Oh the Joys of Dimona!
The subtitle of this post might be the same as the subtitle of the film, Dr. Strangelove: “How I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb.” Dimona’s bombs, that is.
In the past year, the Israeli Atomic Energy Agency launched a website dedicated to extolling the virtues of its Dimona. Not the place itself, which is a bit of a backwater company town devoted to the community’s main (perhaps only) industry. But to Israel’s plutonium reactor around which the town coalesced. That’s the reactor that churned out its first nuclear weapon around 1970 just in time for Moshe Dayan to suggest it should be used as a warning shot during the 1973 War when the fighting was going badly for Israel in the initial stages. It’s the same reactor which churned out another 200 or so nuclear weapons since then, making Israel the most dangerous–and so far, the only–nuclear power in the region.
This report on the world nuclear arsenal indicates Israel has only 80 nuclear weapons. But it adds that Israel is testing a new generation of ballistic missile, which is a substantial escalation of the regional nuclear arms race.
Dimona is also the same reactor which has poisoned hundreds or even thousands of workers who’ve died of various cancers . The same one which has poisoned the water in the plant’s vicinity. None of which may be reported openly by the Israeli press.
But if you examine the website you wouldn’t know any of this. From the “History” page, you wouldn’t know Dimona produced nuclear weapons at all; which is the main, indeed only reason it exists. You’d see bright shiny faces; the pretty blond locks of a female white-coated scientist presumably seeking a cure for cancer. Or the delicate toes of a baby held in the firm, supporting hands of an adult under the caption: “a secure, responsible place of work.” You’d see flowers. You’d see copy that reads like a Hallmark greeting card. Copy which extols Dimona’s mission as a “matter of national social responsibility.” That is, the authors of this tripe would have you believe that the production of nuclear weapons in Dimona is done in a manner that is environmentally responsible. This is real Alice in Wonderland stuff. Where words mean what the liar speaking them wants them to mean, “nothing more, nothing less.” It’s something like extolling Alamagordo or Auschwitz as environmental sanctuaries.
The website’s About page is titled: “Vision and Values, a Social Responsibility.” It continues: “In recent years the values of the Negev Center for Nuclear Have Been Articulated Anew.” Those values include the reactor staff volunteering in various projects to make their communities better places. Not a single word about the mass destruction Dimona’s products are capable or raining down on the world.
The launch of the website is in itself interesting. It indicates that some bureaucrats running the nuclear program felt it was important to join the modern age and feature a website to promote Dimona. That’s a break from six decades of total opacity regarding the nuclear program. Six decades of lies and denial regarding the purpose of the reactor. Avner Cohen notes in his recent Haaretz op-ed that Israel’s nuclear program isn’t even ratified under law. Rather, it exists in a netherworld called “residual powers.” This means the government may engage in any activity which the law doesn’t preclude it from doing.
Though on the surface, the new website does mark a break from the past, in reality the change is little more than cosmetic. Little has changed. Israel and the website still lives in a state of denial. It can’t even admit in the website what the real purpose of this place is.
But there is one meaningful break with the past. The site contains archival photos (displayed above) of the construction of the original reactor in 1958. According to a specialist I consulted in the nuclear weapons program at a DC think tank, he believes these pictures may never have been published before. So congratulations are in store to the nuclear bureaucrats at Dimona for finally revealing pictures that may have sat in a vault for sixty years.
Publishing these sorts of pictures is what brought Mordechai Vanunu’s life to ruin. He took ones of his own and they were published in the Times of London. As a result, Vanunu spent 18 years in an Israeli prison, 11 of them in solitary confinement. To this day, the State hounds him mercilessly, restricts virtually everything he does and penalizes him if he so much as looks the wrong way.
So the publication of these pictures on the Dimona site is an act of utter hypocrisy. When an Agency official publishes a picture, he gets a pat on the back for finally opening up Dimona to the outside world, while Vanunu’s life is made a living hell for doing only slightly more than that.
On a related note, an Israeli lawyer I know, Yossi Nakar, appeared at a hearing at the Dimona court-house last week. He took a picture of the building and accompanied it with the whimsical caption:
“If you’re only passing through Dimona, do you need to bring iodine tablets with you? Just askin’…
The lawyer received a request from a judicial panel devoted to protecting the reputation of judges from defamation (yes, there is such a monstrosity in Dimona). She asked him to remove the post. Which he thought both outrageous and almost comic:
“Seems to me that someone has lost all proportion. And that’s putting it mildly. Apparently, Liat Yosim doesn’t know the connection between iodine tablets and Dimona.”
Needless to say, he refused. But this is how far the cult of secrecy has crept into the Israeli soul. How it has perverted everything. Turned a joke into a national security threat and imagined defamation of the good judges of Dimona.
22 thoughts on “Oh the Joys of Dimona! – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم”
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I took a peek at the websites of the DOE, LLNL, LANL (all organizations that were (or their predecessors were) setup for nuclear weapon research and production) –
It seems that they are there for general PR, feel-good, and attracting candidates. Mention of offensive weapons is scant to non-existent. At most defense and “security” are mentioned.
@ lepxii: A simple Google search on the DOE website proves you wrong: http://energy.gov/public-services/national-security-safety/nuclear-security-nonproliferation This web page clearly acknowledges one of DOE’s roles is managing our nuclear weapons cache. But the Dept of Energy was not set up solely for nuclear weapons research & production. So you’ve gone a-cropper right from the start. IT has far more functions than just that. As for the other agencies, I’ve never heard of them & don’t know what you’re talking about. I assure you that if I tried, I could find thousands of references to WMD & nuclear weapons on U.S. govt sites.
I attended a youth competition held in Dimona several months ago. The locals were very warm and friendly to everybody. Jews, religious and secular, Israelite and Bedouin children all came together in a friendly competition. The good people of Dimona made everyone feel like winners.
Richard. You should visit Dimona one day.
don’t bother Richard, believe me it’s a shithole (been there myself once too many)
It appears from this website that Richard’s view of Israel is refracted through a series of funhouse mirrors, while on LSD. Seriously Richard, you just need to visit Israel and see the reality. I spent time at Bar-Ilan a few years ago, Jews and Arabs together on the campus sitting on the grass, in the classes etc. you appear to have built your vision of Israel entirely off of the Internet and books and articles. Your view of Israel is simply not reality.
Have you done a Breaking the Silence Tour yet?
You know. Get to see Israel with BOTH eyes open. . .
This Bar Ilan ? http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-1.607888
Again an article. Thanks for proving my point
It certainly doesn’t prove your point; a professor who got into problems for the mere facts of expressing equal sympathy to ALL victims, and the reactions by the staff, students and other professors undermine you BS about Richard not seeing the Israeli reality. Everyone except Ziocaine-addicts see the reality !
@ Abby: When you can assure me Shabak won’t arrest me the moment I step foot on Israeli soil, then possibly. But as Yossi Nakar says: I’ll bring my iodine pills!
Did you ask how many of those whose family members work at the nuclear facility have developed cancer? Or when was the last time they were directed to take or maintain a supply of iodine pills? I didn’t think so.
Richard. When Israel’s secret nuclear program was in it’s infancy, mistakes were made.
Since that time, technology and knowledge have reduced the ‘human factor’ with it’s propensity for error. It’s called a ‘learning curve’.
But, why miss an opportunity to shame Israel?
As far as Shabak goes, why don’t you hire a Israeli lawyer to facilitate your visit? He/she can investigate, beforehand, whether your fears of arrest are genuine.
@ Abby: Oh my goodness. The fact that the water, air & ground in & around Dimona were contaminated & continue to be; along with the fact that thousands of workers got cancer & continue to do so…all that indicates mistakes were made long ago in the deep dark past. But today everything’s honky-dory. Not a trouble in the world.
As for shame, the Israeli nuclear weapons industry and the toxic impact it’s had on the country is what is the real shame. Not my writing about it.
I didn’t ask for advice about hiring a lawyer. I asked you to guarantee that I wouldn’t be arrested. If you can’t, then don’t invite me to visit a country in which my freedom would be jeopardized.
I understand you prefer the dimona industry not exist. In other words , you prefer Israel not exist. Why don’t you just come out and say it?
Because it’s a lie, stupid.
With this terrible deal with Iran, this new Dimona website could be meant for the Iranian public to let them know that any aggression on the part of their government would be met with their own destruction. Its called nuclear deterrence and mutual assured destruction, a policy that has worked well during the Cold War and which is still keeping the peace between the US and Russia.
From an interview with the author Amos Elon who lived in Israel for seventy years (possibly longer than Abby and John F. clocked ujp together) and finally left it in disgust to settle in Italy:
“And the result is that this place has corrupted itself?
“The occupation certainly corrupted Israeli society. There is no dispute about that.”
Has Israel slid into a situation that places it in a category other than the democratic Western nations?
“Without a doubt. And I’m still wracking my brain wondering what those people were thinking after the Six-Day War. How did they think they could keep it? What did Dayan think? Did he really think that if we just treat them nicely, everything will be fine? What provinciality it was. What historic ignorance. Had this ever happened anywhere else in the world? From this perspective, the Israeli occupation is perhaps the least successful attempt at colonialism that I can think of. This is the crappiest colonial regime that I can think of in the modern age.”
How is it worse than French or British colonialism?
“In the French and British colonies, there were mixed marriages. In India, for instance. But especially with the French. They’re freer than the British are in bed, that’s well-known. But both the French and the British tried to co-opt the elites. As a rule, whenever a European nation took over territory in the Third World, it tried to embrace the elite. Here there was no such attempt. There were no mixed marriages, there was no significant commercial cooperation. The only human partnership was in the lowest dimension of all: crime.”
If every Jew suddenly packed up and fled the Occupied Territory, do you really think that would mean the end of the 100 year I/P conflict? What ‘liberal, progressive, enlightened Palestinian political entity, would fill the power vacuum?
Arie. Look at the examples you cited.
Britain and France gave up their colonial enterprise, and lo, they’re still having problems with absorpsion.
Maybe if Alon had lived longer, he might have noted this.
Do I believe that if the moon were made of cheese astronauts could enjoy Brie & toast there? C’mon. If you want to create hypotheticals at least make them somewhat reasonable.
But if we pursue your ridiculous hypothetical–if settler abandoned their colonies yes, the immediate problem would be ended. However, the Israeli government would still have to recognize Palestinian rights including establishment of an independent state along with ROR for ’48 families & their direct descendants.
So you think that if Israel miraculously abandons its colonial enterprise it should magically have no further problems? You think after 70 years of injustice & theft that Israel will suddenly become “normal?” Why would you think such a ridiculous thing? South Africa still reels from the results of apartheid decades after it abandoned it. The U.S. still suffers from the toxic effects of slavery & racism centuries after we freed our slaves. These are stains that linger unfortunately.
Alon would never have agreed with anything you believe. He was far too smart for that.
You make it appear as if Britain and France voluntarily gave up their colonies. And subsequentrly had to cope with the consequences of that unwise dewcision.
This is of course not what happened. They were forced to decolonize even though as colonial administrators they were far more enlightened than the Israelis. But Israel has the illusion that with its repressive policies it can hang on to territories that don’t belong to it.
That is what Elon means when he refers to Israeli “provincialism” and “historical ignorance”.
Any kid anywhere can wax on about “the corruption of society”. Really Arie?
This Dimona story again raises a question that occurred to me a few decades ago. The European zionists decided to build a new country inside Palestine. This could only been done through war. And not a war that could be won in any single engagement but one that has been going on for decades will will likely last centuries.
They then decided to settle 80% of all Jews in the greater Tel Aviv area. That is an area that can be covered by the blast radii of about 6 or 8 moderately sized atomic bombs. One would think that any sensible person with a long range strategic vision would work very hard to restrict those wars to the use of conventional weapons. But no. The Israelis decided to introduce nuclear weapons. So the question is: What were Perez, Dayan, etc thinking when they made that decision??
Anyone who thinks that Israel is a safe haven for the world’s Jews has to be stark raving mad.
You make it appear as if Britain, France and other colonial powers voluntarily decided to give up their colonial possessions and then were faced with the consequences of that decision.
That is of course not what happened. They were forced to decolonize even though they were better and more benevolent colonial administrators than Israel is. Israel, by contrast, has the illusion that it can keep millions of people subjected to colonial rule by repressive measures. That is what Amos Elon was referring to when he talked of Israel’s “provincialism” and “historical ignorance”.