Lital Khaikin

This is the second installment in a multi-part examination of Israeli nuclear development in the Negev Desert. Part One can be read here, and Part Three, here.

This article relies on publically accessible media and archival documents—texts that often convey the dominant ideological tone, even within commonly perceived “neutral” sources (for example, government reports or “objective” journalists). Media that has informed the article include long-since declassified FBI and CIA files, transcripts of speeches, Canadian conference documents, archives from clearly identified institutes, as well as archived and contemporary news reports. Using these primary and secondary sources, the intention here is not restate all that which can be found in extant chronologies but to consider the context in which this information arises. The first section of this retrospective essay will begin by situating Israeli nuclear development within its early historical context and national mythology. It naturally includes Israel’s public emergence as a militarized nuclear threat during the Six Day War. It will then look at Israel’s collaboration with the apartheid government of South Africa on procuring uranium, the diversion of uranium from the United States, and exchanging technological expertise with other allies. The second part of this article will look at the ongoing Israeli implementation of radioactive materials in weapons and zones attacked during military operations, including Lebanon in 2006. It will then focus on the role of secondary sources of refined uranium, like the agricultural phosphate industry, for the production of nuclear arms. It will also look at how the nuclear and phosphate/chemical mining industries in the Negev Desert play into Israel’s colonial project, illegal settlement of the West Bank, and persecution of Bedouin peoples in the Negev.

This text owes a great deal to the archival efforts of Israeli-American historian Avner Cohen, who compiled interviews with key Israeli officials relating to the early days of Israel’s construction of the Dimona reactor. Cohen’s work is unique in North American media as an Israeli voice critical of Israeli nuclear arms proliferation. Cohen has maintained criticism not only of the historical events of the Israeli nuclear program, despite his description in 2003 of Golda Meir’s decision not to deploy a nuclear bomb in the East Sinai in 1973 as demonstrating “to the world that Israel was a responsible and trusted nuclear custodian.” Cohen’s interviews are compiled in an archive at the Wilson Centre Nuclear Proliferation International History Project, which is sponsored by the Carnegie Corporation and in part by the New York-based Leon Levy Foundation, a philanthropic organization supporting humanities and projects around Jewish culture. Historical events quoted in Cohen’s interviews and the documents he has collected, as well as other sources in this text, are predominantly fragmented across government websites or written about with an episodic approach to Israel’s nuclear ambitions. Another debt is held by Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem which holds parallels between the creation of the “Jewish State” as a Nazi solution to the Jewish question, into the present catastrophe of the Jewish State of Israel that advocates for the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and the displacement of Bedouin from their homelands. A porous mythology has been spun around Israel’s colonial project. The burden of historical sorrow in Arendt’s work is amplified so much more as we fall prey to a cultural amnesia erasing the greatest threats to our shared humanity. Indeed, the same patterns are playing out, though with a distinct shift of face.



















Banner image and image directly above: SAFARI-1 nuclear reactor at South Africa’s Pelindaba facility, late 1960s. Images via NTP Radioisotopes, South Africa.


The roots of Israel’s acquisition of enriched uranium during the early years of its nuclear development can be traced to certain ideological alliances between apartheid regimes, most notably that of South Africa, but also a period of military trade with Argentina. When France imposed restrictions on its uranium supply to Israel in 1963, Israel turned to Argentina for the purchase of uranium oxide, or “yellowcake.” Argentina had established its own Atomic Energy Commission in May 1950 for nuclear R&D and land surveying for uranium extraction. In the early 1950s, Juan Domingo Perón hired Dr. Ronald Richter, a German scientist who worked with the Nazis, to unsuccessfully develop Argentina’s early nuclear program.1 Until 1995, Argentina had refused to sign onto the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

Another known source of uranium happened to be the United States where, under “suspicious” circumstances, the Apollo Plant in Apollo, Pennsylvania reported a missing stock of uranium in the years  that followed the start of its uranium processing operations in 1959. The Apollo Plant was operated by the Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corporation, which was itself founded by Zionist financier David Lowenthal. Lowenthal had stoic loyalties to Israel, having fought in the Haganah, Israel’s underground military organization that pre-dated the IDF, during the 1948 Israeli war and while he was still an American citizen. Lowenthal worked in parallel with James Angleton, the CIA’s Chief of Foreign Intelligence Staff and a Mossad collaborator, to reroute the Apollo Plant’s uranium by ship to Israel. The total amount of the Apollo Plant’s disappeared uranium was estimated to be 267 kilograms by 1968, and in the following year, U.S. National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger made the following statement in a memo to President Richard Nixon, “There is circumstantial evidence that some fissionable material available for Israel's weapons development was illegally obtained from the United States by about 1965.” Further in Kissinger’s memo, he acknowledges Israel’s ownership of surface-to-surface missiles, of which ten were programmed for nuclear warheads. Kissinger argued that disclosure of Israeli possession of nuclear arms would “tighten the Soviet hold on the Arabs.” “What we really want at a minimum,” he wrote, “may be just to keep Israeli possession from becoming an established international fact.”

"When the Israelis signed the contract buying the Phantom aircraft last November, they committed themselves 'not to be the first to introduce nuclear weapons into the Near East.' But it was plain from the discussion that they interpreted that to mean they could possess nuclear weapons as long as they did not test, deploy or make them public."

After the termination of its supply of uranium from France, Israel found a new supplier in South Africa. An agreement was written between Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres and South African Defense Minister P.W. Botha, a known Nazi sympathizer who supported “the pro-Nazi Ossewabrandwag during the Second World War,” in the 1980s that Israel would supply South Africa with nuclear expertise. In exchange they would purchase 550 tons of “yellowcake” uranium to power the Dimona reactor. South Africa had been enriching its own uranium since 1970, under Prime Minister B. J. Vorster. As reported in The Guardian, and again in 2010 by Sasha Polakow-Suransky, documents show a negotiation between Botha and Peres. Under the codename Chalet, Israel had offered South Africa Jericho missiles, designed to be capable of carrying nuclear warheads in “three different sizes.”  

In South Africa, for example, Israel garnered state support from both the apartheid Boer government, as well as from anti-apartheid officials. The apparently “liberal” sector of the South African state is significant for the diplomatic role these relationships played in supplying Israel with uranium, and in validating the continued occupation and apartheid conditions imposed upon Palestinians. The namesake of the Weizmann Institute himself, Chaim Weizmann, was fundraising in the United States, and did not exclude cultivating relationships with apartheid regime officials in South Africa. Weizmann was close with Boer leader and former Prime Minister of South Africa, General Jan Christian Smuts.2 Smuts was a key figure in the establishment of the Balfour Declaration of 1917, which pronounced British support for the creation of a “Jewish homeland.” Under Smuts’ governance, South Africa conveniently voted in favour of the 1947 UN Partition Plan that divided British Mandatory Palestine into Jewish and Arab states, and “called for the demilitarization and internationalization of Jerusalem and for the protection of, and free access to, the holy places in Palestine.”

Edward Saïd wrote in his 1995 essay “The Current Status of Jerusalem” of the irony of encountering support for Israeli politician and former British informant, Teddy Kollek, from South African anti-apartheid activist and member of the African National Congress, Walter Sisulu. As mayor of Jerusalem, Kollek had developed a reputation for peace and diplomacy for his perceived collaboration with the Arab populations of Jerusalem. In Saul Bellow’s book To Jerusalem and Back--which earned critique from Saïd as part of a canon of Western European “liberal” literati pilgrimaging to Israel--Bellow writes, “I am told that without Arab votes Kollek would not have been re-elected. People jokingly speak of him as one of the Arab politicians. He is on excellent terms with Muslim religious leaders.”3

Kollek, however, was an important figure in the growing militarization of Israel. Prior to his role as Jerusalem’s mayor Kollek was also the representative of the Haganah in the United States, and had a critical role in supplying American arms to Israel in the 1940s. The representation of any marginal Arab support for Kollek distracts from the concretely anti-Arab policy that was enacted during Kollek’s tenure in Jerusalem, when Israel annexed East Jerusalem in 1967 and dissolved the position of Mayor of East Jerusalem.4 Most Palestinians, Saïd wrote in his essay, saw the mayor of Jerusalem as “a symbol of Israel’s annexation policy,” but for Walter Sisulu, in a stark difference between diplomatic representation and reality, Kollek “was supposed to be a representative of liberalism and of Arab and Jewish cooperation.”

In a 1991 essay, Saïd reflected on Sisulu’s demonstrated support for Kollek, "Alas, I never saw Sisulu again, and never had a chance to inform him, for instance, that only a few days after the Israelis conquered the Old City in early June 1967, Kollek, along with Moshe Dayan, threw out almost a thousand Palestinians from their ancestral dwellings in the Haret-al-Maghariba, razed their homes, and built the monumental plaza that now stretches before the Western Wall, an area which has become Arab-rein, purely Jewish."  

The military camaraderie between South Africa and Israel included standard trade of military vehicles like the IDF’s use of “South African designed and manufactured Marmon-Herrington Armoured Cars”, but eventually escalated to collaboration on nuclear development in the years following the 1973 Yom Kippur War. In 1979, an American satellite detected an explosion over the Indian Ocean that was suspected to be a joint test by Israel and South Africa.4 Known as the Vela Incident, the signature double flash of a nuclear detonation was detected by the American Vela Satellite on September 22, and investigated by the CIA. Determining that Israel had collaborated with South Africa on a nuclear weapons test would prove that both U.S. aid was indeed funneling into Israeli research for military applications of nuclear technology at the time, and that Israel was less interested in “peaceful” pursuits of atomic energy than it was in perfecting a weapon of mass destruction. Much like other known American federal investigations into Israeli nuclear activity, the CIA investigation was abandoned as inconclusive, despite data collected from non-military institutes, including an observation by the Arecibo Ionospheric Observatory in Puerto Rico, of “unusual ionospheric disturbance” that is characteristic of nuclear explosions, traveling north at the time of the detonation. The CIA offered the alternative description for the incident as a possible meteorite collision with the Vela Satellite.  

On February 25, 1980, The Washington Post reported—and only after approval from Israeli military censors—that American journalist Dan Raviv, who was working for CBS Tel Aviv, had his press accreditation rescinded by Israel for attempting to cover the detonation. “The Israeli government is particularly sensitive to the bomb test report because its Foreign Ministry has been attempting to renew diplomatic ties with a number of black African states who are opposed to South Africa's policies, the paper noted.”      

Anti-apartheid posters from the South African apartheid era. At the time, Israel was trading arms and buying enriched uranium from South Africa under Prime Minister B. J. Vorster and Defense Minister P. W. Botha.

Israel’s diplomatic relationship with South Africa was bolstered by shared sense of “divine” right to land, particularly between the South African apartheid regime and Zionist political leaders. In his book The Fateful Triangle, Noam Chomsky wrote on this ideological parallel between the Zionists and the Boers: “Smuts saw the Zionists’ “return” to Palestine as religiously justified, having echoes in the Boers’ sense of themselves as a unique people destined to settle South Africa.”5 This perception of a divine right to return continues to be used as justification to extend Israel’s illegal civilian settlements farther into the West Bank, and deeper into the Negev where there are significant chemical and extractive projects, Israeli military bases, and of course, the Dimona nuclear reactor itself.

The Zionist nationalism that found a parallel in apartheid-era South Africa was critical to defining the trajectory of nuclear development in Israel, and the rhetoric of its “defensive” military stance. At the height of the Second World War, Zionist nationalism and its mythology of a God-given homeland offered the promise of refuge from a Europe dominated by anti-Semitism. Yet, the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine meant the validation of expulsion of generations of Jews from European states. Responding to this quandary, American Jewish academic Norman Finkelstein writes that, “In effect, Zionism also replicated the reasoning of the anti-Semitic topographic discourse in reaching the conclusion that resettling Jewry in its ‘historical’ (‘organic’, ‘integral’, etc.) homeland was the way to resolve the Jewish Question.”6

The colonial doctrine of Synthetic Zionism formed under Chaim Weizmann’s leadership, out of a merger between the ideological concerns of propagandizing the idea of a Jewish state with the practical concerns of resettling (deporting) Jews to Palestine, providing resources for new settlements, and establishing the material foundations of the Zionist state. To bolster the validity of the Israeli occupation, however, Zionism required the illusion of an artificial emptiness or poverty of the land that would justify both the “return” of Israeli settlers and of the razing of pre-existing Palestinian, Bedouin, Druiz, and Christian communities.7 This artificial absence meant the erasure of the rights, history and humanity of peoples living in Occupied Palestine, devaluing both their built communities and territorial relationships, and the characterisation of Palestinians and other non-Jews as not indigenous to the territory claimed by Israel. A sense of Israeli racial superiority was integral to the colonial project, expressed in 1987 by Israeli physicist and co-founder of Youth Aliyah, Shelheveth Freier in the distinction he drew in an interview, between “all the good countries of the world” and “the Arabs."

Finkelstein also refers to Zionist leader Max Nordau, who argued for the Biblical right of return to a land “of which they were robbed 1900 years ago by the Roman aggressors,” and to which “the Palestinian Arabs had only ‘possession rights.’”8 Finklestein continues, "In Ben-Gurion's view, Palestine had a 'national' significance for Jews and thus 'belonged' to them; in contrast, Palestinian Arabs, as constituents of the great Arab nation, regarded not Palestine, but Iraq, Syria and the Arabian peninsula as their 'historical' homeland — Palestine was of only 'individual' importance to them, the locale where they happened to dwell presently."9

The nationalist mythology of Israeli pioneering in the Biblical homeland was industriously bolstered by Israel’s political founders, such as military defense scientist Ernst David Bergmann, who was appointed in 1952 as the first chairman of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission and exerted political influence over David Ben-Gurion. In the words of French nuclear scientist Bertrand Goldschmitt, Bergmann aspired towards the idea of a blooming Negev, a desert that would be transformed by atomic energy. “On the enthusiastic advice of Bergmann, his scientific advisor, Ben Gurion was fully convinced that nuclear energy would be the key to the Zionist vision of a blooming Negev.”  


To read the land is to read an open palm of its historical sorrows—so, to read the corpus of the state is to read its formal iterations, ideologies written into the architectures that shape its past and reflect its future. Beyond buildings, architecture is a crystallization of will, of intention, gesture and strategy projected through time that expresses both the cultural temperaments and political priorities of the moment, while anticipating the shifts of an environment. In his book, Hollow Land: Israel’s Architecture of Occupation, British architect Eyal Weizman writes of architecture as a “political plastic,’ as “social forces slowing into form.” Weizman further refers to an “architecture of the frontier,” referring to the organization of space that Israel employs to facilitate the xenophobic expulsion on which the state is constructed. Weizman writes of the weaponization of infrastructure, such as the use of temporary constructions in order to concentrate territorial power in occupied sites, for Israel’s future development of military outposts and settlements.10 Weizman also refers to military strategies of development such as the now familiar manipulation of water and sewage infrastructure, and the exclusionary division of territory.

In Weizman’s essay, “The Architecture of Ariel Sharon,” we can also see military use of suburban developments in the civilian occupation of Palestine: “In his hands the suburban red-roofed single family homes replaced the tank as the basic battle unit; houses were deployed in formation across a theatre of operations to occupy hills, to encircle an enemy, or to cut its communication lines.” Like the shifting identity of Pasolini’s Signore Hirt and Signore Herdhitze, the development of Israel moved through an industrialism that flirted with the socialism of early kibbutzim, to eventually take the shape of a technologically advanced military state. Naturally, it is interesting to consider this militarism writ formally into the very architecture of Israel’s nuclear infrastructures.    

Dimona reactor (left) under construction in the Negev Desert. Image declassified August 24, 2000. Image acquired via National Security Archive. Dimona reactor in the Negev. Image by Mordechai Vanunu.  

The military Dimona facility was designed by Israeli architects Dan Eytan and Yitzhak Yashar, who was inspired by “principles of Modernism” and the work of French architect Le Corbusier, who famously wrote in 1940 that “Hitler can crown his life with a great work: the planned layout of Europe.” Dimona did indeed embody elements of Brutalist inspiration, including the use of precast concrete. The engineer responsible for the Dimona construction was IDF colonel Emmanuelle “Manes” Pratt. The civilian compound of the Dimona reactor, according to Eytan, was “an elegant concept reminiscent of the Gardens of Versailles.”

The Soreq nuclear reactor was in turn designed by American architect Philip Johnson, one of the most vehement proponents of architectural modernism in the mid-20th century. Johnson’s reputation became darkly marred by his fascination with German Nazi symbolism, his attendance of the Nazi party’s annual Nuremberg rally, his support for the German invasion of Poland, and his political support for strengthening American alliance with the Third Reich. And yet, despite these personal alliances with Nazism and his public anti-Semitic writing, Johnson was granted a contract in the 1950s to design the now iconic Soreq facility. A biography by American art historian Franz Schulze claims that “the ultimate goal [was...] to persuade Philip’s American antagonists to recognize that he has at last and formerly been washed clean of his sins, by no less an entity than the government of the Jewish state itself.”11 Johnson in turn wrote that, “The nuclear reactor in Rehovot, Israel, is my temple in the desert.”12

There is a morbid irony in the allusion to a necropolis in the “medical” Soreq facility, the monumental typology of this “temple” creating the impression of both an unbreachable, total force, and an overpowering void that extends into its desert environment. Johnson’s admiration for the aesthetic organization of Nazism shares the sense of awe expressed by Le Corbusier about the sublime power of social order imbued within Modernist architecture. The Rationalist architecture of Italian modernism and the Neoclassicism favoured by the Third Reich mimicked the artifice of sublime harmony in the Greek and Roman architecture of classical antiquity. The fascistic regimes of the 20th century institutionalized an aesthetic of intimidation and order in architecture and city planning, the grandeur of which effectively sublimates an environment into its service, and at an individual level creates the illusion of the individual contributing to and being an inseparable part of a unified ideal—especially effective at times of great instability when the instinct towards self-preservation through conformity to the mass are amplified.

And in the decade that followed the Second World War, Brutalism was written out of paranoiac military abstractions of the Cold War, a sweeping global spectre of conflict at a distance that haunted with daily oppressions for the sake of an invisible but assured state security. Heavy spatial enclosures imposed their weight over light, organic forms of free movement, of energy, of fluidity. Militarism was absorbed into the banal as civilian buildings became bunkers against the perpetual threat of everything outside, everything that does not belong, everything Other. Their ubiquity reflects a social acceptance of those abstractions until the aspect of perpetual war is assimilated into the ordinary, in the stealthy way that reflects the words of Hitler’s chief architect, Albert Speer, “One seldom recognizes the devil when he is putting a hand on your shoulder.”

Referring to lauded “peacemaker” Mayor Kollek’s invitation of international architects to a newly unified Jerusalem in 1968, Eyal Weizman writes, “The history of the occupation is full of liberal 'men of peace' who are responsible for, or who at least sweeten, the injustice committed by the occupation. The occupation would not have been possible without them.”13 

Soreq Nuclear Facility in northern Israel (left) and, 1958 (right).  Images via

Israeli officials justify the state's nuclear power, as any other aspect of its pervasive military regime, by the “existential threat” that surrounding Arab nations would pose the Western-established colonial state if it didn’t have “deterrent capabilities.”14 Upheld with hysteric declarations that read like Haaretz headlines (“No nuclear arms would mean suicide for Israel”), this requires the persistence of an existential threat in which an apartheid government is rewritten into the victim, and in which the capabilities of civilian technologies are perverted into the profitable industries of war.  

What are the moral implications of “disinterested” institutes that, like “pure, disinterested science,” are invested in designing spaces of human oppression, and facilitate the operations of military regimes? A few years prior to his commentary on the Weizmann Institute, Stephen Spender wrote a review of Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem in which he reflected on the leitmotif of the “banality of evil,” even as he came to praise the Weizmann Institute with such flourish later. "Given the political situation, the surrounding banality, with its corruption of language, led to the program of mass-killing. Responsibility would have consisted of a day-to-day effort to keep one’s mind free of that banality, from the acceptance of those abstractions which first produced the mind and then the action of an Eichmann."



Samson Destroying the Temple of Dagon, Martin Engelbrecht. Latin text in the print reads: « En clades magna! quam hostis Fortissimus struxit, qua se et alios uno momento sternit: Sie vindicta bonaum vita jucunditus ipsa, caecus hic Simson et multos morte excaecat. » Image via Digital Commonwealth.

The Israeli state’s nuclear “deterrent” program, Operation Samson (Shimshon), was adopted as a strategy by Yitzhak Yaakov, intended to demonstrate Israel’s nuclear capabilities by detonating a nuclear device in the seven-day Operation Kadesh in East Sinai (1956). Samson is the name of a biblical “judge” who, in an act of God-willing revenge against cruelties committed against him, tore down the walls of a temple slaughtering the Philistines and himself with them. This enlightened suicidal tendency inspired Operation Samson, in that if Israel felt threatened, it would destroy itself along with the enemy. Yitzhak Yaakov is quoted in an interview with Avner Cohen as describing the intention “to go on top of the hill, and to blow it up so that the whole world will see, this could still be done [after the war]. The assumption was that this will demoralize the Arabs further, and will show them the futility of their attempts to conquer Israel.”15 IDF Chief of Staff at the time, Moshe Dayan, had also exclaimed that Israel must be like a “mad dog” and should behave as an uncontrollable, psychotic entity. Avner Cohen wrote that Dayan was “heard murmuring about ‘the end of the Third Kingdom,’” and in November 1956, following the Sinai Campaign, Israel’s first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion announced the creation of the “Third Kingdom of Israel” in a speech to the Israeli Knesset. Ben-Gurion’s speech also denied any Israeli attack on the “Land of Egypt.”

When Likud founder Menachem Begin was re-elected as Prime Minister in 1981, Israel illegally annexed the Golan Heights from Syria. The validity of Israel’s annexation was unanimously rejected by the UN Security Council in two separate resolutions, one unanimously accepted in 1981 and the other accepted in 2016, despite Netenyahu’s recent claims that the Syrian land will “forever” be in Israeli possession. It was during 1981 that Israel also adopted what it called the Begin Doctrine, which states that “countries that are hostile to Israel and that call for its destruction must not be allowed to develop a nuclear military capability that could be used against Israel.” It was under Begin and his appointed Defense Minister General Ariel Sharon that Israeli civilian settlement intensified in Gaza and the West Bank, including the expulsion of thousands of Bedouin from demilitarized zones. According to the Washington Institute, Menachem Begin argued that “accepting an Israel without East Jerusalem was comparable to permitting a third destruction of the Temple.”  

Stills from 1981 election campaigns: Menachem Begin was re-elected with Likud for a second term, against Shimon Peres of Alignment (which is now the Labour Party).

The Begin Doctrine was first enacted in June 1981 against the Iraqi Osirak nuclear facility that was being constructed outside of Baghdad with financing from France and Italy, in a maneuver known alternately as Operation Opera or Operation Babylon. At the time, Iraq was a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Israel blew up the Iraqi facility with the use of American warplanes and satellite imagery.

During the Israeli occupation of the Golan Heights, Dayan encouraged Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir to use nuclear weapons despite Meir’s initial opposition to implementing nuclear means. According to Cohen’s interview with Azar Azaryahu, advisor to Golda Meir, Dayan had tried to circumvent Meir’s orders and “forgot to mention” the order to withhold the deployment of nuclear arms in the Sinai. Azaryahu quoted Moshe Dayan saying that the nuclear bomb could have been prepared within hours, had Golda Meir decided to instruct physicist Shelheveth Freier to deploy it in the Sinai: “He [Freir] is waiting outside, and if you [Golda Meir] authorize him to start making the necessary preparations so that if we have to make a decision to activate, we could do it in a few minutes, rather than wandering around for half a day in order to prepare everything.”

Israel has since repeated this pre-emptive aggression in 2007 on Syria’s al-Kibar site, under the auspices of an Iranian nuclear threat. It was only in March 2018 that Israel, with the approval of Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, released details of the operation that blew up Bashar al-Assad’s reactor—called Operation Orchard. In 2016, Colin Powell stated that Israel had 200 nukes “all targeted on Tehran.” And despite Netanyahu’s current declarations that Iran wants to wage a “religious war” in Syria in order to “establish itself at Israel’s ‘backdoor,’” it is important to remember that in 1979, a few university students from Tehran discovered documents revealing Iran bartering for Israeli nuclear weapons, and collaborating on developing the Jericho II. This nuclear collaboration had continued until the Shah of Iran was deposed in 1979, incidentally costing Israel Military Industries one of its biggest clients for the Uzi submachine gun.

Operation Samson and the Begin Doctrine reflect the exceptionalism that permits Israel to develop advanced military technologies, nuclear or otherwise, while maintaining a public ambiguity about its capacity and condemning its neighbour nations for the same. Since the bombing of Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981, the Israeli state has received little critique for its unprecedented bombings of foreign infrastructures, and for its own historic violation of treaties that only permit non-violent applications of imported materials. Instead of being understood as aggression, Israeli actions have been portrayed as strategies of pre-emptive self-defence for the Zionist state, condemning the fanaticism of Islamic nationalism while wielding international clout for its own religious nationalist state.

We permit a great criminality when the nuclear question becomes a matter of politics instead of a humanitarian question. The potency of nuclear power is that, apart from the immediate devastation that would be incurred either by a nuclear attack or an accident at a nuclear facility, it threatens a deep contamination in human and non-human bodies, and creates a psychological environment that pushes human suffering and fear to grotesque extremes. The nightmare of a nuclear detonation does not disappear after the moment of its explosion, as its punishment lingers indefinitely  after, permeating air, water, soil, burying and twisting deep into genetic code. And as the public becomes accustomed to it, nuclear force attains a kind of banality, an acceptance as a legitimate form of political pressure, permitted exclusively to the privileged state of the day.

Peace does not lie at the tip of a gun. What lies before Israel’s vision of a “blooming Negev” is as barren of peace as the desert. Signore Klotz says in Porcile, “Isn't it true, Hans Guenther, that Herdhitze in our mother tongue means "blazing fire"?” There is no wisdom in a nation bolstered by the suicidal tendencies of “Samson,” who is far from righteousness and is rather fixated upon mutual destruction for its own sake. Is this, then, what is considered hadar, dignity? So the Third Kingdom crumbles with the emptiness of the human spirit that aspires to perfecting methods of destruction under the auspice of “the benefit of humanity.”

“To the health of pigs.”  


1. Shortly after the first military coup against dictator Juan Domingo Perón, Argentina was at the time under the short-termed presidency of Arturo Illia and the Radical Civic Union. In the early 50s, Argentina had been under the rule of Perón, and adapted as a haven for some former Nazi officials on the run from prosecution for war crimes, including Adolf Eichmann who was captured in 1960. This collaboration and benefitting from Third Reich roots didn’t put off Israel between 1976 and 1983, though, when it supplied around $700 million in weapons to the Argentinian junta during the “Dirty War,” during which 30,000 left-wing activists were “disappeared,” including 2,000 Argentinian Jews. In 1982, Israel also sold U.S. developed Skyhawk jets to Argentina during the Falklands War against British occupying forces. Darkly do Eichmann’s final words echo from the gallows: “After a short while, gentlemen, we shall all meet again. Such is the fate of all men. Long live Germany, long live Argentina, long live Austria. I shall not forget them.”

2. Though celebrated to this day as a progressive leader, Smuts refused to allow blacks to vote in a segregated, colonial South Africa that suppressed the autonomy of native Zulu and Xhosa peoples in a similar manner to Israel’s dehumanizing treatment of Bedouin in the Negev, and whose European-imposed boundaries contributed to tribal division. Smuts was a supporter of the Zionist Movement, and frequented the South African Zionist Federation fundraising events. Such was the respect for the Boer leader that he became the namesake for the Ramat Yohanan kibbutz in northern Israel.       

3. Saul Bellow, To Jerusalem and Back: A Personal Account (New York: Penguin Books, 1976), 88.

4. The Mayor of East Jerusalem at the time was Ruhi al-Khatib.

5.  Israel’s partner South Africa dismantled its nuclear program in 1989.

6.  Cited in Guy Braxton, Rising Powers in the Arab-Israeli Conflict Since 1947, Guy Burton. (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2018), 54. 

7. Norman Finkelstein, Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict, (Brooklyn, NY: Verso), 14.

8. Even when Pasolini visited Palestine, depicted in his short film “Seeking Locations in Palestine for the Film “The Gospel According to Matthew,” his representation has been well-documented as excluding of accurate Arab representation, and hinged on a mythology of Israeli pioneering in a “wretched” land, of “rebuilding” an ancient homeland.

9.  Norman Finkelstein, Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict, 14.

10. Eyal Weizman, Hollow Land: Israel’s Architecture of Occupation (Brooklyn, NY: Verso, 2017), see chapter 1.

11.  Franz Schulze, Philip Johnson: Life and Work (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996).

12.  Hillary Lewish, The Architecture of Phillip Johnson (New York: Bulfinch 2002).

13.  Eyal Weizman, Hollow Land: Israel’s Architecture of Occupation, 37.

14.  On June 18, The New Yorker reported on Trump’s enablement of these “deterrent capabilities”, in parallel with an agreement by the American state under Barack Obama, Gerald Ford and Nixon that it would not force Israel to give up its nuclear capabilities. “How Trump and Three other U.S. Presidents Protected Israel’s Worst Kept Secret”, Adam Entous. June 18, 2018.

15.  “Interview with Yitzhak ‘Ya’atza’ Ya’akov by Avner Cohen,” 1999, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive. From the personal collection of Avner Cohen.

Lital Khaikin is a Russian-Canadian author and publisher living in Montréal ( Tiohtià:ke ). Her literary writing has appeared in numerous publications including 3:AM Magazine, Queen Mob’s TeahouseBerfrois, and the “Vestiges” journal by Black Sun Lit, and some of her poetry has been translated into Italian. She has contributed journalism to Canadian publications like Briarpatch and the Media Co-op, writing about industrial development, extractive industries, and militarism. Some of this work has been translated into Mandarin for the Taiwanese publication Coolloud Collective. She has previously edited with the team of continent. journal, and has participated in residencies in Germany, Austria, and Denmark. She is the founder and publisher of The Green Violin, a slow-burning ‘samizdat’-style literary press for the free distribution of poetry, essays, prose, and literary paraphernalia.