June 2004

Dozens of corner stores across Israel are at the centre of a divisive legal battle which is tearing apart the traditional consensus about the character of the Jewish state and who should be considered a Jew. Gennady Ozadovsky’s Super Ta’anug store – in the city of Karmiel in northern Israel – is one of them. It has shelves stuffed with everything from hummus, pretzels and pitta bread, to low-fat yoghurt and beer. For the world it looks like any other corner supermarket in Israel. Ozadovsky, an immigrant from the former Soviet Union, has offended the sensibilities of his religious neighbours by stocking non-kosher products in his shop, including pork meat, sausages and shellfish.

What Vanunu knows

25 June 2004

He was the last breakfast companion I was expecting. Separated from me by a rack of toast was Mordechai Vanunu, the man who 18 years ago revealed that Israel had amassed a secret stockpile of nuclear weapons. Breakfast at the St George’s guest house in East Jerusalem is usually a sedate affair, but on this occasion both he and I were skating unintentionally but dangerously close to arrest by Israel’s security services. Vanunu, who found sanctuary in the grounds of the Anglican cathedral of St George’s when he was released from jail two months ago, is under a gagging order imposed by the Israeli government. He is banned from talking to foreigners, especially foreign journalists, as the former Sunday Times reporter Peter Hounam discovered recently when he was arrested by the Shin Bet secret services and deported.

For the first time in nearly two decades, nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu was able to speak directly to the world in an interview with the British media at the weekend. Jonathan Cook reports Both The Sunday Times and the BBC gave a platform to Vanunu in an interview, held in secret, in which he told of his reasons in 1986 for revealing to the world the existence of some 200 Israeli nuclear warheads, of his kidnap by a Mossad agent in Rome and of severe treatment at the hands of Israeli prison authorities. Although the former technician at the Dimona nuclear plant in the Negev had not been allowed to speak of these or any other matters since his capture by Israel, there was little that was explosive in his latest revelations. T

For the past year, members of the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee have been meeting on Sundays to draft a constitution that would, once and for all, define the nature of the state and the rights and obligations of citizenship. The task of hammering out a written constitution has confounded Israeli governments and legislators for more than five decades. Strangely, given its historic nature, the committee’s work has attracted almost no media coverage, even though—or, maybe, precisely because—it threatens to reopen wounds that have not fully healed since the Jewish state’s blood-stained birth in 1948.