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. Â 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 mentionÂ 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. Â 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. Â All of a sudden, these claims of being a shining beacon of democracy amidst tyrants and warmongers ring hollow. Â 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. Â 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. Â 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. Â 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.Â Â 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. Â More than that, it’s embarrassing. Â 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.” Â 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. Â 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.