As the Western powers continue to criticize Iran for its nuclear enrichment program, and while they try to pressure Russia and China to impose stiffer economic sanctions, maybe it would be an opportune time to remember that for decades Israel has developed nuclear weapons and has tried to keep its program a secret. In fact, Israel has produced more than 200 nuclear warheads, a number of which can be deployed on nuclear submarines, long-range aircraft and missiles.(1)
Starting in the 1950's, Israel begin producing uranium for its nuclear missiles program. It is one of the few nations that has not signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and it has never declared its nuclear weapons program publicly.(2) From the Dimona reactor in the Negev Desert to the complex nuclear facilities at Nahal Soreq, Rehovat and Yodefat - which is near the Syrian border - Israel has constructed a number of large-scale nuclear facilities, many of them underground.(3)
In one incident at Dimona, when American inspectors came to check on the use of their nuclear materials and technologies, the doors to the lower levels were bricked up. A false control room was displayed to suggest the reactor was operating at a lower level than the Israelis admitted.(4) Stories abound about how Israeli officials obtained nuclear materials and technologies from illegally diverted ships, by stealing uranium from the Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corporation at a plant in Apollo, Pennsylvania.(5)
Investigative journalists, and specifically Mordecai Vanunu, an Israeli technician who had worked at one of Israel's facilities and was convicted in 1988 for treason and espionage and sentenced to 18 years in prison for exposing Israel's massive nuclear complexes, have revealed information and reported chilling stories about Israel's nuclear production and capabilities. Others believe that in the 1970's and 1980's Israel worked jointly with the South African government in testing nuclear devices and detonations; this was backed by satellite imagery.(6)
Currently, the International Atomic Energy Agency inspection team only has access to Nahal Soreq, located on the Mediterranean Coast. Israel's "Samson Option," or the policy that its nuclear arsenal furnishes the country with security, and if surrounding nations ever successfully invade and envelope Israel, it will have the potential to destroy the entire region - an analogy to Samson who pulled the temple down on himself and his enemies - must be of grave concern to the world.(7)
Unfortunately, Israel's nuclear project and weapons productions were conceived out of its experience in the European Holocaust. The lessons of the Holocaust provided justification and motivation for maintaining nuclear warheads. Nuclear weapons were seen as an essential and integral part of Israeli security against what it considered to be existential threats.(8) Prime Minister David Ben Gurion said, "The Jews of Israel will never be like the Jews in the Holocaust. Israel will be able to visit a terrible retribution on those who would attempt its destruction."(9)
It was just reported that Vananu, who has been arrested several times since his release in 2004 for violating the terms of his parole which bans him from traveling or contact with foreigners, has requested that his name be removed from the list of candidates to the Nobel Peace Prize. Vanunu does not want to be associated with Shimon Peres - another Nobel Peace Prize recipient - whom he considers to be the father of the Israeli atomic bomb. Will Israelis follow Vanunu's courageous action and force their officials to remove Israeli from the list of nations producing and maintaining nuclear arsenals?
Before one automatically dismisses this notion, other nations have pursued and peacefully established nuclear-free zones. Iran has repeatedly requested that Israel and the Western powers completely eliminate their nuclear arsenals. Iran has also publicly condemned the production and use of nuclear weapons. It would be a very sad and tragic irony of fate if either Israel or the West initiated another holocaust-like event. Why scapegoat and punish Iran for something Israel and the West have already done, and continue to do?
(1) Cirincione, Joseph. "Bomb Scare, The History And Future Of Nuclear Weapons." New York, New York: Columbia University Press, 2008. p. 53.
(2) Carlisle, Rodney P. "Encyclopedia Of The Atomic Age." New York, New York: Facts on File Publishers, 2001. p. 152.
(3) Ibid., p. 152.
(4) Ibid., p. 152.
(5) Ibid., p. 152.
(6) Ibid., p. 152.
(7) Muller, John. "Atomic Obsession, Nuclear Alarmism From Hiroshima To Al-Qaeda." New York, New York, 2010. p. 110.
(8) Cirincione, Joseph. "Bomb Scare, The History And Future Of Nuclear Weapons." p. 53.
(9) Ibid., p. 53.