Very little has appeared in the UK media recently about the continuing plight of Mordechai Vanunu, the Israeli nuclear whistleblower, since the broadcast on BBC Radio 4’s afternoon play ‘Vanunu: A Time To Be Heard’ in early March, which focussed on Mordechai’s release in 2004 after 18 years in prison and on the journalist, Peter Hounam subsequent meeting with Mordechai again.
Since then Jeremy Corbyn MP has circulated a Commons early day motion on 27 April (EDM1757) which reads as follows: ‘That this House notes that 21 April 2011 marked seven years since Mordechai Vanunu was released from Ashkelon prison having served his full sentence of 18 years for revealing the truth about Israel’s nuclear weapons programme; further notes that he faces no further charges and yet since his release he has continued to be subject to severe restrictions on his human rights on freedom of movement, speech and association; requests that the Government condemns these ongoing restrictions; and calls on the Israeli government to recognise Vanunu’s full human rights by allowing him to leave Israel forthwith, as he has so often declared to be his wish.’ You can help Mordechai by writing to your MP getting them to support the motion (to date 27 MPs have signed).
Meanwhile journalist Duncan Campbell (who was also in Israel when Mordechai was released in 2004) has written the following article, which appeared in yesterday’s ‘Comment is Free’ on the Guardian web site. It updates us on Mordechai’s current situation following his request to the Israeli Minister of the Interior, to have his citizenship revoked.
We must help Vanunu live in peace
Duncan Campbell guardian.co.uk, Monday 6 June 2011
Nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu wants to obey Israeli law and lose his citizenship. The UK has an obligation to him.
Twenty-five years ago Mordechai Vanunu, a young Israeli nuclear technician, came to London to pass on information to a British newspaper about a secret nuclear weapons facility at which he had been working and about which he believed the world should know. In the course of the next few weeks he was lured abroad to Rome, grabbed by the Israeli security service, drugged and smuggled illegally out of the country to stand trial for aggravated espionage, high treason and assisting the enemy. He was jailed for 18 years, most of which he spent in solitary confinement.
Since his release from prison in 2004, Vanunu has been trying to leave Israel. Now he has written to the Israeli minister of the interior, Eli Yishai, asking if he can revoke his Israeli citizenship. In his letter, he points out that the Knesset has just passed a law that revokes the citizenship of anyone convicted of espionage or treason. Applying this logic, Vanunu has duly asked for the cancellation of his own.
“This law applies to me and I am ready for my citizenship to be cancelled,” he explains in the letter. “After all the ‘treatment’ that I have received from the state of Israel and its citizens, I do not feel, here, as a citizen or how a citizen should feel, I feel as an unwelcome citizen and treated as such by the state of Israel and its citizens. I am called and shouted at as a spy, ‘the Atom Spy’, and a traitor by the Israeli media and in the streets of Israel. I am harassed and persecuted as the enemy of the state for 25 years. I feel I am still imprisoned, still held as a hostage, by the state and its government. After 25 years of ongoing, many and very hard punishments by the state of Israel, I wish the end to all punishments and my suffering, and wish the realisation of the basic human right to freedom.”
The argument that has been used by the Israeli government against him being allowed to leave is that he could still pass on damaging secrets to a foreign power. In his letter, Vanunu moves into capital letters to dispute this: “I HAVE NO SECRETS! EVERYTHING I KNEW THEN I HAVE PASSED ON TO THE ENGLISH PAPER IN 1986 !!”
Indeed, no one – unless they are completely ignorant of the case – genuinely believes that he has any secrets up his sleeve. He is refused permission to leave the country not for security reasons but as a further penalty, a punishment for coming out of prison as committed to his non-violent, anti-nuclear-weaponry principles as when he went in. This is how the old Soviet Union treated its dissidents, obstructing and humiliating them in the hope that they eventually crack or die.
Daniel Ellsberg, who risked an equivalent amount of time in prison for his own leaking of the Pentagon Papers in 1971 in the United States, has called Vanunu “the pre-eminent hero of the nuclear era … He paid the full price, a burden in some ways worse than death, for his heroic act for doing exactly what he should have done and what others should be doing.” He is among the many voices now calling for Vanunu to be allowed to live a normal life in a country of his choice.
Last week, Julian Assange was awarded the Martha Gellhorn prize for journalism for his work with WikiLeaks. The award recognised that the leaking of information about secret governmental activity – wherever that government may be – makes for a better world.
Britain has a responsibility towards Vanunu, a man who gave his story to a British newspaper – the Sunday Times – and whose kidnap and removal from Italy started on the streets of London; Israel had not wanted to embarrass Margaret Thatcher’s government by carrying out the deed in the UK. It is time that the British government recognised the British link and spoke up for a man who risked his freedom and his sanity because of his hatred of nuclear weapons. And high time that a peaceful man in a violent world was allowed to live his own life in peace.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2011