BBC World TV Points Finger
At Israel's WMD
By Hans Lebrecht*

In a 50-minute documentary reportage, the BBC World Service Television pointed its finger on Israelâs armament with nuclear, biological and chemical weapons of mass destruction, not found so far in Iraq. The documentary, repeatedly broadcast on Saturday, June 28, under the title "Israelâs Secret Weapons" opened with four questions:
1) Which country in the Middle East has undeclared nuclear weapons?
2) Which country in the Middle East has undeclared biological and chemical capabilities?
3) Which country has no outside inspections?
4) Which country jailed its nuclear whistleblower for 18 years?
The last question was concerned about the fate of the whistle-blower Mordechai Vanunu who is incarcerated already 17 years, 11 of them in absolute isolation, for having warned the world about the production of atomic weaponry in Israel, related by his American adoptive parents, Mary and Nick Eoloff of St.Paul, Minnesota. (His biological parents declared him dead after he was convicted for High Treason and Spying in a secret trial, while his brother Meir Vanunu remained one of the most ardent supporters of Mordechai.) Mordechai Vanunu, a former technician employed for ten years in the Dimona ãAtomic Research Reactorä in the Israeli southern desert region, revealed to a reporter of the London Sunday Times the secret production of nuclear weapons in several subterranean storeys of that reactor. The detailed report was published in October 1986. Vanunu was kidnapped in Rome by the Israeli secret intelligence Mossad agency and shipped to Israel, where he was put on trial and convicted. The London Times reporter, now a freelance journalist, Peter Hanoun, as well as the Eoloff couple, former Vietnam War resistors, appeared as witnesses at the BBC program.
What was the reaction to this broadcast by the rulers of this, by all means presented democratic State of Israel? The Government Press Office, a department of the Prime Minister Office, barred BBC correspondents accredited in Israel from contacts with government ministers and officials, as well as from official press conferences (with the exception of such by the PM). Daniel Seaman, the head of the GPO, alleged that the broadcast had served those who demonize Israel and anti-Semitic elements. This, he said, a democratic State like Israel cannot tolerate. The Foreign Press Association in Israel protested this step, seeing in it a dangerous infringement on the freedom of the press, as well as a ãslippery slope that can lead to the illegitimate attempts to exert pressure on news organizations or journalists whose reporting is deemed unfavorable to the governmentâs policyä.
Since already days ahead of that BBC broadcast the media manipulated by the government and right-wing party bureaus have started a campaign against it, the ratings of watching it was exceptionally high, according to press reports.
The fact that Israel is producing and stockpiling nuclear, biological and chemical weaponry is already known since decades to the world at large, and to whom is interested. However, the official Israel is still keeping the whole matter under a seal of secrecy, rejects international inspection, and speaks only of an unnamed ãdeterrent factor against aspirations by Arab regimes to eliminate Israel and exterminate the Jewish citizensä.
What then had aroused the anger of the Israeli authorities? The BBC report, moderated by Olenka Frenklien, was part of a critical serial, titled ãCorrespondentä, inspired by the U.S.-British Iraq war, started under the pretext of a need to topple the Saddam Hussein regime, which allegedly was arming his army with weapons of mass destruction, never found so far. It was this comparison with the Iraq war pretext, which particularly angered the Israeli powers-that-be.
The main witnesses interviewed by the programâs host, O. Frenklien, had been besides the Eoloffs, the journalist Peter Hanoun, who brought Vanunuâs story to be pubvlished; Vanunuâs defense attorney Avigdor Feldmann of the Israeli League for Human and Civil Rights, as well as Israeli officials. Among the latter was most conspicuous the Nobel Peace Price Laureate and former Prime Minister, Defense and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres. Peres is known to be ãthe Father of the Israeli Nukeä. Already during the early 1950âs, in his capacity of General Director of the Prime Minister (David Ben-Gurion) office, Peres established, first with the assistance of France, then changing the sponsorship to the U.S., the alleged research reactor at Dimona. Too, enhancing the Israeli Arms Industries, he already then established the Ness-Ziona research institute for biological and chemical armament.
Sh. Peres, interviewed by Frenklien, answered with the usual phrases of a need for a deterrent factor. But when asked what might be the reason that the U.S. Administration, so up in arms and waging a war because of the alleged existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, keeps mum on such weapons in the hands of Israel, Peres, obviously in a furious mood, answered ãHow dare you to compare the dictatorial regime of the mass killer Saddam Hussein with the democratic regime in Israel?ä.
Instead of arguing with that Peres remark, the broadcast continued to show horrible scenes of the Israeli 1982 invasion of Lebanon, inspired by the then defense Minister (and current PM) Ariel Sharon, including scenes of the brutal two-days bombardment of the Lebanese capital Beirut, of massacres in different Palestinian refugee camps, including the Beirut refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila by Lebanese fascist elements under the supervision of Sharon.
The programâs host interviewed also a few of the over a hundred former workers at the Dimona nuclear weapon production line, who had contracted cancerous diseases from having been exposed to longtime radioactivity, and fighting to receive compensation for it, so far rejected to be recognized as victims of working conditions.
Frenklien asked defense attorney Avigdor Feldmann about his opinion of what was the reason behind the heavy sentence of his client, as well as having refused to release him on probation after he had fulfilled two years ago two thirds of his term, usual given to any criminal. Feldmann answered, that Vanunu was kidnapped and forcefully brought before a secret tribunal not so much for his having warned the world about the nuclear armament of Israel, or having caused the publication of the matter, but mainly as revenge for his having broken an Israeli Taboo about it.
Other important witnesses at the BBC documentary, representing the group for arousing national Israeli and international solidarity with Mordechai Vanunu, had been the Israeli leading activists of the Committee for Freedom for Vanunu and for a Nuclear Free Zone in the Middle East, Rayna Moss and Gideon Spira.
Very impressive had been the scenes which showed the address of the Arab Knesset deputy Issam Mahoul of the (communist led) HADASH Front, when he three years ago raised for the first time (and meanwhile the last time) in the history of the Israeli Parliament the matter of Israelâs armament with weapons of mass destruction from the rostrum at a plenary session. ãMordechai Vanunu was not the problem of the issueä, Mahoul said. ãThe problem is the policy of the government that turned the territory of a relatively small country into a poisoning waste bin which could make us all disappear into a nuclear cloudä. The documentary showed Mahoul, when he, interrupted by furious catcalls, pointed to the fact that the whole world knows that Israel has become one vast nuclear, biological and chemical arms warehouse, which is used as an anchor for a nuclear arms race in the region. In further scenes, taken at a public meeting, Issam Mahoul stated, that if asked by international inspectors, if such would arrive, he could show them installations of nuclear, biological and chemical weaponry not only in Dimona and Nes-Ziona, but also in the northern Haifa Bay, in the Galilean Sakhneen and Eilabum areas, in the Southern Yitfata vicinity, and other places.
The documentary closed with scenes of anti-war manifestations in the USA, at which the Eoloff couple took part, and the latest visit of them at the Israeli Ashqelon prison at which their adopted son Mordechai Vanunu is incarcerated.
The impressive BBC documentary has given extensive answers to all four opening questions. It should be noted, that this documentary came intentionally in the wake of the Iraq war and the gibbering of the Great Iraq Phyruss Victor, George W. Bush, who declared that Israel, without mentioning its arsenal of those weaponry and its terror occupation policy ãhas the full right for defending Israel and its citizens by all meansä.
* An Israeli journalist and publicist living in Kibbutz Beit-Oren. He can be reached at: <>



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