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Red Rag column: In the nuclear domain too, Israel is irresponsible and unpredictable
By: Gideon Spiro
26 May 2010

Atoms for Apartheid

There is symbolism in the fact that on the very day after Mordechai Vanunu went to jail to serve a three-month sentence for having talked to people with foreign citizenship, the London newspaper The Guardian reported that Israel agreed to sell missiles and nuclear warheads to the Apartheid regime of South Africa. [1]

The newspaper published a photo of the 1975 agreement, signed by Shimon Peres, the then-Minister of Defence, and his South African counterpart, Pieter Willem Botha, according to which Israel would sell to South Africa Jericho missiles capable of carrying “the correct payload” – a code-word for nuclear explosives, as confirmed by a former South African naval commander, Commodore Dieter Gerhardt.

The story harkens back to one of the darkest chapters in Israel’s history: its close military collaboration with the neo-Nazi regime in South Africa.

It is now clear that Israel was prepared to sell nuclear arms in addition to vast quantities of conventional weaponry to that leprous regime. So much for the Israeli fairy tale about how “democratic” Israel can be trusted not to put its nuclear arsenal to irresponsible use, unlike the regime of the Ayatollahs in Iran.

The secret document that The Guardian published proves that in the nuclear context too, Israel is irresponsible and unpredictable, and that nuclear arms in Israel’s hands may be transferred to tyrannical racist regimes.

The deal was not implemented in the end, because it was too expensive for South Africa. South Africa subsequently developed an independent nuclear capability, with help from Israel. Post-Apartheid South Africa divested itself of its nuclear weapons.

Too bad Israel has not followed its example.

Before scolding Syria over its ties to Iran, Israel should do some serious soul-searching about its own relations with tyrannical regimes, and the aid it has provided to those regimes in the form of arms and military technology.

Peres denies the Guardian story, but he sounds pathetic and lacking in credibility in light of his signature that adorns that shameful accord with Botha.

Once again it has been proven that the danger is not from the prisoner of conscience Mordechai Vanunu, who rendered an important service with his disclosure to the media about what was going on behind the walls of the reactor at Dimona; but from those who possess nuclear arms.

Only the removal of those weapons from the hands of politicians – in Iran, in Israel, in Syria and other states in our region – will give us hope for a future without a holocaust.

*** *** ***

The world’s most dictatorial democracy

“The only democracy in the Middle East,” as official Israel calls itself, has again acted like typical Middle Eastern dictatorship, by preventing the world-renowned scientist Professor Noam Chomsky from crossing the Allenby Bridge from Jordan to the Occupied Territories in order to give a lecture at Bir Zeit University.

Chomsky, along with his daughter and academic colleagues, was delayed for several hours at the terminal, where he was interrogated by bullyboys from the Israel Security Agency (ISA – Shin Bet) or the Ministry of the Interior or the military administration (they all represent the same racist colonialist trash, only with different costumes), and asked which of them was an anarchist, as if they were trying to uncover some crime, and other such products of the workshop of the geniuses of the military administration-ISA-Shas Ministry of the Interior.

So what is Chomsky’s sin? That he strongly criticizes governments of Israel (and the USA), he sees the Occupation and the racism that goes along with it as grave evils that must be extirpated. The government of Israel punished him by barring him from entering the areas under its control.

It was not always thus. In the 1980s he was permitted to enter and I participated with him and others in demonstrations against the Occupation in the West Bank.

The more Israel has moved to the right, the more it has adopted methods from the grey areas of tyrannical regimes.

Chomsky is not alone. A few months ago Professor Norman Finkelstein, also a strong critic of Israel, was barred from entering. The numbers of people who have been barred from entering Israel for political reasons is on the rise.

It reminds me of my visits to East Germany through the crossing-point between West Berlin and East Berlin. More than once I was delayed for questioning. I assume that my name appeared on their list on a page of “unfriendlies” (or something like that). After all, articles I wrote criticizing the regime in East Germany were published in the German press too. But at the end of the questioning they always let me pass. In that regard the Communist dictatorship in Germany was sometimes less harsh than the Israeli dictatorship at the Allenby Bridge.

If this trend of exclusion continues, it is only a matter of time until Israelis like myself, whose criticism of the policies of the government of Israel is no less strong than that of Chomsky, will not be able to return to Israel after having left it, or we will not be permitted to leave the country. The political ground has already been prepared for such legislation in the current right-wing Knesset.

And regarding Chomsky’s expulsion (“prevention of entry” is a euphemism, for what actually happened in practice was that Prof. Chomsky was expelled), one shameful aspect of the whole episode was the silence of the academic establishment. That same establishment that fought like a lion against an academic boycott of Israel while waving the banner of lofty principles like academic freedom, remained indifferent in the face of Chomsky’s expulsion, which was nothing other than the imposition of an Israeli boycott on Bir Zeit University.

There are six universities and dozens of colleges in Israel, and not one of them called for a mass demonstration by the academic staff to protest against Chomsky’s expulsion and the academic boycott that the Israeli Occupation is imposing on the Palestinian universities in the Occupied Territories. And the students? They are a depressing mirror-image of their teachers.

The children of migrant workers

A public campaign is currently under way against the expulsion of 1,200 children of migrant workers. Those children were born in Israel, Hebrew is their language and they attend Israeli schools.

It is the Interior Minister of Israel, Eli Yishai of the Haredi Shas Party, who has a special interest in their expulsion. Yishai is the ugly face of Israeli society and the Jewish religion. He is a racist homophobe who loathes foreigners who are not Jewish. He classifies those children under the category of the so-called “demographic danger” to the Jewish majority. It is not only the children he sees, but also their parents who will remain, and that is intolerable to him.

The government of Israel has set up a paramilitary unit called ’Oz (“strength” in Hebrew) the role of which is to hunt down migrant workers who lack residence permits or whose permits have expired, to take them to jail and from there to expel them from the country. More than once we have witnessed family tragedies, in which children remain without parents because the parents were arrested by the hunters. It is not difficult to find those people because most of the migrant workers can be identified by their external appearance (Africans, Filipinos, Chinese, South Americans, Turks).

Migrant workers are exploited by greedy personnel companies. Sometimes they do not receive their wages, which in any case are not high, and it is not rare for them to be housed in slave-like conditions.

And for all that, most of the migrant workers struggle to continue to stay in Israel, because despite their situation at the lowest level of the standard of living in Israel, and their deprivation of civil rights, their situation here is still better than it would be in their countries of origin.

Some of them have set up homes in Israel and had children, and the latter have integrated with their Israeli classmates in Israeli schools.

A government committee is currently discussing the fate of those 1,200 children.

The struggle to keep those children in Israel is led by Israeli human rights organizations under the slogan, “do not expel children from the only country where they feel at home.” This is consistent with their outlook according to which that we should respect the Other, the different, the foreigner.

As I have said, Interior Minister Eli Yishai would like to expel them all. Either he forgot or never learned some noble principles in Judaism, such as love of the stranger; equal justice for yourselves and for the strangers among you; love your neighbour as yourself; beloved is Man, who was created in The Image; remember that you were strangers in the land of Egypt. The Judaism of Yishai and his friends in Shas is the Judaism of the Book of Joshua, the Judaism of the destruction of peoples, hatred of the foreigner, erasing the memory of Amalek, and other such racist principles.

The campaign on behalf of those children has gained momentum, and surprisingly it has received support from Knesset Members from right-wing factions and public figures who are not known for their commitment human rights, like the Education Minister from the Likud party, Gideon Saar, who not long ago decided to bring army commanders into schools in order to encourage students to enlist in the army, especially in combat units; or Kadima MK Shaul Mofaz, formerly the Chief of Staff of the IDF, who is responsible for more than a few war crimes.

As long as no Arab children are involved, these people, ever eager to prove their non-racist credentials, can be enlisted in campaigns such as the one in support of the children of migrant workers.

A festive rally that was held for these children at Tel Aviv Museum Square was attended by Knesset Members from the Right and the Left, from Dov Henin of Hadash to Carmel Shama of the Likud, all of whom promised to work to prevent the expulsion. Impressive at first glance, but still, something bothered me: there was no not a single Arab Knesset Member among the speakers. Do Knesset Members Muhammad Barakeh or Ahmad Tibi not support the right of the children of migrant workers to stay in Israel? Certainly they do. So why were they absent? Did the organizers fear that an Arab speaker would say something that might irritate MK Lieutenant-General Mofaz, or Shama? The right-wingers among them did not forget to say to the children: “you are Israelis like us, and one day we will see you in the army.” Aha! Now the cat is out of the bag. Another 1,200 candidates for military service! Experience shows that children of migrant workers who have stayed in Israel see enlistment in the army as the very epitome of their integration into Israeli society.

So we see a small (or large) paradox. The activists who are struggling on behalf of the children of migrant workers are motivated by a universalistic world-view when it comes to human rights, and for that reason most of them are also activists against the Occupation and militarism in Israeli society; yet on this particular issue they find themselves contributing, perhaps, to future recruitment into the Occupation army.

This anecdote does not have to detract from the ongoing campaign to permit those children and their parents to stay in Israel, even if a temporary alliance with Satan is necessary until the mission is accomplished. As these lines are being written, it is not at all clear who will have the upper hand: Eli Yishai and his friends, or the children who have endeared themselves to so many people.

Party of God

The Chief Rabbi, the settler Brigadier-General Avihai Ronsky, will soon be ending his term in office. He is a Jewish translation of the word Hezbollah (“Party of God”) and in the name of God he encourages soldiers to commit war crimes (as he did in the Gaza War). He is in possession of a title-deed to the land there, from the Bible – and the Palestinians? To Hell with them.

He is proud of the fact that the number of kippa-wearers [2] in the upper echelons of the officer corps is growing. An army whose officers have a direct link to The Almighty is a frightening army.

I fear that this religious army will bring disaster down on our heads. God help us. Can we count on Him?

Translator’s note


2. Religious Jewish men.

Translated from Hebrew for Occupation Magazine by George Malent

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