79 Minutes
Narration and subtitles: English, French, German and Hebrew
Produced by: Tura Communications LTD
Producer: Abraham Kushnir

Synopsis - French
Video Clip
Screening History
International Distribution
Production Team
External Links



A bomb in the Basement is the first documentary film that tells the story of the development of Israel's nuclear option. It focuses on the French-Israeli nuclear connection and the American administration unsuccessful effort to stop Israel's nuclear project.

The development of its nuclear option was the most complex, costly and secret project ever carried out by Israel. David Ben Gurion, Israel's creator, begun to contemplate producing an ultimate deterrent in the early years of statehood. The lesson of the Holocaust and fears for Israel's survival persuaded Ben Gurion that the state must have a definitive weapon as a kind of a life insurance.


The documentary describes under what circumstances Israel would be forced to use nuclear weapons. Foreign sources, quoted in the documentary reveal that Israel has declared a nuclear alert on three occasions in the past.
The film describes the complex negotiations leading to the signing of the nuclear treaty with France and the complicated political and technical process, under which Dimona's reactor had been constructed. It shows how indiscretion of Israeli scientists exposed Dimona's reactor to an American scientist, leading President Kennedy's administration to require that Israel's nuclear project will be placed under international supervision. The tension eased only at the beginning of the seventies, when PM Golda Meir persuaded President Richard Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to approve tacitly the existence Israel's nuclear option. In return Israel guaranteed to maintain nuclear opacity. Over the years, Israel's strategy of opacity became a highly effective deterrent weapon.

The controversy between the United States and Israel on the future of the Israeli nuclear project was the main issue in relations between the two countries for more then a decade.

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Durée: 79'  
Format: Betacam Digital. Couleur et Noir & blanc

Michael KARPIN Réalisation, Production : Tura Communications LTD; Maison Prod, Itzak NAVON Intervenant, Michael BAR-ZOHAR Intervenant, Ze'ev SHIEF Intervenant, Shimon PERES Intervenant, Jean LACOUTURE Intervenant, Pierre PÉAN Intervenant, Abel THOMAS Intervenant, Issar HAREL Intervenant, Paul C. WARNKE Intervenant.

Image: Nili Aslan, Guy Jackson; Son: Ilan Rosenberg, Nir Zinmon, Gilli Ben Ze'ev; Montage: Shlomi Shalom; Musique: Piotr Tchaïkovski


Une bombe à retardement est le premier documentaire qui raconte l'histoire du développement nucléaire israélien. Il relate les connections nucléaires franco-israéliennes et décrit les efforts infructueux de l'administration américaine pour stopper la construction de la bombe par Israël. Le développement du projet nucléaire fut le plus complexe, le plus onéreux et le plus confidentiel de tous les projets jamais entrepris par Israël. David Ben-Gurion, le fondateur d'Israël, a commencé à suggérer le moyen ultime de dissuasion dès les premières années de la construction de l'Etat. La leçon de l'Holocauste et les craintes pour la survie d'Israël ont persuadé Ben-Gurion que l'Etat devait se munir de cette arme comme "assurance vie" pour le pays. Les sources étrangères, citées dans le document révèlent qu'Israël a déclaré une alerte nucléaire à trois reprises par le passé. Le film décrit dans quelles circonstances cet Etat serait forcé d'utiliser ce type d'arme.

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Television Networks:

Israeli nuclear project and the functions of Dimona's nuclear reactor are rarely mentioned by the countries' media. On November 2001, Screening A Bomb in the Basement by Channel Two in Israel was a unique event.

Television networks in Switzerland, France, Germany, Spain, Denmark, Italy, Morocco, Canada and Israel screened the documentary.

Arte (German-French Satellite TV) screened the documentary on June 4, 2002 (German - Die Bombe im Keller, Die Israelische Atom-Option; French - L'option Nucléair Israélienne.

Film Festivals:

  • 15th Dallas Video Festival, 2002
  • 10th Toronto Jewish Film Festival; 2002 Seattle Jewish Film Festival
  • 2004 Atlanta Jewish Film Festival
  • 15th Vancouver Jewish Film Festival
  • 2003 Lenore Marwil Jewish Film Festival in Detroit
  • Sydney Film Festival

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Documentary Says Israel Got Nuclear Weapons From France

AP, November 02, 2001, JERUSALEM  — Israel has made no secret of the fact that it has a nuclear reactor, which it says it uses for peaceful purposes. But a new television documentary says Israel developed nuclear weapons from French technology acquired in the late 1950s.

While no Israeli official will confirm or deny such reports, the film has not been stopped by Israel's military censor.

It shows a former French Defense Ministry official saying that the head of the French Atomic Energy Commission, Francis Perrin, advised then-Prime Minister Guy Mollet to give Israel a nuclear bomb. "Francis Perrin called Guy Mollet," says the official, Abel Thomas. "He told him that Israel should be supplied with a nuclear bomb."

Neither Mollet nor Perrin is still alive. Thomas was the chief of political staff for Maurice Bourges-Mounory, France's defense minister at the time. He said the offer came after Moscow threatened nuclear strikes against France, Israel and Britain for having sent troops into the Sinai peninsula. The deployment came after Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal, which had been owned by British and French businesses.

The documentary says France supplied a nuclear reactor and scientists and technicians to set it up in Israel. The French agreed to supply enriched uranium, the documentary says, and cites foreign reports as saying France also supplied a plant for producing plutonium. Further quoting foreign sources, the documentary says France also sold Israel Mirage jets that had been adapted to carry a nuclear payload.

A French Defense Ministry spokesman in Paris said Friday that he knew nothing about the allegations. He said there would be no comment until ministry officials had seen the documentary.
The film, "A Bomb in the Basement -- Israel's Nuclear Option," marks the first time Israel's nuclear armory has been covered in depth by the Israeli media, which is subject to military censorship, said creator Michael Karpin.

Israel describes its policy as one of "nuclear ambiguity," where it will neither confirm nor deny its nuclear capability but pledges not to be the first in the region to use nuclear weapons.

It says its nuclear plant, at Dimona in the Negev Desert, is for peaceful research and industry.


Leaks and peeks key to Israel's nuclear ambiguity

By Dan Williams

Reuters, November 10, 2003 - Forty years ago a flustered Shimon Peres faced off with U.S. President John F. Kennedy on a secret seen as key to the Jewish state's survival, and got away with saying next to nothing.
"Kennedy began bombarding me with questions. Suddenly he says, 'Are you making an atom bomb?' I told him, 'Mr. President, I can promise you one thing: Israel will not be the first to introduce nuclear weapons into the Middle East,'" Peres recalled in the recent documentary film "A Bomb in the Basement".
That side step by Israel's veteran statesman evolved into a strategy of ambiguity straddling two national needs -- to strike fear into numerically superior foes while calming global jitters at any doomsday sabre-rattling in the volatile Middle East.
"We chose uncertainty, which afforded deterrence as far as the Arabs were concerned and convenience as far as our friends were concerned," Peres said.
Last month, as international calls for the inspection of Iran's atomic reactors mounted, the Los Angeles Times reported that Israel had extended its reach to the Islamic republic by arming U.S.-made, submarine-launched missiles with nuclear warheads. The newspaper cited U.S. administration sources and -- in the first such claim by a reputable publication -- said an Israeli "official" confirmed the missile had been modified.
The Pentagon and Israeli government declined comment. Duncan Lennox, editor of Jane's Strategic Weapons Systems, said the report's timing was no less important than its truthfulness.
"Iran must be very worrying to Israel. Hence I would think that the stories of Israel's capabilities may be aimed at saying to Iran, 'You may get some nuclear weapons, but there will always be retaliation if you attack first,'" Lennox said.
Such theories sit well with Israeli journalists like Michael Karpin, whose "A Bomb in the Basement" enjoyed unprecedented access to the nation's atomic architects and privileged files. He attributed this to the fact the film was made shortly after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States: "It seems Israel, fearing a new and yet-unknown global terror threat, decided it was time to reveal more of its own threats."
Yet a senior Israeli official insisted such initiatives are unnecessary. "The appeal of uncovering our capabilities -- whatever they may be -- is such that people will talk no matter what we do," said the official on condition of anonymity.


By Inigo Gilmore, Filed: 23/12/2001

A television documentary in which Shimon Peres, Israel's foreign minister, discloses for the first time details about Israel's acquisition of nuclear weapons is to be broadcast in the Arab world. It is intended, at a time of rising tensions, as a warning. In the documentary, Mr. Peres goes further than any other Israeli official in confirming that the Jewish state has a nuclear capability. He and former French government officials give details about co-operation between Israel and France in launching Israel's nuclear programme.

The film, made by a leading Israeli documentary team, is a sign that the government may be finally relaxing its rule of absolute silence on its nuclear programme.

The documentary's Israeli director, Michael Karpin, who previously made a controversial film about the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, said he was not sure until a few weeks ago whether military censors would allow the programme to be broadcast.


Top Five List of Nuclear Secrets Revealed in 2001

1. Reports surface about the use of humans as guinea pigs in nuclear experiments from the 1950s to the 1970s.

2. In a documentary, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres goes further than any other Israeli official in confirming that Israel has nuclear capability and discloses for the first time details about Israel's acquisition of nuclear weapons.

At a time of rising tensions in the Middle East, Israel's broadcasting media aired a television documentary in November in which Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres discloses for the first time details about Israel's acquisition of nuclear weapons. In the documentary, Peres goes further than any other Israeli official in confirming that the country has nuclear capability. Along with French officials, Peres gives details about cooperation between Israel and France in launching Israel's nuclear program.

3. The UK Ministry of Defense (MoD) admits for the first time partial details of seven politically sensitive accidents involving British nuclear weapon, drawing attention to an institution shrouded in secrecy and cover-up.

4. The French Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) admits that Moruroa Atoll is threatened with collapse because of sustained nuclear testing.

5. The Norwegian Radiation Protection Agency (NRPA) reveals that radioactive waste from a nuclear research plant in Norway has been wrongly fed into a town's sewage system for nine years.


Agence France-Presse English, July 18, 2004

By Michael Adler

AFP, JERUSALEM, July 18 - Israel was given help in reactor design and construction from France, which in return received intelligence information on Algeria, said Israeli filmmaker Michael Karpin, who made a film about Israel's development of the bomb called The Bomb in the Basement.

France helped Israel build a 24-megawatt reactor at Dimona, in the Negev desert. The reactor went online in 1964, but its activities were kept under wraps.

Israel kept the secret even from the United States until reaching an agreement in the late 1960s for Washington not to press the matter as long as Israel never publicly said it had nuclear weapons.


The Arts Today, CBC Radio, Canada
A documentary from Israeli journalist Michael Karpin builds a meticulous and convincing argument that there was an organized 'campaign of incitement' designed to encourage the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin. Last year, a third of Israel's population tuned into the broadcast of 'The Road to Rabin Square'. But not before several right-wing groups went to court in an effort to have the film banned. 'The Road to Rabin Square' had its North American premiere in Toronto on Sunday at The Jewish Film Festival, Michael Karpin joins host Eleanor Wachtel to talk about the film.


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The French company Doc & Film International is the official distributor of A Bomb in the Basement for television networks worldwide.

Website: http://www.docandfilm.com/

13, rue Portefoin
75003 Paris
Phone number : +33
Fax number : +33
Email Address: doc@docandfilm.com  

Daniela Elstner (General Directors)
Gorka Gallier (International Sales)
Marie-Pierre Mourne (Administration)

Doc&Film Catalogue

BOMB IN THE BASEMENT - The Israeli Nuclear Option
Director: Michael Karpin
Length: 46'&59'&79'
Country of origin: Israel
Year of production: 2002
Production: Tura Communication LTD
Original version: Hebrew
Version(s) available: English; French

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A Bomb in the Basement (For personal view only)
English Narration

Amazon sells the English version of A Bomb in the Basement.

For purchasing the DVD go to:

$25 / In Stock


For Lectures' Booking - Screenings - Conferences - Queries
E-mail Michael Karpin:


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Camera: Nily Aslan
Editor: Shlomi Shalom
Sound: Ilan Rosenberg, Nir Zinmon, Gilli Ben-Zeev
Assistant Cameramen: Shuki Duanis, Igor Kachorovsky
Makeup: Dorit Cohen, Hilli Nehama-Gordon
Production Assistants: Yifat Stein, Avital Levana
Mix: Noam Spiegler
Animation: 3D Garage

USA Crew:

Producer: Yahel Herzog
Camera: Guy Jackson
Sound: Michael Legum
Assistant Cameraman: Daniel Kedem


Larry Kohler, New York
Yoav Toker, Paris
Yaacov Gross, Archives Research

Producer: Avraham Kushnir
Produced by Tura Communications Ltd.

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Fipa – Biarritz

World Policy Journal

The Telegraph, London

Arab news

Jewish Film Archive Online

Israel's policy of ambiguity

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