Psychedelic Mushroom Clouds at the Guardian

This is a guest post by AKUS

The Guardian has gone nuclear (“postal” may be more accurate) over the “revelation” that South Africa approached Israel in 1975 in an apparent effort to obtain nuclear technology. Unfortunately, its sources are tainted, as usual, in its rush to judgment once again.

The case the Guardian tries to build against Israel (in the hope of “demonstrating” that Israel is an apartheid state and a nuclear proliferator) is that Israel offered nuclear weapons technology to South Africa in 1975, during the period when the Apartheid regime was in power. It bases its claim primarily on a new book, “The Unspoken Alliance: Israel’s Secret Relationship With Apartheid South Africa”, by an American researcher – or a researcher at an American think-tank, at any rate – Sasha Polakow-Suransky.

However, there are massive flaws in the story the Guardian is trying to sell:

1. Listen to the following interview with Sasha Polakow-Suransky on Al-Jazeera. No matter how often the Al-Jazeera anchor tries to get him to say it, Sasha Polakow-Suransky will only say that South Africa may have approached Israel, but there is no document at all which actually states that Israel offered or agreed to provide nuclear weapons to South Africa in 1975. The closest he gets to claiming that Israel offered South Africa nuclear weapons is to say the documents show that “the South Africans perceived that there was a nuclear offer on the table” (at 1.02).

2. In a blog entry on the Guardian’s website, A responsible nuclear power? , Julian Borger provides the following which similarly rebuts the Guardian’s claims (my emphasis added):

Avner Cohen, the author of Israel and the Bomb, and the forthcoming The Worst-Kept Secret: Israel’s Bargain with the Bomb, has taken issue with the headline of the piece.

While there is no doubt (as the documents point out) that there was a SA probe to Israel for nuclear weapons, which stimulates a certain opaque Israeli response made by the Israeli Minister of Defense, Shimon Peres, there is no proof whatsoever that Israel ultimately officially OFFERED those weapons to SA. In fact, I know that Israel did not: Israel neither offered and passed along nuclear weapons (and materials) nor weapons designs to the South Africans. Whatever the SA discussed among themselves in memos, and regardless of what Minister Peres told them, Prime Minister Rabin and the people in charge of the Israeli nuclear program (Mr. Shaleheveth Freier) were never willing to pass along weapons components and/or designs to the SA. Nothing like that ever formally offered to SA, regardless of Peres’ reference to the “correct warhead.” At the end of the day South Africa did not ask and Israel did not offer the “correct payloads.”. Israel did behave as a responsible nuclear state.

3. Pik Botha, former Foreign Minister of South Africa and someone closely connected to the  South African Atomic Energy Board, responded to the Guardian claims that Israel offered nuclear weapons to South Africa with this:

“I doubt it very much. I doubt whether such an offer was ever made. I think I would have known about it.”

4. One of the documents provided by the Guardian as “proof” includes the following:

Note that it clearly states “That the missiles will be armed with nuclear warheads manufactured in the RSA or acquired elsewhere” and there is no mention whatsoever of Israel. The document is headed “ISRAEL AND THE SOUTH AFRICAN BOMB” with no reference to the source other than that it is a “Declassified memo from General RF Armstrong” who was, according to Chris McGreal, “South Africa’s military chief of staff”.

5. As even the Guardian has had to admit in an amendment to the initial Chris McGreal article Shimon Peres has completely denied the story. His denial has belatedly been published by the Guardian – Israeli president denies offering nuclear weapons to apartheid South Africa – even though, typically, the Guardian sub-head editor cannot resist attempting to cast doubts on Peres’ veracity rather than letting the readers judge for themselves – “Shimon Peres dismisses claims relating to secret files but US researcher says denials are disingenuous” despite the fact that both Sasha Polakow-Suransky and Avner Cohen back up Peres’ assertion, as does the memo referenced above:

Israel‘s president, Shimon Peres, today robustly denied revelations in the Guardian and a new book that he offered to sell nuclear weapons to apartheid South Africa when he was defence minister in the 1970s.

His office said “there exists no basis in reality” for claims based on declassified secret South African documents that he offered nuclear warheads for sale with ballistic missiles to the apartheid regime in 1975. “Israel has never negotiated the exchange of nuclear weapons with South Africa. There exists no Israeli document or Israeli signature on a document that such negotiations took place,” it said.

Neither Polakow-Suransky nor the Guardian has provided such a document, and can do nothing better than claiming that “if you connect the dots…” – you come to whatever conclusion you would like.

6. Another piece of “evidence” offered by Chris McGreal is the “account” by a traitor to the then regime spying for the USSR who first, apparently, made the hardly-reliable claim upon his release from prison after the end of apartheid that:

“there was an agreement between Israel and South Africa called Chalet which involved an offer by the Jewish state to arm eight Jericho missiles with “special warheads”. Gerhardt said these were atomic bombs. But until now there has been no documentary evidence of the offer”.

But, in fact, there is no such documentary evidence of the offer to this day, as Sasha Polakow-Suransky himself, the purveyor of the rumor or theory had to admit on Al Jazeera.

7. Not one of the documents offered by the Guardian actually mentions nuclear weapons in any context that an Israeli representative signed. The most pathetic of the examples of “proof” is in the collection of The memos and minutes that confirm Israel’s nuclear stockpile assembled by Chris McGreal. In one such document, minutes from a meeting indicated that “Minister Peres said that the correct payload was available in three sizes” referring apparently to the Jericho missile codenamed “Chalet”. From this McGreal inferred that the “three sizes” referred to conventional, chemical and nuclear rather than the more logical inference of three different weights (the Jericho I has been estimated to carry a payload of 450-650 kg and the Jericho II 750-1000 kg; the size of the payload influencing the distance the missile would travel).  In the video of Polakow-Suransky above, he even has to admit that Peres’s reference to “three sizes” is “a bit ambiguous and there are various different interpretations” (at 1.46). In another document, a Letter from Shimon Peres, 11/11/1974, Peres’s “confirmation” is nothing more than a polite diplomatic letter thanking a Dr. Rhoodie, apparently a South African PR flack, for his assistance in making Peres’ trip to South Africa successful and offering to do the same for him when he next visited Israel.

8. The Guardian even roped in Gary Younge to write an article that rivals the worst in quality, innuendo, and false accusations that CiF is capable of presenting that tries to defend Richard Goldstone by claiming that “[a]s we learn elsewhere in the Guardian today, it even offered to sell the South African regime nuclear weapons”.

In fact, even the Guardian has now has to skirt around that claim. Younge goes even further into the realms of hypocrisy by citing a completely false statement from Sasha Polakow-Suransky:

“Throughout the 70s and 80s Israel had a deep, intimate and lucrative relationship with South Africa,” explains Sasha Polakow-Suransky, author of The Unspoken Alliance: Israel’s Secret Relationship With Apartheid South Africa. “Israel’s arms supplies helped to prolong the apartheid regime’s rule and to survive international sanctions.” No criticism of Goldstone’s complicity from representatives of the Israeli state can be taken seriously that does not acknowledge and condemn Israel’s even greater support of the self-same system.

Anyone with the slightest knowledge of South African armaments knows that most of its weapons came from Britain, France and Belgium and were in service at the time of these discussions – for example, the South African Airforce at the time used English Electric Canberra bombers (Period of Service: 1963 – 1991), British Hawker Sidderley Buccaneers (Period of Service: 1965 – 199) and French Dassault-Breguet Mirage fighters (Period of Service: 1965 – 1986) and the army used Belgian FN rifles and machine guns and British-made Alvis Saracen “88” Prototype used extensively to suppress riots in the townships – yet neither Younge nor the Guardian claims that these massive amounts of weaponry, dwarfing anything Israel may have provided, imply that Britain, France and Belgium are or were apartheid states.

9. Perhaps most significant if not obvious of all: there is no evidence that Israel ever sold Jericho missiles to South Africa or that Israel sold nuclear weapons to South Africa (South Africa ended up developing them themselves).

Finally, there are two additional points worth noting regarding the Guardian’s endless desire to blacken Israel’s name at every opportunity.

First, Chris McGreal is now supposed to be the Guardian’s Washington correspondent, but like all good Guardianistas cannot let go of his hatred of Israel. Like a mongrel returning to a bone he has to keep on gnawing at Israel. Even when posted into the capital of the most powerful country in the world, where world affairs such as the global economy might, one would think, pique his interest, his concern is trying to drag up dirt on Israel.

Secondly, the Guardian, as it does so frequently, rushes to judgment with a story before it checks the most basic facts, and lavishes on it exaggerations, innuendo, and false claims. Belatedly, it now has to grudgingly print rebuttals by Peres and Avner Cohen, after regurgitating someone else’s news on CiF, as McGreal has done with Polakow-Suransky’s book.

124 replies »

  1. I happen to be a Mizrahi Jew of Iraqi descent.Our Extended Family is mixed and cohesive,and it has the colors of the rainbow in it ,none of us has ever felt any discrimination.

    All hell would brake loose if we did get discriminated against.

    If Rachel Shabi has felt that she has been discriminated against,she most probably deserved it.

    With her fundamental character and disposition,it should not surprise anyone IF she was treated badly.

  2. Toko LeMoko,

    IF you don’t like pretzelberg, just ignore him that’s what I do, he doesn’t understand humour, even when it is dark, he’s insensitive and a bit thick, that’s it. Nothing else.

    Let’s get back to the issue of this article, the whys and what fors, and let’s ignore the petty bickering, etc it detracts from some otherwise fine analysis.

  3. Modernity

    You’re generally correct, but I remain genuinely shocked and nauseated by Europe’s remorseless hatred of the Jewish state (as the Economist and Shepherd documented).

    That’s the rub in these anti-Israeli charges fabricated and published prominently by the Guardian (or those by the Aftonbladet):
    – there seems to be neither consciousness of, nor remorse for, more than 15 centuries of persecuting Jews
    – there is absolutely no self-questioning of whether – after those 15 centruies – they retain any moral right to lecture a Jewish state
    – like Pretzel, they are obtuse and arrogant in subjecting Israel to a double standard, and ignoring their own extended immoral history.

    But then, the Jewish state must be perfect; European and Muslim states need not be.

  4. Toko LeMoko,

    I don’t disagree with you, but what I think you don’t realise is that a lot of Europeans in particular the Brits, don’t really know anything about the Middle East, anything.

    However, that doesn’t stop them from pontificating or making stupid comments. I find a lot of the time it is pure ignorance not malice, that is at the root of many remarks.

    Although, you would think that IF people are going to discuss the Middle East and in particular Israel on a daily basis then they might make some elementary attempt to educate themselves, but if they are thick and not terribly sensitive, then they may not see the need for self-education, ever.

    I think I would differentiate between those who have serious hangup, such as Richard Hutton, and those who are just palpably ignorant and incapable of elementary research or thought before opening their mouth, such as pretzelberg.

    Years back I use to take the time to correct their most egregious errors, but now I think the ignorant ones are best ignored.

    By that I mean, if people cannot be troubled to educate themselves when they have constant access the Internet, which is a veritable encyclopaedia of information then they are probably not inclined to read books or scholarly works on these complex problems, thus have little to contribute except their own hangups. That’s the reason I don’t read CiF, or the Guardian.

  5. Toko: “But then, the Jewish state must be perfect; European and Muslim states need not be.”

    Exactly. Muslim states can e.g. practice gender apartheid — like Saudi Arabia — and of course nobody will find anything at all wrong in dealing and wheeling with them.

    There’s no denying it that Israel had relations with apartheid SA — and there’s no denying it that the tiny Jewish state, surrounded by hostile countries where an intense Jew-hatred is preached in mosques, schools, universities and spread by the media, couldn’t afford to dispense with a dose of realpolitik to survive. But let’s face it: they don’t like it at the Guardian when Israel does what it takes to survive…

  6. Prezelberg

    “…….Don’t you think Israel should come clean on the nukes issue? Especially as a) it’s been pushing for pressure on Iran and b) Liebermann has been waxing lyrical about nuking Gaza?…..”

    I’m OK with Israel keeping their nuclear program hidden. Everyone knows they have nuclear weapons, and no one will force Israel to dismantle their program. One reason Israel has been after Iran is because Iran also kept their weapons program hidden until they were forced into the open (besides the fact that Iran threatened to annihilate Israel). Israel simply doesn’t want Iran to possess nuclear weapons anymore that Iran wants Israel to have nukes. Unfortunately, once a country has nukes, they are difficult to dismantle (except voluntarily like South Africa). Can’t blame Israel for that Pretz. When it comes to nukes, however, fair is a lousy criteria in my opinion.

    I don’t think that Lieberman will nuke Gaza – or anywhere else.

    “……Oh, come on. That is absolute nonsense. And to think I considered you a reasonable and intelligent poster…..”

    I appreciate the compliment, but while my statement is exaggerated, its not that far from the truth. I’m not going to spend much time defending it, but just from today’s editorial, the Guardian took the view that Iran pursues nuclear weapons because Israel has them – blaming Israel for Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons. Completely ridiculous of course, but that seems to be about par for the course in the Guardian. Didn’t the Guardian also accuse Israel for proliferation of nuclear weapons (to South Africa)? This was all in just one day for God’s sake.

    Just the sheer amount of articles about Israel – most of which are negative – indicates that the Guardian attaches great importance to the IP conflict, playing to a demonstrably left wing and partly antisemitic base. The Guardian probably publishes more articles about Israel than any other country except Britain, (of course, that’s a guess). Yes, I do believe that many very large problems in the world such as the rise of Islamic terrorism or that Israel is a great (if not greatest) threat to world peace is promoted by the Guardian. No doubt the Guardian believes that the settlements are the biggest obstacle to peace in the IP conflict as well. And it doesn’t stop there either.


  7. spoton

    With her fundamental character and disposition,it should not surprise anyone IF she was treated badly.

    Her appearance is not encouraging either. Unless you like that sort of thing of course.

  8. There’s no denying it that Israel had relations with apartheid SA
    There’s no denying that the UK and the USA had extensive trade relations with South Africa, too. There were a lot of people who were disappointed when South Africa became legitimate.

    The Kingdom of Lesotho on South Africa’s borders had a depot where “Made in South Africa” was covered with a label “Made in Lesotho” and the produce concerned was railed onwards to the African states that were boycotting South Africa.

  9. Toko LeMoko

    But we all know Turkey is a moderate, secular, democratic Muslim state, don’t we?

    I read the story.

    Can we expect an expose by The Guardian??

  10. Can we expect an expose by The Guardian??

    Yes. Georgina will put it in the culture section under “recipes for Turkey dinner” and explain that Turkey’s problems are due to its disagreement with grease, and that, in the end, it’s all the fault of the juice.

  11. The Turks ARE the worst of the worst when it comes human rights abuses,we should send a map to the Guardian with Turkey marked by an arrow on that map.

    The Guardian never heard of Turkey,or of it’s human rights abuses.You wouldn’t want to be a Kurd living in Turkey.

    Come to think of it you wouldn’t even want to be a Turk living in Turkey.

  12. Toko:
    I’m with Pretzelberg – you are an idiot !!! Go play in the CiF sandbox.

  13. Richard Hutton – as I just finished with your latest on this thread Isee it’s really nothing. Absolutely nothing at all. You just regurgitate and parrot all the already by AKUS refuted lies offered by the Guardian. and for effect you sprinkle it all by various distortions and effect-enhancers like McGreal’s longtime Mid East reporter or to this effect. Man, he was a correspondent for 4 years, f-o-u-r! that’s nothing you idiot!

  14. I for now relinquish a long explanation, but I’m also with Pretzelberg. Later expound on why.

  15. Toko LeMoko

    But Pretzel, you are a closet anti-Semite and should have no credibility on a Jewish site.

    a) Calling me a “closet anti-Semite” once more proves that you are a lunatic.
    b) FYI this is not a Jewish site.

    Will you tell us that both Shepherd and the Economist are racist?

    Of course not. Where on earth did you get that from?
    You’re putting words in my mouth that you want to believe.


    IF you don’t like pretzelberg, just ignore him that’s what I do, he doesn’t understand humour, even when it is dark, he’s insensitive and a bit thick, that’s it.

    We disagree on certain issues. Resorting to calling me “thick” only reflects poorly on you yourself.
    As you suggest: let’s get back to the issue of this article – and leave out the baseless insults.

    @ JerusalemMite

    Calling people “thick” just because they disagree with you will not get you far in life.

  16. @ Tom Wonacott

    – It would indeed be ridiculous for a G. editorial to be “blaming Israel for Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons” – and to be honest I wouldn’t put it past them. But if you’re talking about the editorial on 25 May, then I fail to see where such blame is being laid.

    – I agree that there is far too much coverage of Israel/Palestine on the G.

  17. Indeed, it is an interesting question to ask why a British quality newspaper would spend so much time and energy covering a conflict/disputed area in which it has really know part.

    My understanding is that there are some 300 other conflicts going on in the world at any one point, from the Congo to Colombia to China’s occupation of Tibet, etc etc

    Yet none of them receive anywhere near the coverage.

    So you have to ask the obvious question, why do editors (who have no dog in this race) feel the necessity to concentrate on that region?

    Even then it is not that region.

    There are approximately 22 plus members of the Arab league and if we added coverage of those countries up, then my bet is that it would be less than the total coverage of Israel in the Guardian.

    That’s not because there aren’t atrocities, corruption, disputes or otherwise noteworthy stories in the countries of the Arab league, but they’re not covered in any meaningful fashion

    So any thoughtful and reasonable person might ask, why?

  18. Mind/Gabor, you are “with” which of Pretzelberg’s various inanities?

    That Arab pro-Nazi agitation isn’t anti-Semitism, just anti-colonialism?

    That Europe adores Israel? That the Economist and Shepherd are wrong when they document Europe’s hatred of Israel?

    That Europe hasn’t engaged in 16 centuries of oppressing Jews? It’s all a figment of Zionists’ imaginations?

    That Bataween is uninformed when asserting Obama’s complete indifference to Mizrahi interests?

    That Shavuot is unrelated to the wheat harvest?

    Anti-Semitism comes in many forms, unfortunately not all so easily-identifiable as those who write Holocaust revisionism. There are also milder anti-Semites, those like Pretzel who deny the obvious and millennia-long Muslim and European hatred of Jews. Insisting Arab pro-Nazism merely anti-colonialsim is a combination of grotesque ignorance with a complete insensitivity and indifference to the Jewish situation and to the extreme anti-Semitism endemic in Arab culture.

    Denying a minority recognition of their victimisation, is itself bigotry.

    The man is an ignorant, pedantic anti-Semite of indifference. Be careful not to lay down with such, or you may get up with the same fleas.

    Tipesh kmo naal.

  19. Toko LeMoko

    Mind/Gabor, you are “with” which of Pretzelberg’s various inanities? … That the Economist and Shepherd are wrong when they document Europe’s hatred of Israel?

    Weird. I’ve never said such a thing – and haven’t even mentioned either on this thread! Only Toko has!

    That Europe hasn’t engaged in 16 centuries of oppressing Jews?

    Again: I’ve neither said nor insinuated any such thing!

    Sheer insanity from Toko, here.

  20. As regards Rusbridger’s balls

    Rumour has it that Georgina Henry is wearing them for earrings.