was vehemently against the USA and Britain going to war with Iraq over the issue of weapons of mass destruction. Time has certainly proved him right. Especially as the Libby case bounces around the news like another loose cannon, threatening to reveal Cheney as the �outer� of Valerie Plame, the wife of former Ambassador Joseph Wilson who first reported, after his mission to Niger, that the notion of yellowcake uranium from Niger to Iraq for WMD was a lie; yes, in a word, a lie.

But then so much of what we (the US) do is built on falsehoods, inaccurate information, half-truths, posturing. Not to mention the $3 billion for arms we pass to Israel each year, plus the unsecured loans and �surplus� weapons that also find their way to Israel.

Also, as I reported in my Online Journal article of Jul 31, 2006, Following Zakheim and Pentagon trillions to Israel and 9-11, the dual Israeli/American citizen �Dov Zakheim, former Bush appointee as Pentagon comptroller from May 4, 2001 to March 10, 2004, was unable to explain the disappearance of $1 trillion. Actually, nearly three years earlier, Donald Rumsfeld announced on September 10, 2001, that an audit discovered $2.3 trillion was also missing from the Pentagon books. That story, as I mentioned, was buried under 9-11�s rubble. The two sums disappeared on Zakheim�s watch.� Could it be any or all of that money was passed to Israel?

Beyond that, could it be that PROMIS, the sophisticated intelligence database program that could interface with data banks in other computers of other countries, was given a �backdoor� developed by Israel and the US to spy on the very countries that bought it to spy on other countries? See Ari Ben-Menashe�s fascinating tale on that possible quid pro quo and its unholy alliance. It seems Israel goes to the core of our own shadow of violence and duplicity. So it�s no wonder that our standard for Israeli action is double, which equates to no standard at all.

But the outcomes of these behaviors for both countries are an equal danger to the rest of the world. And it�s about time that we seriously question this alliance, which has contributed as well to the relentless and brutal colonization of Palestine by Israel. In fact, it seems to be working overtime as the author of its own disaster. In seeking �never again� to be a victim, Israel has become a world-class aggressor. Like the United States, perhaps it is time for a change in direction, away from empire and wall-building to the neutralization of hostilities. The weapons both countries are playing with are not toys. Though it is the children of the world, and not just of Iran, who stand to loose their future.

Jerry Mazza is a freelance writer living in New York. Reach him at

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