Ten years ago, on April 21, 2004, several hundred of us from around the world waited with great anticipation outside the gates of Israel’s Ashkelon Prison, holding up signs saying, “Thank you, Mordechai Vanunu: Peace Hero, Nuclear Whistle-blower”. After many years of campaigning for his freedom, the day had finally arrived: Mordechai Vanunu would walk out of the prison where he had spent each day of his 18 year sentence (12 of those years in solitary confinement) for blowing the whistle on Israel’s then secret nuclear arsenal. We were there to welcome him to freedom.
Our excitement had been somewhat dimmed a couple of days earlier, when Israel announced a list of oppressive and unjust restrictions on the soon-to-be-released whistle-blower. These restrictions continue to this day, having been renewed each April: Mordechai Vanunu remains under restrictions which require him to report and gain approval for any change in residence, to avoid diplomatic missions, to not speak to foreign nationals and which which prevent him from leaving Israel, a thing Mordechai has wished to do ever since his release from prison.
Since his release he has been repeatedly harassed and taken in by police for questioning. He has served a further three months in prison for talking to foreigners, which he continues to do in spite of the restrictions.
In December 2013, an appeal to Israel’s High Court of Justice against this indefinite punishment for “crimes” for which he has served his full sentence proceeded much as previous appeals had. The government, in secret testimony, persuaded the court that “the evidentiary material suggests that there is still additional privileged information that [could be jeopardized] by the petitioner.”
However Vanunu has repeatedly insisted that he has no more secrets to tell, including in his first public statement to the throng of international reporters gathered to cover the moment that he emerged from prison on April 21, 2004. He shared all that he knew with UK Sunday Times journalists back in 1986 (information that is now more than 28 years old) – giving the world its first photographic proof of Israel’s clandestine production of nuclear weapons at the remote Dimona factory where he had worked as a technician until 1985.
He strongly believed that in a democratic country, people have the right to know what their government is doing, and, after examining his conscience, felt it was his responsibility to share the information he had. On the eve of publication, Vanunu was lured from London to Rome by a Mossad agent, where he was kidnapped, drugged and bound and put on a freighter to Israel. A secret court convicted him of espionage and treason.
We believe that Mordechai Vanunu is a hero for his courageous act of whistleblowing, not a traitor or a spy. And we think it’s likely that Israel would view a potential Iranian nuclear whistle-blower in the same light. In any case, it is time for Israel to stop this endless persecution of Vanunu. He is currently living in East Jerusalem, but very much wishes to leave Israel and start a new life.
As we continue to work for a nuclear-free future, we invite people around the world to join us as we call on Israel to do the right thing, morally and legally, and finally lift Vanunu’s restrictions without further delay, ten years after the original court-imposed sentence for his “crime” has expired. Mordechai Vanunu must at last be given his freedom.
(Israel) Yehuda Atai, Ronnie Barkan, Rayna Moss, Gideon Spiro, Meir Vanunu
(UK) Yasmin Alam, Pat Arrowsmith, Geoffrey Austin, Ben Birnberg, Margaret and Jacob Ecclestone, Paul Eisen, Jay Ginn, June Hautot, Ben Inman, Bruce Kent, Bruce Mackenzie, Carmel Martin, Jenny Morgan, Adeline O’Keeffe, David Polden, Ernest Rodker, Sabby Sagall, David Smethurst, Ben Soffa, James Thackera, Barry White
(US) Barbara Beesley, Felice Cohen-Joppa, Nick and Mary Eoloff, Ken Hannaford-Ricardi, Art Laffin, Daniel McGowen, Mary H. Miller, Ronald H. Miller, Kim Redigan, Grace Ritter, Scott Schaeffer-Duffy, Jeanie Shaterian
(Ireland) Kevin Cassidy, Barbara Fabish, Mairead Maguire
(Norway) Fredrik Heffermehl
(Japan) Shinji and Ryoko Noma
(Australia) Phillip Mudge, Rev. David Smith
Thank you to Julian Borger for having the courage to raise the question that nobody dares to ask – why is there one standard for Iran to adhere to when it comes to nuclear weapons and a totally different one for Israel?
The Israeli nuclear stockpile is the elephant in the room in every discussion about the Iranian nuclear program. Since 1986 we’ve had conclusive proof that Israel has an enormous stockpile of nukes, thanks to the self-sacrificial actions of my dear friend, Mordechai Vanunu. Vanunu took pictures of the bombs under construction and his photos revealed an arsenal larger and more advanced than anybody had guessed, and it must only have grown since then!
Even after completing 18 years in prison, Morde Vanunu is still in virtual captivity – unable to leave Israel and live a normal life, free from the constant harassment of the security services. Borger’s article also gives us a clue as to why Israel insists on this continued confinement. The state is probably afraid that Morde will report on the complicity of the US, France, Germany, Britain and Norway in the development of Israel’s nukes.
In the context of the self-righteous Western rhetoric about Iran, Israel’s nukes are the ultimate tragic irony.
The truth about Israel’s secret nuclear arsenal
by Julian Borger
Israel has been stealing nuclear secrets and covertly making bombs since the 1950s. And western governments, including Britain and the US, turn a blind eye. But how can we expect Iran to curb its nuclear ambitions if the Israelis won’t come clean?
Deep beneath desert sands, an embattled Middle Eastern state has built a covert nuclear bomb, using technology and materials provided by friendly powers or stolen by a clandestine network of agents. It is the stuff of pulp thrillers and the sort of narrative often used to characterise the worst fears about the Iranian nuclear programme. In reality, though, neither US nor British intelligence believe Tehran has decided to build a bomb, and Iran‘s atomic projects are under constant international monitoring.
The exotic tale of the bomb hidden in the desert is a true story, though. It’s just one that applies to another country. In an extraordinary feat of subterfuge, Israel managed to assemble an entire underground nuclear arsenal – now estimated at 80 warheads, on a par with India and Pakistan – and even tested a bomb nearly half a century ago, with a minimum of international outcry or even much public awareness of what it was doing.
Despite the fact that the Israel’s nuclear programme has been an open secret since a disgruntled technician, Mordechai Vanunu, blew the whistle on it in 1986, the official Israeli position is still never to confirm or deny its existence.
When the former speaker of the Knesset, Avraham Burg, broke the taboo last month, declaring Israeli possession of both nuclear and chemical weapons and describing the official non-disclosure policy as “outdated and childish” a rightwing group formally called for a police investigation for treason.
Meanwhile, western governments have played along with the policy of “opacity” by avoiding all mention of the issue. In 2009, when a veteran Washington reporter, Helen Thomas, asked Barack Obama in the first month of his presidency if he knew of any country in the Middle East with nuclear weapons, he dodged the trapdoor by saying only that he did not wish to “speculate”.
UK governments have generally followed suit. Asked in the House of Lords in November about Israeli nuclear weapons, Baroness Warsi answered tangentially. “Israel has not declared a nuclear weapons programme. We have regular discussions with the government of Israel on a range of nuclear-related issues,” the minister said. “The government of Israel is in no doubt as to our views. We encourage Israel to become a state party to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty [NPT].”
But through the cracks in this stone wall, more and more details continue to emerge of how Israel built its nuclear weapons from smuggled parts and pilfered technology.
The tale serves as a historical counterpoint to today’s drawn-out struggle over Iran’s nuclear ambitions. The parallels are not exact – Israel, unlike Iran, never signed up to the 1968 NPT so could not violate it. But it almost certainly broke a treaty banning nuclear tests, as well as countless national and international laws restricting the traffic in nuclear materials and technology.
The list of nations that secretly sold Israel the material and expertise to make nuclear warheads, or who turned a blind eye to its theft, include today’s staunchest campaigners against proliferation: the US, France, Germany, Britain and even Norway.
read the rest of this article here.