Israel offered Nukes to Racist South Africa for Use on Black Neighbors

A suppressed historical episode has emerged into the light of day in such a way as to deeply embarrass Israel and the United States in their campaign against Iran’s peaceful nuclear enrichment program at Natanz near Isfahan.

In a recent interview, Tzahi Hanegbi, chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee in Israel said, “We are frustrated with the fact that Iran does not feel the pressure of the world, does not care about the demands of the International Atomic Energy Agency and the U.N., because we feel that time is running out.” On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said, “The greatest danger mankind faces is a radical regime, without limits to its cruelty, obtaining nuclear capabilities.”

Such Israeli eruptions of outrage about Iran depend on a key bit of misdirection, including denial of Israel’s own small arsenal of nuclear warheads. But it used to be difficult to prove Israel’s arsenal exists. No longer.

Iran appears not to have a nuclear weapons program, according to US intelligence, and its civilian nuclear research program is permitted under the terms of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The UN Security Council, however keeps insisting that Iran cease enrichment, though it is unclear why that body thinks it has the authority to amend the NPT ex post facto in that way. It is true that Iran did not inform the UN as it was required to when it began trying to enrich uranium in the late 1990s. And it is also true that Iran is not today as transparent with the International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors as that organization would like.

For their parts, , Iranian political figures such as speaker of the house Larijani and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have threatened to withdraw from the agreement reached last week with Turkey and Brazil whereby it would send a substantial amount of its stock of low enriched uranium to Turkey to be held in escrow, in return for the international community providing fuel enriched to 19.75 percent for the reactor that produces medical isotopes.

Barry Posen has demolished the argument, sometimes trotted out by the ‘overthrow Tehran’ crowd, that Iran would give nukes to third parties, including terrorists, if it had them. But that argument is one among many deployed against Tehran on a somewhat fantastic basis (since Iran does not have a bomb in the first place and likely couldn’t have one for a decade or more even if it were trying, which as far as US intelligence can tell, it isn’t.)

The implication, that Iran must be stopped because it would proliferate to neighbors, may come back to haunt pro-Israeli propagandists, given Tel Aviv’s own secret role in attempting to proliferate nukes to South Africa.

Netanyahu instanced the peculiar danger of Iran, but surely few regimes were as brutal and cruel or as threatening to their neighbors as Apartheid South Africa, which demonstrably wanted nuclear weapons in a way that cannot be equally well proven regarding Iran.

The Guardian reports on findings of historian Sasha Polakow-Suransky in the South African archives demonstrating that Israel offered Praetoria nuclear weapons in 1975. The documents are detailed in Polakow-Suransky’s book, The Unspoken Alliance: Israel’s Secret Relationship with Apartheid South Africa. The relevant memos and minutes are reproduced by The Guardian here.

The White South African government appears to have wanted to buy Israeli nuclear-tipped missiles for potential use against Black African neighbors such as Angola, Botswana, Zambia and (at certain points) Mozambique– countries against which the rogue regime often launched cross-border raids.

It is worth remembering what kind of pariah, racist and repressive regime Apartheid South Africa really was. Non-binding UN Security Council resolutions starting in the 1960s discouraged conventional arms sales to the regime, much less nuclear weapons! (The UN-imposed arms sale ban became mandatory on member states in 1977, shortly after the Israeli offer had been made). The impact of officially imposed white supremacism on the wealth and health of the population of was clear by 1978:

The Israel-South Africa partnership even extended to having the Anti-Defamation League, supposedly a civil rights organization fighting anti-Semitism, spy on and play dirty tricks on organizations and individuals in San Francisco who supported Palestinians or who opposed South African Apartheid.

The embarrassment is compounded by the increasing similarities between South African policies toward Black Africans and Israeli policies toward Palestinians. There is a sense in which Gaza and the West Bank have become much like the “homelands” created for denaturalized South Africans, making them foreigners in their own country and requiring that they carry papers at all times.

But it is not clear that even the South African Apartheid regime imposed anything as cruel as the Israeli siege and blockade of the Gaza Strip. That blockade is being challenged by a volunteer aid flotilla, which, however, risks being turned away before it can deliver humanitarian assistance to the half-starved Gazans, half of whom are children.

Whether it was intentional or not, the double standard in the UNSC concerning Israel’s nuclear weapons (including the recklessness with which its leaders have hinted they would use them, and the willingness to proliferate) and Iran’s civilian enrichment program, which may well never lead to a bomb has been underlined by Polakow-Suransky’s revelations. The research discoveries make it at least a little more difficult for the US and Israel to persuade other UNO states that Iran is a rogue and needs special intervention, while Israel is held harmless.

20 Responses

  1. I am now wondering what the comparisons in Figure 1 would be for Palestinians vs. Jews in present day Israel?

    Does anyone know?

    Also, I have had the uncomfortable feeling in the last year or so that the Anti-Defamation League or a similar organization is engaging in this type of behavior against citizens of the United States of America.

  2. Iran’s threat to withdraw from the Brazil-Turkey deal is an attempt to avoid new sanctions by some rather heavy-handed horse-trading.
    If new sanctions are imposed however, I predict that Iran will stick to the deal.
    There are four main reasons. Firstly it would be ungrateful of Iran to waste the good offices of Brazil and Turkey, as it would the good wishes of those nations who, believing in negotiation, have supported this initiative.
    Secondly, it needs the fuel rods for its research reactor.
    Thirdly, this would make the United States, and lets be clear, this is not about the 5+1, this is about the United States and Israel, look vengeful and petty, and it would effectively waste all that expenditure (bribes and threats) in order to push the sanctions through.
    Lastly, in the event of these new sanctions been imposed, and failing a mayor blunder on Iran’s part, it would be extremely difficult to impose additional sanctions in the future, and Iran (barring the stop and search provision) can live with these.

  3. While we’re discussing the illegal and immoral proliferation of ABC weapons:

    ‘Anthrax Epizootic in Zimbabwe, 1978-1980: Due to Deliberate Spread?’
    ‘it is suggested here that a plausible explanation for the sudden peak of anthrax in the Tribal Trust Lands beginning in November, 1978, is that one or more units attached to the Rhodesian military may have air dropped anthrax spores’
    (link to

    ‘the CIA had maintained a small stockpile of biological agents and toxins in violation of Nixon’s ban’ (1970).

    What a coincidence in the time lines.

  4. Johnathan Cook’s book “Blood and Religion: The Unmasking of the Jewish and Democratic State” had a lot on conventional Israeli arms sales to South Africa and political cooperation. Of course these new revelations take it a number of steps further.

    Great scoop by the Guardian and excellent research by this historian. To often nowadays research is done online (both in journalism and academia) this story shows that going into a countries archives and rooting around can still bring valuable information to light.

    Of course this also has a factor in the Iran crisis. South Africa attended third BRIC summit in Rio a few weeks ago along with Brazil/Turkey/Russia/China/India. A lot of evidence that South Africa is siding with the BRIC countries in the diplomatic stalemate. This will not endear the leadership to the US/Israeli side.

  5. “We” got nukes. “They” got nukes. All God’s children got nukes. Simple Shimon says, “I didn’t give nukes to South Africa.” Yeah yeah sure sure Shimon. We believe you.
    Chile gots nukes and gave their nukes to the U.S.. Oh yes, they certainly did. Weapons grade nukalar materials. Nukalar is in loving tribute to G. Bush. Brazil has them and Argentina has them and Urkraine has them and Australia has them and Japan and Indonesia and Saudi Arabia has them and golly, that nasty ‘nukalar’ genie is so far out of the bottle, they’ll never get it back inside. Everybody that is or isn’t even close to being a “global player” has nukes. Mercy, some dang fool of a government gets itchy on the old trigger finger and we all of us are in some serious trouble.

  6. The New York Review of Books, Peter Beinhart The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment : “Of course, Israel—like the United States—must sometimes take morally difficult actions in its own defense. But they are morally difficult only if you allow yourself some human connection to the other side. Otherwise, ‘security’ justifies everything. The heads of AIPAC and the Presidents’ Conference should ask themselves what Israel’s leaders would have to do or say to make them scream “no!” After all, Lieberman is foreign minister; Effi Eitam is touring American universities; settlements are growing at triple the rate of the Israeli population; half of Israeli Jewish high school students want Arabs barred from the Knesset. If the line has not yet been crossed, where is the line?

  7. In 1975 Israel was surrounded by enemies. This is before the peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan. Does it surprise you that a besieged country would reach out to a government from whom it purchased yellowcake?

    • Well, Iran is surrounded by enemies and beseiged now. So does that mean it’s understandable that threatened countries actually increase their proliferation activities?

  8. Israel also supported repressive Latin American regimes throughout the 1980s and beyond, not with nukes but with arms and training.

  9. Writes David Hirst in his “The Gun and the Olive Branch”, p. 109:

    “Under heavy pressure from the Kennedy Administration, it agreed to annual inspections by American scientists of its topsecret plant at Dimona in the Negev desert. Almost incredibly, however, the inspectors came away persuaded that the plant was entirely peaceful in purpose; perhaps they could not imagine that America’s dear friend and ally would stoop to the brazen subterfuge it did—which was simply to brick off the plant’s most sensitive area every time they visited. But still, American suspicions persisted and grew. And, as they did, the Israeli cover story chopped and changed. What at first had been a ‘textile factory’ suddenly became a ‘pumping station’. And just after foreign minister Golda Meir solemnly assured the United Nations of Israel’s ‘special concern’ about ‘the growing nuclear arming’ and its anxiety to ‘remove [its] awful dangers to humanity’, Dimona underwent yet a third transformation; it was now—according to Shimon Peres, original overseer of Israel’s nuclear programme and a subsequent prime minister—a ‘desalinization plant’.”

    After having been cheated, the powers-that-be promised to keep it a secret.

  10. Thought some of you might be interested in this Chomsky interview
    link to

    I did did particularly like the moderator, but of course she was no match for Prof. Chomsky.

    To Israel’s credit I have to say that it was broadcast on on Israeli TV. SO WHY ON EARTH WE NEVER SEE SUCH AN INTERVIEW IN ONE OF THE US MAINSTREAM MEDIA??

    No wonder US public is the most manipulated public in the free world.

  11. No surprise that Peres’ spokesperson responded that the report was baseless and that there were “never any negotiations” between the two countries.

    No surprise that once again Peres is exposed as a liar!

    n 1963, when Vanunu was nine years old the Zionists came to his home town of Marrakech, Morocco and convinced his Orthodox father to abandon his general store and pack up the first seven of his eleven children for the land of milk and honey. Instead, the Vanunu’s were banished to the desert of Beesheva, an ethnically cleansed Palestinian village.

    A few months later, Shimon Peres, then Israel’s Deputy Minister of Defense met with President John Kennedy, inside the White House.

    Kennedy told Peres, “You know that we follow very closely the discovery of any nuclear development in the region. This could create a very dangerous situation. For this reason we monitor your nuclear effort. What could you tell me about this?”

    Peres replied, “I can tell you most clearly that we will not introduce nuclear weapons to the region, and certainly we will not be the first.”

    By September of 1986, Peres was convulsing over Vanunu, who had been employed as a lowly tech in his progeny; Israel’s clandestine underground nuclear weapons centre in the Negev called the Dimona.

    Peres ordered the Mossad, to “Bring the son of a bitch back here.”

    Peres ordered Vanunu’s kidnapping that included a clubbing, drugging and being flung upon an Israeli cargo boat back to Israel for a closed-door trial, 18 years in jail, six years under 24/7 surveillance and another three months behind bars that began 23 May 2010 because he spoke to foreign media in 2004!

    In 1985, before quitting the Dimona, Vanunu shot 56 photos of the top-secret labs and production processes that proved Israel had become a major nuclear power by stockpiling between 100 and 200 atomic bombs within the seven underground levels where plutonium production, and secret nuclear weapons were assembled without any knowledge, debate or authorization from its own citizens. Israel has yet to allow International Inspectors into the aged Dimona plant, which is leaking and endangering the health of its own citizens.

    In 2005, Vanunu told me:

    “President Kennedy tried to stop Israel from building atomic weapons. Kennedy insisted on an open internal inspection.

    “When Johnson became president, he made an agreement with Israel that two senators would come every year to inspect. Before the senators would visit, the Israelis would build a wall to block the underground elevators and stairways. From 1963 to ’69, the senators came, but they never knew about the wall that hid the rest of the Dimona from them.

    “Nixon stopped the inspections and agreed to ignore the situation. As a result, Israel increased production. In 1986, there were over two hundred bombs. Today, they may have enough plutonium for ten bombs a year.”

    In a 2003, BBC documentary investigative journalist, Peter Hounam stated “Vanunu told the world that Israel had developed between one hundred and two hundred atomic bombs [in 1986!] and had gone on to develop neutron bombs and thermonuclear weapons. Enough to destroy the entire Middle East and nobody has done anything about it since.”

    Please listen to Vanunu speak in 2005, 2006 and 2008 video interviews freely streaming @ link to The Vanunu Saga: 2005-2010

  12. Well it is my understanding that before the fall of White South Africa it WAS a nuclear weapon owner. I wouldn’t be surprised if that ‘flash’ in the southern Indian Ocean in the 1970’s wasn’t a joint Israel/SAfrica nuclear test.

  13. please read this entire paper on
    Warner D. Farr, LTC, U.S. Army
    A bright flash in the south Indian Ocean, observed by an American satellite on 22 September 1979, is widely believed to be a South Africa-Israel joint nuclear test. It was, according to some, the third test of a neutron bomb. The first two were hidden in clouds to fool the satellite and the third was an accident—the weather cleared.84 Experts differ on these possible tests. Several writers report that the scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory believed it to have been a nuclear explosion while a presidential panel decided otherwise.85 President Carter was just entering the Iran hostage nightmare and may have easily decided not to alter 30 years of looking the other way.86 The explosion was almost certainly an Israeli bomb, tested at the invitation of the South Africans. It was more advanced than the “gun type” bombs developed by the South Africans.87 One report claims it was a test of a nuclear artillery shell.88 A 1997 Israeli newspaper quoted South African deputy foreign minister, Aziz Pahad, as confirming it was an Israeli test with South African logistical support.89


    Warner D. Farr, LTC, U.S. Army

    The Counterproliferation Papers

    Future Warfare Series No. 2

    USAF Counterproliferation Center

    Air War College

    Air University

    Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama
    link to

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