Divert! NUMEC, Zalman Shapiro and the Diversion of U.S. Weapons Grade Uranium Into the Israeli Nuclear Weapons Program By Grant F. Smith, Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy, 2012, paperback, 310 pp. List: $19.95; AET: $15.
Reviewed by Andrew I. Killgore
In Divert! (the FBI code name for its investigation), Grant F. Smith describes how Zalman Shapiro and David Lowenthal stole American weapons grade uranium to help Israel develop nuclear weapons. Shapiro used a "front" company, NUMEC (Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corporation), started in the economically depressed borough of Apollo, Pennsylvania, as the cover for his operation. In the book's introduction Smith poses a dark question: "Is there anything the Israeli government and its vast network of operatives and elite political contributors in the U.S. would not do to expand Israel's power and influence, with the sound of war drums for America to attack Iran growing louder? Divert! provides the terrifying answer."
Divert! comprises 16 chapters in 207 pages, with another 100 pages of documents reluctantly released by the U.S. government. The last chapter is entitled "An Israeli Operation From the Beginning," with overwhelming proof to support the charge. The longest chapter, at 52 pages, is consumed by a Dec. 21, 1978 questioning of Shapiro by Rep. Morris Udall, then-chairman of the House Committee of Interior and Insular Affairs.
Udall explained to Shapiro and his counsel that the committee was mainly concerned with nuclear safeguards, and that it was investigating NUMEC because it had heard that a substantial amount of bomb grade uranium had been diverted from a processing plant run by NUMEC.
Asked why he started NUMEC, Shapiro replied that he had simply wanted to own a business by himself. (The real reason was to steal weapons grade uranium for Israel.)
Udall: "Was Israel involved in this?"
Shapiro: "Absolutely not."
Udall: "You are certain of this."
Shapiro: "I am positive."
Udall: "Did you...use your plant to divert to Israel?"
Udall: "...the [Atomic Energy] Commission suspected Dr. Shapiro of having helped divert bomb grade uranium to Israel. Do you remember having said that?"
Shapiro: "I don't recall it."
Shapiro was consistently evasive and misleading during the hearing. Chairman Udall kept getting back to Israel and whether the missing uranium might have ended up there. Shapiro continued to deny that that was the case. To the many questions asked about NUMEC, Shapiro was remarkably unresponsive. …