Mordechai Vanunu: “The Atomic Spy” as a Nuclear Threat to Discourse in Israeli Society
Commenced in January 2007
Frequency: Monthly
Edition: International
Paper Count: 32797
Mordechai Vanunu: “The Atomic Spy” as a Nuclear Threat to Discourse in Israeli Society

Authors: Ada Yurman


Using the case of Israeli Atomic Spy Mordechai Vanunu as an example, this study sought to examine social response to political deviance whereby social response can be mobilized in order to achieve social control. Mordechai Vanunu, a junior technician in the Dimona Atomic Research Center, played a normative role in the militaristic discourse while working in the “holy shrine” of the Israeli defense system for many years. At a certain stage, however, Vanunu decided to detach himself from this collective and launched an assault on this top-secret circle. Israeli society in general and the security establishment in particular found this attack intolerable and unforgivable. They presented Vanunu as a ticking time bomb, delegitimized him and portrayed him as “other”. In addition, Israeli enforcement authorities imposed myriad prohibitions and sanctions on Vanunu even after his release from prison – “as will be done to he who desecrates holiness.” Social response to Vanunu at the time of his capture and trial was studied by conducting a content analysis of six contemporary daily newspapers. The analysis focused on use of language and forms of expression. In contrast with traditional content analysis methodology, this study did not just look at frequency of expressions of ideas and terms in the text and covert content; rather, the text was analyzed as a structural whole, and included examination of style, tone and unusual use of imagery, and more, in order to uncover hidden messages within the text. The social response to this case was extraordinarily intense, not only because in this case of political deviance, involving espionage and treason, Vanunu’s actions comprised a real potential threat to the country, but also because of the threat his behavior posed to the symbolic universe of society. Therefore, the response to this instance of political deviance can be seen as being part of a mechanism of social control aiming to protect world view of society as a whole, as well as to punish the criminal.

Keywords: Militarism, political deviance, social construction, social control.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI):

Procedia APA BibTeX Chicago EndNote Harvard JSON MLA RIS XML ISO 690 PDF Downloads 633


[1] N. Tzabar Ben-Yehoshua, Qualitative Research in Social Science, Givatayim, Israel: Masada Publications, 1995.
[2] M. Foucault, The Archaeology of Knowledge, New Tel Aviv: Resling Publishers, 2005.
[3] D. Gurevitch, Post-modernism Culture and Literature at the End of the 20th Century, Tel Aviv: Dvir, 1997.
[4] U. Ben-Eliezer, The Making of Israeli Militarism 1939-1956, Tel-Aviv: Dvir, 1995.
[5] S. Weitman, “Prenoms et orientations en Israel, 1882-1990,” Annales, vol. 42, pp. 879-900, 1987.
[6] E. Haber and Y. Melman, The Spies: Israel’s Counter-Espionage Wars. Tel Aviv: Yediot Books, 2002.
[7] Davar, October 27, 1986, page 1.
[8] Haaretz, November 6, 1986, page 7.
[9] Haaretz, November 11, 1986, page 11.
[10] Davar, August 28, 1987, page 1.
[11] Yediot Aharonot, July 12, 1995, page 1.
[12] Haaretz, February 26, 2004, page 6a.
[13] Haaretz, Magazine, March 19, 2004, page 42.
[14] Haaretz, July 27, 2004, page 2.
[15] Maariv, July 3, 2007, page 2.
[16] Yediot Aharonot, November 3, 1986, page 2.
[17] Haaretz, April 16, 2008, page 16.
[18] P. Conrad and J. Schneider, Deviance and Medicalization: From Badness to Sickness, St. Louis: Mosby,. 1980.
[19] Headline, November 19, 1986. pages 11-13.
[20] Maariv, November 7, 1986, page 13
[21] Maariv, September 2,1990, page 1.
[22] Yediot Aharonot, May 3, 2004, page 2.
[23] Hadashot, September 2, 1990, page 9.
[24] Maariv, November 3, 1986, page 1.
[25] Davar, November 11, 1986, page 7.
[26] Al Hamishmar, 30.3.1988, page 16.
[27] Haaretz, February 27, 2004, page 4B.
[28] Yediot Aharonot, April 19, 1998, page 3.
[29] Haaretz, February 14, 2000, page 1B.
[30] B. Kimmerling, “Militarism in Israeli Society,” Theory and Criticism, vol. 4, pp. 120-143, 1993.
[31] P. Berger and T. Luckman, The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge, New York: Doubleday, 1966.
[32] D. Ben Gurion, “Letter to Shmuel Sambursky”, David Ben Gurion Archive Ben Gurion Research Center, Sde Boker, Israel, 1963.
[33] A. Gramsci, Selections from the Prison Notebooks, Tel Aviv: Resling, 2009.
[34] B. Bourdieu, Sociology in Question, New York: Sage, 1993.
[35] A. Yurman, The victimization motif as a guiding principle of Israeli Discourse. International Review of Victimology, vol 15, pp. 59-83.
[36] Haolam Hazeh, December 24, 1986, pages 7-9.