Israeli General Escapes Nuclear Espionage Conviction

The day after Vanunu's May 13 court appearance, a retired Israeli brigadier general was acquitted on nuclear espionage charges. Yitzhak Yaacov, 76, has been held for over a year under house arrest at an Israeli hospital following his secretive arrest (see article from I Am Your Spy, Summer 2001). Yaacov was convicted on a lesser charge of giving classified information to an unauthorized person.

The court ruled that despite ample warning not to, Yaacov had sent completed but unpublished manuscripts of his memoirs and a thinly veiled work of fiction to several people, including journalists. The books were characterized as vainly describing Yaacov's own involvement in the development of Israel's secret nuclear arsenal, complete with illicit details. Yaacov directed Israeli weapons development programs in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and faces a maximum 15 year sentence.

Defense ministry officials initially painted Yaacov's actions as akin to Vanunu's alleged treason. The Tel Aviv district court criticized this stance, concluding Yaacov meant no harm to the state. But of course, neither did Mordechai Vanunu, whose act of conscience was intended to inform the public that Israel was building a secret nuclear arsenal.

Who might humanity admire more, from the vantage of history: a powerful ex-military man who bragged about helping to create clandestine weapons of mass destruction; or the awakened worker who decided that, in a democracy, citizens have a right to know that their government is building such weapons?