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The Nuclear Whistle-Blower

Lawrence Bush
October 4, 2017

Israel’s possession of nuclear weapons was reported for the first time by the British Sunday Times on this date in 1986, based on information and photographs leaked by Mordechai Vanunu, a former nuclear technician at the Dimona nuclear facility. Vanunu would be kidnapped in Italy by the Mossad and jailed in Israel for eighteen years, eleven of them in solitary confinement. Since his release in 2004, he has frequently been rearrested for violating restrictions on his speech and movement. Daniel Ellsberg (of Pentagon Papers fame) has described Vanunu as “the preeminent hero of the nuclear era,” whereas many Israelis regard him as a traitor for his whistle-blowing. Israel today is thought to possess between 80 and 400 nuclear warheads, and to have a second-strike capability. The country maintains a policy of “nuclear opacity” -- refusing to officially confirm or deny the existence of a nuclear arsenal.

“[F]or many states in the world, the idea that we can distinguish between the Israeli bomb, which in the West is seen as legitimate, and the Iranian bomb, which is seen as illegitimate, is losing ground . . . . And that’s why we feel that Israel has to, if not abandon completely this policy which is called opacity, at least modify it.”
—Avner Cohen and Marvin Miller, Foreign Affairs

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.