Israel, Vanunu, and the Bomb

Yoel Cohen

In 1986, Mordechai Vanunu, a technician at Israel's highly secret nuclear arms research center at Dimona, disclosed highly classified details about Israel's nuclear arms program to the London Sunday Times. As a result, Vanunu was kidnapped from London and taken back to Israel where, after a closed door trial, he was sentenced to eighteen years imprisonment for espionage and treason.

In The Whistleblower of Dimona, Yoel Cohen discusses, among other questions, whether Israel should have the bomb, whether Vanunu was justified in his whistleblowing, and what the responsibilities of the Sunday Times are toward its informer. The book traces Vanunu's personal history and probes the lack of internal security at Dimona, which made it possible for Vanunu to provide the Sunday Times with such information.

The book provides the first extensive publication of the deliberations at Vanunu's trial held behind closed doors. It is drawn from thousands of pages of court transcripts made available to the author. These include sensational testimony by senior Israeli ministers and officials intimately involved with the Dimona project.

Cohen examines the consequences of the Vanunu Affair for Israel's intelligence community, the Israel-Arab balance of power, and the nuclear development of Iraq and Iran. Cohen also makes use of the most recent information available, integrating the records of the Vanunu trial that, until late 1999, had not been released by the Israeli courts.

"Joel Cohen, a British-born researcher living in Jerusalem, has been following the Vanunu case for years. The result is the definitive record of the man's suffering but also of Israel's not-so-secret possession of nuclear weapons and the problems [they] create, a vital issue clouded in mystery. Cohen shrewdly asks, who is empowered to make nuclear decisions? And 'what happens if a prime minister goes indane and wants to press the button... is the decision-making framework sufficient to avoid a disaster?'"
—Jewish Peace Fellowship

"A careful and meticulous study of the Vanunu affair, this startling expose involves Israel's intelligence community, and draws from thousands of pages of court transcripts and testimony connected to the case. The Whistleblower of Dimona is compelling and strongly recommended reading—especially in light of contemporary international events in the Middle East."
—Midwest Book Review

Praise for the earlier edition:

"The book, written by someone with considerable insight into the world of newspapers and investigative journalism, is a compelling read."
—"Book of the Week," BBC

"For the first time the background to the events surrounding Vanunu's disclosure is provided."
—Focus, Germany

"Cohen has provided a comprehensive and excellent account not only of what Mordechai Vanunu actually did, but of the political and social background to the affair ... he also lays a few ghosts."
—Middle East International, London

Yoel Cohen is a British-born academic currently living in Jerusalem, where he teaches mass communications and government studies. He is the author of Media Diplomacy: the Foreign Office in the Mass Communication Age and is also a contributor to newspapers and magazines in several countries.

March 2003 • 392 pp • index, graphs, photographs
ISBN 0-8419-1432-X (cloth) • $45.00
ISBN 0-8419-1409-5 (paper) • $24.95

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