Why Israel`s Enemies Must Never Be Allowed Nuclear Weapons


"I will do such things — What they are yet I know not — but they

shall be the terrors of the earth."


Shakespeare, King Lear


Israel holds nuclear weapons for only one purpose: To prevent catastrophic

destruction of the Jewish state by enemy state aggression. It is altogether

inconceivable that Israel would ever resort to such weapons as an initial move of

war. Certain Arab states and/or Iran, however, might at some point seriously

consider nuclear attacks upon Israel with manifestly annihilatory intent. If these

countries were ever allowed to acquire nuclear weapons, Israel could discover that

its very existence had become dependent upon the pleasure and more or less mea-

sured judgments of openly genocidal enemies. With this in mind, Project Daniel`s

Final Report makes very specific and far-reaching recommendations to ensure that

such dependence never comes to pass, and that these enemies remain non-nuclear.


What, exactly, does Israel have to fear? More than 25 years ago, I published

the first of several books dealing scientifically with the expected consequences of a

nuclear war. These palpably nightmarish effects are even more pertinent today, not

only to India and Pakistan in Southwest Asia, and to the potential targets of a

rapidly nuclearizing North Korea, but also to the tiny State of Israel — a country so

small that it could fit more than two times into Lake Michigan.


The first genuinely large-scale, authoritative study of nuclear war

consequences was a 1975 report titled: Long Term Worldwide Effects of Multiple

Nuclear Weapons Detonations. Although the scale of this National Academy of

Science report`s assumptions were vastly greater than what concerns us here, the

likely kinds of physical and biological effects are still very appropriate to

present-day Israel. Some of these effects involve temperature changes;

contamination of food and water by radionuclides; disease epidemics in crops,

domesticated animals, and in humans due to ionizing radiation; shortening of

growing seasons; irreversible injuries to aquatic species; widespread and long-term

carcinogenesis due to inhalation of plutonium particles; radiation-induced

developmental anomalies in persons in-utero at the time of detonations; a vast

increase in incidence of skin cancers; and an increasing incidence of genetic disease.


Overwhelming health problems would afflict the survivors of a nuclear attack

upon Israel. These problems would extend far beyond the uncontrollable

consequences of prompt burn injuries. Retinal burns would occur in the eyes of

persons as far as several hundred miles from the explosions. Israelis would be

crushed by collapsing buildings and torn to shreds by flying glass. Others would fall

victim to raging firestorms. Fallout injuries would include whole-body radiation

injury, produced by penetrating, hard gamma radiations; superficial radiation burns

produced by soft radiations; and injuries produced by deposits of radioactive

substances within the body.


After an Arab and/or Iranian nuclear attack, even a "small" one, those few

medical facilities that might still exist in Israel would be taxed well beyond capacity.

Water supplies would become altogether unusable. Housing and shelter could be

unavailable for hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions, of survivors.

Transportation would break down to rudimentary levels. Food shortages would be

critical and long-term.


Israel`s complex network of interlocking and interdependent exchange

systems would be shattered. Virtually everyone would be deprived of the most

basic means of livelihood. Emergency police and fire services would be decimated.

All systems dependent upon electrical power could stop functioning. Severe trauma

would occasion widespread disorientation and psychiatric disorders for which there

would be absolutely no therapeutic services.


Normal human society would cease. The pestilence of unrestrained murder

and banditry would augment the pestilence of plague and epidemics. With the

passage of time, many of the survivors would expect an increased incidence of

serious degenerative diseases and various forms of cancer. They would also expect

premature death; impairment of vision; and sterility. Among the survivors of

Hiroshima, an increased incidence of leukemia and cancers of the lung, stomach,

breast, ovary and uterine cervix has been widely documented.


Many of the most delicately balanced relationships in nature would be upset

by the extensive fallout. Israelis who would survive the nuclear attack would have to

deal with enlarged and voracious insect populations. Like the locusts of Biblical

times, mushrooming insect populations would spread unimpeded from the

radiation-damaged areas in which they arose.


Insects are generally more resistant to radiation than humans. This fact,

coupled with the prevalence of unburied corpses, uncontrolled waste and untreated

sewage, would generate tens of trillions of flies and mosquitoes. Breeding in the

dead bodies, these insects would make it impossible to control typhus, malaria,

dengue fever and encephalitis. Throughout Israel, the largest health threat would be

posed by tens or even hundreds of thousands of rotting human corpses. In many

areas of the country, radiation levels would be so high that corpses could remain

untouched for weeks or months. Even if it were operationally possible, in order to

bury the dead, areas much larger than Israel`s now uninhabitable cities would be

needed for the cemetery.


This is only the tip of the iceberg; indeed, it is a deliberate understatement of

what could be expected. Various interactions between individual effects of nuclear

weapons — "synergies" to the experts — would make matters far worse. It follows

from what has been described that Israel must do whatever is necessary to protect

itself from enemy nuclear aggression, including timely preemptive attacks against

relevant enemy hard targets and recognizable preparations for massive counter-city

nuclear reprisals. International law is not a suicide pact. Under authoritative

international rules, such expressions of anticipatory self- defense and nuclear

deterrence could be entirely permissible.


Israel cannot afford to make the same security mistakes on this existential issue

that it made earlier in the Oslo Accords and is now continuing with the so-called

"Road Map." Here, in the apocalyptic realm of nuclear weapons and nuclear war,

mistakes would be final and unforgiving. Given the opportunity, Iran and possibly

certain Arab states could even become suicide bombers in macrocosm, willing to

strike first even at the risk of absorbing devastating Israeli reprisals. Tactically and

politically, Israeli preemptions would best be conducted in tandem with the United

States, but if there should be no alternative to acting alone, solitary defensive

strikes against relevant military targets would be preferable to waiting helplessly for

another Holocaust.


My next column will reveal some of Project Daniel`s precise

recommendations for remaining intact and for preventing enemy nuclear

aggressions. In that column, I will also relate these recommendations to the ancient

classic of military strategy, Sun-Tzu`s The Art Of War.#9689;


© Copyright, 2004. The Jewish Press. All rights reserved.


LOUIS RENE BERES was educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971) and is Professor of

International Law at Purdue. He is Chair of Project Daniel and Strategic and Military Affairs

columnist for The Jewish Press.


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