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Hush, hush about Israel's bomb

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  • ummyakoub
    Hush, hush about Israel s bomb By Jonathan Cook Al-Ahram Weekly 27 November - 3 December 2003 http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2003/666/re2.htm At midday on Friday,
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 6, 2003
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      Hush, hush about Israel's bomb

      By Jonathan Cook

      Al-Ahram Weekly
      27 November - 3 December 2003


      At midday on Friday, 24 October, Issam Makhoul, an Arab member of
      the Israeli parliament, and his wife Suad got into their two cars
      outside their home in the centre of Haifa. Issam Makhoul reversed
      his Knesset-supplied Ford out of the driveway as his wife started
      the engine of the family Honda to collect their twin children from

      Seconds later an explosion flooded Suad Makhoul's car with flames.
      She leapt from the vehicle moments before the fire could engulf her.

      Today, Makhoul's house is under a 24-hour guard and he is escorted
      everywhere in public by an army-trained bodyguard -- of the kind
      usually accompanying senior government ministers and defence

      The Shin Bet security services, who have told Makhoul that the
      explosion was caused by a small bomb placed under the car, have
      refused to comment further. There has been almost no coverage in
      either the Israeli or foreign media, and a Haifa court has issued a
      gag order on information related to the case.

      Makhoul has possibly the lowest profile of the 10 Arab members of
      the Knesset, most of whom appear readier than Makhoul to make
      headlines in the Hebrew media by being drawn into verbal, and
      occasionally physical, combat with right- wing MPs in the chamber.

      Makhoul belongs to Jubha, the "quietest" of the Arab factions. The
      party is contained within the joint Arab and Jewish Communist bloc
      known as the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality, which uniquely
      puts co-existence between the two main communities at the heart of
      its political platform.

      Other Arab MPs belong to Azmi Bishara's secular nationalist Tajamu
      Party and the Islamic Movement, whose spiritual leader is Sheikh
      Raed Salah.

      These two have been far more outspoken and as a consequence are the
      subject of public witch- hunts. Both are now embroiled in criminal
      trials initiated by Attorney-General Elyakim Rubinstein, apparently
      at the behest of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

      So what thrust the white-haired, mild- mannered Makhoul into a
      situation in which he was specially targeted for assassination?

      According to Israeli Army Radio, Knesset security officials are
      working on the assumption that criminal elements within the Arab
      minority were responsible for the attack. That seems far less
      probable than that the would-be assassins selected Makhoul because
      he has been an almost solitary critic of Israel's most sensitive --
      if widely known -- secret: that it has stockpiles of weapons of mass
      destruction (WMDs), including nuclear arms.

      For decades Israel has refused to confirm the now well-documented
      fact that it has a significant arsenal of nuclear warheads -- the
      only country in the Middle East known to have successfully developed
      such a programme. Estimates suggest it has as many as 300 warheads,
      some of which, if the latest reports are to be believed, have been
      fitted to cruise missiles aboard Dolphin submarines, putting every
      Arab state within range of an Israeli strike.

      With the connivance of the West -- in particular the US, Britain,
      France, Germany and South Africa -- Israel has been allowed to do
      all this unchecked at its nuclear weapons factory at Dimona in the
      Negev, and without signing the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Today it is
      believed to have nuclear weapons bases at Haifa, Kfar Zechariah, and
      Eilaboun and Yodfat in the Galilee.

      Israel also has an advanced biological weapons programme based at
      Nes Tsiona, south of Tel Aviv, where it is reported to have been
      working on new toxins, including a nerve agent that can attack genes
      found only in Arabs.

      Makhoul gained notoriety in February 2000 for trying to cut through
      Israel's policy of "nuclear ambiguity" -- its refusal publicly to
      discuss its possession of warheads -- by raising the issue of the
      country's atomic programme in the Knesset, the first time such a
      debate had ever been staged. His speech provoked an outpouring of
      vitriol from Jewish MPs, who accused him of being a traitor and
      tried to have him ejected from the chamber.

      During the stormy debate, Makhoul appealed for the release of
      Mordechai Vanunu, the scientist turned whistleblower who in 1986
      exposed Israel's secret weapons programme at Dimona. Vanunu was
      later abducted by Mossad agents and has been in prison, much of the
      time in solitary confinement, ever since.

      Makhoul told the other MPs: "Vanunu is not the problem. The problem
      is the Israeli government's policy. A policy that's turned a small
      territory into a poisonous nuclear waste bin ... which could make us
      all disappear in a nuclear cloud."

      Most right-wing MPs were not in the chamber to protest: they had
      stormed out before Makhoul got up to speak. Instead left-wing MPs
      shouted abuse, including Ophir Pines of Labour who called out: "You
      are committing a crime against Israeli Arabs today."

      Makhoul outraged the Israeli government and the general public
      again, in June this year, by appearing in the BBC documentary
      "Israel's Secret Weapon", which examined in detail Israel's record
      of acquiring WMDs and its concerted effort to intimidate those who
      try to speak out.

      In one scene a series of officials refuse to give an interview to
      the BBC reporter over the phone, several saying that they do not
      want to suffer Vanunu's fate. Makhoul, on the other hand, is shown
      castigating Israel for dragging the region into a nuclear arms race.

      The broadcast so angered Israel that it cut all official ties with
      the BBC, including its reporters; a ban that was only reversed this
      week after the BBC -- in what was widely seen as an attempt to
      ingratiate itself with the Sharon government -- agreed to set up a
      Mideast news ombudsman to ensure the "impartiality" of its reports.

      Few Israeli officials are prepared to link the bomb attack with the
      MP's campaign against the country's nuclear arsenal. The producers
      of the BBC programme e-mailed Makhoul after the explosion to say
      they hoped it was not the result of the broadcast.

      However, Roman Bronfman, a Haifa member of the Knesset from the
      Meretz Party who has close contacts with Israel's large Russian
      community, says he has heard that a group of extreme right-wing
      Russian students at the Technion technical college in Haifa planted
      the device. Four groups at the college are believed to have openly
      opposed Makhoul's nuclear views. Bronfman has handed a list of
      suspects to the police, though so far no action has been taken.

      Sources close to Makhoul, however, believe that the assassination
      plot cannot be lightly dismissed as the work of fanatics. The police
      have told the MP that the culprits must have carried out detailed
      research of his movements before deciding where and when to plant
      the bomb.

      But the size of the bomb, weighing less than one kilogramme,
      suggests it was meant less to kill and more to send a message -- not
      the usual tactics of a Jewish terror cell.

      The attack also follows a campaign of widespread incitement against
      Makhoul, which the authorities, including the attorney-general, have
      done nothing to curb.

      Typical was an interview of Makhoul on a Tel Aviv radio talk show
      with a former right-wing Knesset member, Shmuel Platto Sharon, two
      weeks after the assassination attempt and close to the anniversary
      of Yitzhak Rabin's assassination by right-wing extremists.

      Although ostensibly there to talk about Israel's nuclear policies,
      Makhoul is interrupted by Sharon who barks at him with the question,
      "Why do you hate us?", and the statement, "You are dangerous". Later
      Sharon again interrupts to say, "You have no business being here [in
      Israel] -- you should go to Palestine." He then adds: "I know your
      game. You eat Jews. People like you shouldn't stay in this country."

      Friends of Makhoul fear that the climate of hatred against him is
      receiving official sanction. Some of the continuing official
      hostility towards Makhoul may derive from his determination to
      create an anti-nuclear campaign inside Israel. He observes: "Israel
      is the only nuclear state in the world that hasn't developed a 'ban
      the bomb' movement, either within the peace camp or the green
      movement. Here uniquely, it seems, the Israeli bomb is seen as a
      peaceful bomb. Those who call themselves peace activists are really
      apologists for Israel's continuing nuclear policy."



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