The Conspiracy

Israel Offered Nuclear Arms To Apartheid South Africa

South Africa's John Vorster, the architect of Apartheid and an outspoken Nazi sympathizer, meets with Menachem Begin, Moshe Dayan, and Yitzhak Rabin. Jerusalem, 1976.

South Africa's John Vorster, the architect of Apartheid and an outspoken Nazi sympathizer, meets with Menachem Begin, Moshe Dayan, and Yitzhak Rabin. Jerusalem, 1976.

Didn’t see this one coming.

Though it was never in any real doubt, we now have official evidence that Israel at one point possessed nuclear weapons, thanks to researcher and author Sasha Polakow-Suransky.  And given the country’s continued ambiguity regarding its nuclear arsenal, its refusal to enter into the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, its hawkish leadership, and its very unhappy regional neighbors, not to mention these photos from the Dimona nuclear weapons factory (I could go on…), one can safely assume that the nation still has a formidable atomic arsenal.

But that’s not the most frightening – or most damning – revelation uncovered here.  No, the reason Israeli leaders are issuing denials left and right is because Shimon Peres’ secret deal to supply Apartheid South Africa with nuclear warheads, even though it never materialized, undermines everything the Jewish state claims to stand for in the way of democracy, peace, and morals.  All of a sudden, these claims of being a shining beacon of democracy amidst tyrants and warmongers ring hollow.  In the end, what drives decisions here is not some rigorous moral code nor is it a sacred vow to do what’s right; the motivation, it seems, is simply the profit margin, no matter how despicable the business partners might be.

According to Polakow-Suransky, between 1974 and 1993, Israel sold the Apartheid nation over $10 billion in military products and technologies.  If that figure holds, that would put South Africa among Israel’s top two or three military partners, behind only the U.S. and possibly Great Britain.  Moreover, during this time, Israel ignored international sanctions (and a mandatory 1977 arms embargo authored by the UN Security Council) against the rogue state, instead covertly providing Pretoria with the latest in murderous technology, including tanks, fighter jets, and missiles – and if South Africa had wished, nuclear warheads.  Furthermore, these military exports were just the beginning: Israelis also helped train the repressive regime’s police forces, which were notorious for their brutality in suppressing revolts.  As late as 1987, after Reagan’s State Department (Reagan’s!!!) declared that Israel regularly violated the embargo, the country’s leaders did not stop sales.

Indeed, what the Jewish Polakow-Suransky has uncovered is startling.  More than that, it’s embarrassing.  After all, how can Israel possibly claim to be a “responsible” possessor of nuclear weapons when it so willingly tried to arm one of the last century’s most brutal and downright evil governments?

As many problems as I’ve had with South Africa’s ruling ANC, allow me to thank them for “airing the dirty laundry of the Apartheid regime’s old allies.”  Too much of Israel’s leadership is corrupt and ethically questionable (Peres is now president), and the more we can realize this, the more we can fight it.  My only hope is that we, as Jews, along with Israelis, choose to do so.

Sam Melamed is a Masa participant, participating in Career Israel, one of Masa Israel‘s 160 programs.Masa Israel logo

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6 Older Responses to “Israel Offered Nuclear Arms To Apartheid South Africa”

  1. Ari
    May 25, 2010 at 11:43 am #

    You are conflating the selling of nuclear weapons with the selling of military technology. The title of this article is inappropriate and misleading, since their is no indication that Israel actually tried to sell nuclear weapons (only a mention by the author that “if South Africa had wished, nuclear warheads.”). A better title would be something like “Israel Sold $10 billion of military technology to South Africa despite weapons embargo” or something to that effect. If there is actual evidence that Israel indeed attempted or actually sold nuclear weapons, then that is worth expounding on in detail.

  2. Sam Melamed
    May 25, 2010 at 12:39 pm #

    According to the evidence (a signed document by both Shimon Peres and PK Botha), Israel offered South Africa three nuclear warheads. Sorry I didn’t expound on that, but if you’d read the linked article, you’d see that that was the case.

  3. Sam Melamed
    May 25, 2010 at 12:40 pm #

    I’m changing the title to Israel OFFERED Nuclear Arms To Apartheid South Africa.

  4. Ari
    May 25, 2010 at 5:49 pm #

    Here’s an interesting interview with Sasha Polakow-Suransky.on AlJazeera about this topic:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eVIWvnsUzNQ

    as well as:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OAs7dI1AN0M

    in the interview he infers that Shimon Peres made some kind of offer of nuclear warheads by saying that the payloads “come in three sizes” (one of those sizes being the ‘nuclear’ size) but that this offer was probably done without the approval of the other heads of government. If the Israeli government was indeed shipping nuclear arms to South Africa, I’d be suportive of your point, but: 1) The documents don’t show a direct offer, only an indication that the warheads come in ‘three sizes’ 2) No nuclear weapons were actually sold (that’s known), 3) Such a sales would require the approval of other members of the government, and nothing shows that this is actually so.

    So given this, I disagree with your conclusion about how this “undermines everything the Jewish state claims to stand for in the way of democracy, peace, and morals”. The documents only represent private talks between a few parties, not real actions between governments.

  5. Linnell Guzman
    May 26, 2010 at 4:00 pm #

    You are conflating the selling of nuclear weapons with the selling of military technology. The title of this article is inappropriate and misleading, since their is no indication that Israel actually tried to sell nuclear weapons (only a mention by the author that “if South Africa had wished, nuclear warheads.”). A better title would be something like “Israel Sold $10 billion of military technology to South Africa despite weapons embargo” or something to that effect. If there is actual evidence that Israel indeed attempted or actually sold nuclear weapons, then that is worth expounding on in detail.
    +1

  6. Mayer Jacobovits
    May 29, 2010 at 11:31 am #

    After reviewing the Guardian, NY Times and the Al Jazeera interview, it is clear there is no clear or hard evidence that Peres let alone Israel offered nuclear weapons for sale.

    Therefore the title which is similar to the one in the Guardian is misleading. The British press is known for its anti-Israel positions. Why does New Voices have to copy that?

    Furthermore, why use a 35 year old story to question Israel’s “shining beacon of democracy “. Even if true, which I do not believe it is, it is anothyer excuse to bash/deligitimize Israel.

    It is very healthy for a democracy to be questioned, criticized and have malfeasances exposed, and we all know that it is happening even as we speak in Israel. This latest tendency in New Voices to assume the dialog of Israel’s enemies is worrying.

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