U.S. Denying Entry Visas to People Who Work on Israel’s Dimona Nuclear Reactor?

[UPDATE: Please note that the White House and the State Department has denied this story, and apparently Israeli officials have done the same; more in this update post.]

[FURTHER UPDATE: The scientist on whom the Maariv story relies now reports that the story was incorrect; I’ve posted the correction — which was blogged by Roger Simon at Pajamas Mediahere, but let me also repeat it:

CORRECTION: Visa Policy For Israeli Nuclear Scientists Did Not Begin With Obama Admin

On April 8, 2010, I wrote an article in this space implying that the Obama administration had instituted a new policy restricting entry to the United States for Israeli nuclear scientists who worked at the Dimona reactor. I based my article on a report from the Israeli website/newspaper Maariv, which quoted the nuclear engineering professor Zeev Alfassi as its primary source.

This morning (Pacific time) I was able to reach Dr. Alfassi in his office at Ben Gurion University in the Negev. Apparently, my report — and the newspaper’s — was inaccurate. The professor informed me that while it was extremely difficult for scientists who worked at Dimona to obtain U.S. visas, this was not a new policy of the Obama administration. This problem has been going on since 9/11.

Alfassi explained that formerly he and other scientists were able to go through travel agents to obtain visas to the U.S. Now they have to go personally to the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv. He knows of at least one case of a scientist who was not able to attend a conference in this country because of this system. European scientists, he said, did not have this problem.

Dr. Alfassi was quite cordial in answering my questions and I thank him.]

JoshuaPundit (Rob Miller) reports, based on an article in NRG/Maariv, a site connected with Israel’s Maariv newspaper:

NRG/Maariv (Hebrew link only, sorry) reported today that the Israeli government was stunned when every nuclear technician at Israel’s Dimona reactor who had submitted visa requests to visit the United States for ongoing university education in Physics, Chemistry and Nuclear Engineering had their visa applications summarily rejected, specifically because of their association with the Dimona reactor.

This is a new policy decision of the Obama administration. Up until now, it was routine for Israeli nuclear scientists and technicians to receive such visas and to study at US universities.

Israeli security officials have confirmed that these technicians are being denied visas solely because of their employment at the Dimona reactor….

So says the post; I can’t read Hebrew, so I can’t check the original for myself, and can’t tell if there are important errors or omissions in the translation. (The “?” in the headline is not rhetorical; I’m always skeptical of translations, especially when I don’t know anything about the translator.) I therefore wanted to ask those readers who can read Hebrew to pass along their thoughts. And of course if you know something about the controversy and have reason to doubt — or trust — the accuracy of the original, please mention that as well; naturally, errors happen not only in translations but also in original reports.

Naturally, if there are indeed important errors or omissions, I would certainly note them in the post. I stress again that I’m passing this along in order to check the information, not because I have any personal confidence in its accuracy.

UPDATE: Roger L. Simon (Pajamas Media) offers a translation of the Maariv article.