Israel's boycott of the BBC will
make its coverage of the
intifada more difficult

The head of the Israeli government’s press service Daniel Seaman made the announcement late on Monday.

“No official, minister or spokesman will appear on the BBC until further notice,” said Seaman.

He said that the BBC reporters’ press cards and work permits would also “take more time”. The British broadcaster's journalists would still be allowed access to press conferences at Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s office.

The measures came after the BBC aired a programme titled “Israel’s Secret Weapon” which indicates that Israel is secretly stockpiling nuclear and chemical weapons.

The programme, part of the “Correspondent” series, also says Israel unleashed an unknown gas against Palestinian civilians in the occupied Gaza Strip in 2001 that sent 180 people to the hospital with severe convulsions.

Israel denied at the time using poison gas.

“Israel’s Secret Weapon” cites proliferation experts as saying Israel has “the world’s sixth largest nuclear arsenal with small tactical nuclear weapons…as well as medium range nuclear missiles launchable from air, land or sea”.

The Jerusalem Post has reported that Seaman’s office intends to impose visa restrictions on the BBC staff, refuse to help journalists stuck at Israeli checkpoints and airport security checks.

Israeli defiance 

Israel was angered by the BBC's
programme on the Sabra and
Shatila massacre

Israeli government public policy is deliberately vague on its nuclear weapons. Israel has refused to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, aimed at halting the spread of nuclear arms because it refuses to allow international inspections.

In 1986 Mordechai Vanunu, a former technician at the country’s Dimona nuclear plant, gave to a London newspaper pictures of what appeared to be nuclear weapons at the plant. 

He is now serving an 18-year term for treason and espionage.

This is not the first row between Israel and the BBC. Israel protested bitterly against a June 2001 documentary in which legal experts said Sharon should be indicted for failing to prevent the 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacres which left up to 2,000 civilians killed.

The killings were carried out during Israel’s 1982 invasion of Beirut. An Israeli inquiry found Sharon, who was then Defence Minister, indirectly responsible and forced him to resign in 1983.