Israel and nuclear weapons (and proliferation and South Africa)

Now this is interesting. Israel has always been a strange creature when it comes to nuclear weapons. Let us recall that Isreal is one of the only countries around not to have signed the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. So its best company in this measure are states considered “rogue:” North Korea, Pakistan, India. Israel consistently gets away with egregious violations of major international treaties because the US consistently backs Israel up, and no one is powerful enough yet to shut down US hegemony.

It’s funny then to observe the cynicism with which the US insists that countries like North Korea or Pakistan abide by international treaties (no torturing dissidents, freedom of speech, no attacking your neighbors, no testing WMD, disarmament asap), yet encourages precisely the opposite in Israel:

Israel is the only state in the whole wide world to officially sanction state torture of (Palestinian) criminals;

Israel obtained nuclear weapons outside of “legal” parameters and refused to sign the major nuclear treaty agreed to by 189 countries, including China and Russia (strange, isn’t it, that Israel is more radical in this sense than China or Russia, yet seen as the US’s best friend);

Israel has a lively dissident press, yet regularly harrasses intellectuals when they say the wrong things (see the recent visa refusal for Noam Chomsky, or a similar incident for British parliamentarian George Galloway, and even for a US Congressman who had come to observe the damage in Gaza)).

Israel has at least 80 nuclear bombs. This is what makes things laughable when they claim they are in a “defensive” position in regards to Egypt, the Palestinian territories, Hizballah, Syria, or Lebanon. Besides being the only one of these countries to possess nuclear weapons, its military is so much more huge and modern than these others combined (thank you American taxpayers!) that it is like kittens before wolves. Americans don’t know this, because they tend to inform themselves little about the actual geopolitics of the region, so they buy into Israeli press releases about Israel constantly having to “defend itself” against one or another of the mosquito-sized entities trying to protest Israeli regional tyranny.

Now back to the interesting story

There are documents uncovered in South Africa proving that Israel tried to sell it some nuclear warheads in 1975. We’ve all known that Israel had nuclear weapons, but the official line was always: we neither confirm nor deny.

Israel continues to deny all of it. Shimon Peres this morning makes self-destructive claims, basically saying that if Israel doesn’t admit it happened, it didn’t actually happen:

“There exists no basis in reality for the claims published this morning by The Guardian that in 1975 Israel negotiated with South Africa the exchange of nuclear weapons,” it said.

“Unfortunately, The Guardian elected to write its piece based on the selective interpretation of South African documents and not on concrete facts.

“Israel has never negotiated the exchange of nuclear weapons with South Africa. There exists no Israeli document or Israeli signature on a document that such negotiations took place.”

Why this is a big deal

This is a big deal because it proves that Israel not only possesses nuclear weapons, but was actively involved in trying to proliferate them in the world. This is what every one of the 189 signers of the nonproliferation treaty has promised not to do, and one more reason that Israeli exceptionalism is shown to be against the interests of world peace.

The other reason it is a big deal is that it shows Israel had strong relations with the South African apartheid regime, which it appears to have been keen on supporting.

It is interesting then to see the suggestive analogies between apartheid South Africa and present-day Israel.

Israel has been increasingly accused of apartheid practices in its treatment of the Palestinians.

The figures who make these accusations are in a position of high moral legitimacy or political credibility: Arch-bishop Desmond Tutu (“far worse in Palestine than in apartheid South Africa”), ex-president Jimmy Carter (also: conditions worse than apartheid South Africa), UN special rapporteur John Dugard (also expert in human rights and sat on Int’l Court of Justice), and even the self-proclaimed Zionist Jew Richard Goldstone, former judge in South Africa during the apartheid era, part of the truth and reconciliation era under Mandela, and served as prosecutor for UN tribunals for Yugoslavia and Rwanda. An impressive list, and figures whose opinions it is pretty hard to dismiss. (In fact, on what grounds could one even dismiss them?)

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