Israel's Double Standard

Nuclear technician Mordechai Vanunu has now been released after 18 years of imprisonment for treason. Peter Philipp comments on Israel's nuclear weapons strategy.

photo: AP
Mordechai Vanunu after his release

​​A double standard is probably the most harmless thing one could accuse Israel of in the case of the Vanunu Affair. Nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu, who spent the last 18 years in prison for his actions, proved to the world what many had long suspected - Israel is an atomic power.

And it operates without any international controls over its nuclear facilities, and without any restrictions by international conventions or supplementary protocols such as those the USA and the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna have imposed on countries like Iran and Libya. Restrictions that Israel has vociferously supported – if not even initiated.

Israel naturally refuses to be lumped together with these nations. But he who lays claim to higher moral and ethical standards should perhaps live by these standards as well.

In the nuclear question Israel has deliberately deceived everyone

Israel is not practicing what it preaches – not in its actions against state enemies such as leading representatives of "Hamas," and not in the nuclear question. In order to rise to the status of atomic power, Israel has deliberately deceived everyone from day one.

Not just the Europeans, but also the USA – although only time will tell if those in Washington were really in the dark, or if they perhaps knew more than they were willing to admit.

We are not insinuating here that Israel actually ever intended to use nuclear weapons against its neighbors or other enemies in the region. But nuclear weapons in Israeli arsenals could provide other Middle East countries with the perfect pretext to start working on their own nuclear programs.

The virus of moral double standards

And, as is so often the case, no European, and especially no American foreign minister has made any attempt to persuade Israel to relinquish its strategy. This has allowed the virus of moral double standards to infect other nations – at least those in the West.

It should thus come as no surprise to us that in Arab and Islamic states mistrust continues to grow.

So much for the Israeli atomic bomb. What about the double standard at play in the fact that Israel has been demanding for years now that Jonathan Pollard – a former US Naval Intelligence aide who spied for Israel – be released, and yet intends to place Mordechai Vanunu, even after he has served his time, under extremely tight restrictions: no contact with foreigners, no interviews and absolutely no chance of ever leaving the country?

Is Israel still a constitutional state?

This effectively extends Vanunu's sentence well beyond the penalty imposed by the court, a measure that undermines and mocks Israel's claim to being a constitutional state. If this is the way it treats its own citizens – how might Israel deal with others? Above all: Palestinians?

There are no convincing reasons for Israel to act this way. Experts agree that Vanunu knew far too little to pose a substantial risk. After all, he was not the nuclear physicist that people today make him out to be. He was just a common technician, whose very unobtrusiveness enabled him to take the sensational photos he took.

And whatever Vanunu might have known 18 years ago would hardly be of interest to anyone today. This is another reason why Israel should simply let him go.

He would soon disappear into everyday anonymity. But instead, Israel insists on once again making a martyr of him. And this behavior in turn feeds suspicion that what Vanunu betrayed was only the tip of the iceberg.

This is not the only reason why it would seem to be high time that the world finally does something about Israel's atom bombs. The best thing would be to declare the Middle East a nuclear-weapon-free zone. Including Israel, of course.

Peter Philipp