Israel considers protesting BBC show on `secret weapons'
-Program focuses on country's nuclear program

from Ha'aretz
Sunday, March 16, 2003 Adar2 12, 5763 Israel Time: 04:23 (GMT+2)

By Sharon Sadeh

LONDON - Israel is considering lodging a vehement protest after the BBC airs a national program Sunday about the country's nuclear program, dubbed "Israel's secret weapon."

The program reportedly examines the "double standard" of the international community with regard to Israel's and Iraq's unconventional weapons.

The program allegedly claims the army used some form of unidentified chemical weapons against Palestinians in February 2001. It focuses on efforts made by Israel to cover up its development of unconventional weapons, among other things referring to Mordechai Vanunu, serving an 18-year term for passing information about Israel's nuclear program in Dimona to a British newspaper, and the trial of Brig. Gen. (res.) Yitzhak Yoav, who was convicted of showing two unpublished book manuscripts, one fictional and the other a memoir, to unauthorized people.

The producers tried to meet with former workers from the Dimona nuclear reactor who in the past claimed they fell ill as a result of their work. But the program says the workers refused to be interviewed because they were frightened by the Shin Bet.

Former prime minister Shimon Peres was interviewed for the program, rejecting any comparison between Israel and Iraq, but apparently evading questions about Israel's efforts to conceal its nuclear weapons program.

A spokesman for the BBC said "the program was produced against the background of developments in the Vanunu case and tries to examine the double standards of the international community, particularly the United States, with regard to Israel's unconventional weapons programs compared to those of Iraq."

The spokesman denied the program was produced for political reasons. He said the defense ministry refused to comment on the program, but that efforts were still underway to get a defense ministry comment.

The Israeli embassy said "the producers did not ask the foreign ministry or the IDF Spokesman's Office for a reaction and we will respond after the program is aired."