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.
God bless Marius Benson.
In the middle of all the frantic dialogue about Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program, he is the only one who had the courage to ask the obvious question: “what about Israel’s nuclear stockpile?” It’s a question that is simply never raised in polite society!
I assume that everybody does see the elephant in the room but that they simply choose to ignore it. No one has ever raised serious questions about the validity of the photographic evidence shared by Mordechai Vanunu back in 1986, showing that Israel has one of the largest nuclear stockpiles in the world, yet everyone in the West has to play this charade, acting as if none of these weapons exist!
The transcript below is from Marius Benon’s ABC interview with the Israeli government’s chief spin-doctor in Australia, Mark Regev. You can hear the full interview here.
Benson asks Regev bluntly and repeatedly whether Israel has nuclear weapons and each time Regev tries to deflect the question with the standard line “we will not be the first to introduce nuclear weapons into the region”.
This is simply a lie, of course, unless Regev is including Pakistan in his ‘region’ or is engaging in some similar act of wordplay. Either way, it is a cynical way of avoiding the obvious paradox of the Israeli government’s war-mongering. Why on earth would Israel be concerned about an attack from Iran when we all know that Israel has such an enormous nuclear defense arsenal that no country in the world would consider attacking it!
I don’t really understand why we put up with these sorts of shenanigans. Regev lies. We know he lies. He knows we know he is lying, and yet he continues to lie, and so eventually we stop asking the question, smile and shake hands and continue on as if the lie were the truth. There’s something deeply disturbing about this pattern.
Marius Benson: Mark Regev, can I ask you a question that some put in this context, which is, how can Israel demand that other countries, like Iran, in the Middle East, not have the prospect of any nuclear weapon when Israel itself has such a large nuclear arsenal?
Mark Regev: Well first of all there’s been no change in the long-standing Israeli position not to be the first country to introduce nuclear weapons into the region.
Marius Benson: But you have nuclear weapons.
Mark Regev: No, we say specifically we will not be the first to introduce nuclear weapons to the region. But more specifically I would say in answer to your question it is Iran which says Israel must be destroyed, not the other way around. It’s Iran that calls Israel a cancer that must be removed. It’s Iran which says Israel must be obliterated off the map.
Marius Benson: But back on the question of nuclear weapons, can I just clarify? When you say Israel’s position is you won’t be the first to introduce them, you have, what, 200-plus nuclear weapons now?
Mark Regev: No, no and I would say the following if you would allow me. The problem in the Middle East is not those countries that up till now have not joined the NPT, the Non Proliferation Treaty. The problem is exactly the opposite. It’s those countries that have joined the NPT and have cheated and lied. And there’s a whole group of them…
Marius Benson: Yeah, but…on the nuclear weapons issue, are you saying Israel doesn’t have nuclear weapons?
Mark Regev: I’m answering your question, you’re just not letting me finish the sentences.
Marius Benson: No, no, I like to directly get an answer to that – are you saying Israel does not have nuclear weapons?
Mark Regev: I’m saying Israel believes the 4 to1 talks about extending the NPT in the Middle East; one has to have an NPT that works. And you have in the Middle East four countries that signed the NPTand have cheated and the NPT has not been worth the paper it has been printed on.
Marius Benson: Sure but there’s only one country in the Middle East which is generally known to have nuclear weapons. That’s Israel.
MR: Israel has said – and I’ll say it again – we will not be the first country in the Middle East to introduce nuclear weapons into the region. But if you’ll allow me to complete the point. It’s not just Gadaffi’s Libya that cheated on the NPT, it’s Assad’s Syria, it’s Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and now the Iranians. How can anyone come to Israel and say Israel should join the NPT when you have in the region the failure of this treaty. When you have consistent behaviour by Israel’s enemies who’ve signed the NPT and then it’s clear to everyone have broken it, have violated the agreement.
Marius Benson: Mark Regev thank you very much
Mark Regev: My pleasure sir.
Admittedly, the signatories to this statement are all American Rabbis. It would be more encouraging still if a hundred or so Israeli rabbis signed a similar statement. Even so, this is a significant step forward and another solid indication that not all Jews support the war-mongering of the Israeli President.
The most impressive thing about this statement, from my perspective, is the open confession of the history of willful violence enacted on Iran by the United States. Even so, it is disappointing that the great elephant in the room – namely, the massive Israeli stockpile of nuclear weapons – doesn’t get a mention.
Step by Step toward Shalom with Iran
As Rabbis, Cantors, and other Clergy serving the American Jewish community, we are deeply committed, as Jewish tradition teaches –
§ to the shalom –- peace, social justice, functioning democratic process, and ecological sanity –of the country where we live – all of which would be damaged by still another unnecessary war;
§ to the shalom, peace and security, of the State of Israel, to its democratic character, and to its special relationship with the Jewish people;
§ to unequivocal action by all the Arab-majority and Muslim-majority states to make peace with Israel, and to Israel’s unequivocal action to make peace with all its neighbors, including an emergent Palestine;
§ to our respect and our prayers for salaam, peace and justice, among our cousins in the Abrahamic tradition, Arab and Muslim civilizations;
§ to the peace and prosperity of all the “70 nations” of the world;
§ and to the healing of our wounded planet.
For all these reasons, we welcome warmly the greatly increased possibility of a peaceful resolution of the conflicts among the US, Iran, Israel, and other nations.
We especially welcome the new attitudes toward the Jewish people and toward the nuclear issue set forth by the new President of Iran, and his assertion that Iran will never hold nuclear weapons. We also recall the repeated assertions and fatwas by Grand Ayatollah Khameini that for Iran to possess nuclear weapons would violate Islam.
We urge the US and Iran to move swiftly to agree on a step-by-step process of reducing and ultimately ending sanctions against Iran in accord with steps by Iran to make its nuclear research transparent and to allow verification that its research is directed wholly toward civilian uses of nuclear energy. We believe that such a step-by-step process is the best way to guarantee that both parties are fulfilling their commitments.
We urge Iran to make clear its full acceptance of Israel as a legitimate state in the fabric of international relations, protected like all other states from aggression and attack.
We urge the Government of Israel to welcome steps by Iran to make clear and verifiable its commitment to use nuclear energy and research for peaceful purposes only, not for pursuit of nuclear weaponry, and while this process is under way, we urge Israel to end hostile acts and statements toward Iran.
We urge the peoples of the United States, Iran, and Israel to reject and oppose all statements and actions from whatever source that undermine the swift and thorough achievement of agreements to ensure the civilian nature of Iran’s nuclear program and to end sanctions against Iran.
We urge the American people to recognize and do tshuvah (“turning” or “repentance”) for the ethical errors of our own government toward Iran – particularly, the US Government’s intervention in 1953 to overthrow the democratically elected reform government of Iran; US actions to support the tyrannical regime of the Shah until the Iranian people overthrew it in 1979; and US support for Iraq’s wars of aggression against Iran in the 1980s, including US support for Saddam Hussein’s use of chemical weapons to kill 100,000 Iranians.
We urge the Iranian people to do tshuvah for their government’s demonization of the United States and Israel, for its holding US diplomats hostage for more than a year in 1979-1980, and for the support it seems to have covertly given for attacks on Israeli citizens.
We believe that this combination of governmental acts and public rethinking and re-feeling can move American society, the entire Middle East, and the world toward the shalom that Judaism yearns for.
to read the list of signatories, click here
Peers,there’s a hymn the Baptists in Swainsboro, Georgia sing which includes the words: “What more can be said than to you He hath said?…..” The Baptists are referring to the teachings of Jesus. They ask a good question, too. What more can be said that hasn’t been said already? Please glance at the letterhead. You’ll see an activated link.
Yes, Israel’s military is on the rampage in Gaza again. Deja vu. There’s an article on the subject pasted below. As far as I know, no date has been set for next month’s Helsinki Conference. In December the Helsinki Conference will debate the possibility of converting the entire Middle East into a nuclear weapons free region. And turn the Holy Land into a zone where it’s safe to live. Iran thinks it’s a good idea and will be attending the conference, even leading the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). If I remember right, Hugo Chavez will attend the conference. So will Russia. And China. Will the United States be there? Will Israel? If not, why not? I get sick and tired of all the guessing games, don’t you? Contact the White House.
Unfortunately, Gaza isn’t foremost on America’s mind today. A new and juicy sex scandal has captured our nation’s attention. American General Petraeus … who once headed the CIA … finds him embroiled in a sensational mela soap opera drama and it’s as tho he’s on Reality TV. The story is getting all the media attention. Here are a few video clips: David Petraeus, Paula Broadwell Used Electronic ‘Dropbox’ To Communicate. Why concern ourselves with the killing … and maiming … of fellow Human Beings in Gaza … when we can be diverted … and even entertained … by a titillatingly constant, real-life story about illicit sex. A TV anchor person read an e-mail from a woman in New England asking about the shirtless photos the FBI agent sent to Jill Taylor. These photos were sent prior to Jill’s blowing the whistle on Petraeus and Brockman. Nevertheless, the woman in New England insisted that the American people have the right to see those photos. BTW, Paula is a West Point graduate. (pause) The fabric of our lives. The Human Comedy would be humorous if it weren’t so damned (deleted) tragic. Peers, are you open to a suggestion? Never misunderestimate the efficacy of a well-chosen expletive when you need one. I have one I’ll share with you today: Gotterdammerung. For some of us find our attention flowing naturally into another direction these days: www.sabeel.ca/docs/Kairos%20Palestine%20Christmas%202012.pdf…. And we honestly find more excitement getting involved with the facts on the ground than we find on Reality TV. Please read the article pasted below.
John Glaser: Israel´s Latest Assault on Gaza – The Lie of Who Started It
Israel has again attacked Gaza. In its aerial and ground assault that began on Saturday, November 10th, at least 7 Palestinians have been killed, 5 of them civilians, 3 of whom were children. Up to 52 others, including 6 women and 12 children, have been wounded.
As in every vicious military offensive Israel carries out in Gaza, the dominant narrative is that it is a response to rocket fire from Gaza into southern Israel. This is how it’s being reported in the US, and this is how virtually every American understands it.
And it’s a lie.
It’s true that on Saturday, prior to the expanded Israeli bombardment, the military wing of the Popular Front For the Liberation of Palestine shot an anti-tank missile at an Israeli Defense Forces vehicle near the Gaza border, wounding four Israeli soldiers. But what prompted the firing of the anti-tank missile?
First, on Monday, November 5th, Israeli forces shot and killed 23 year old Ahmad Nabhani when he “approached the border fence with Israel.” According to at least one account, Nabhani was mentally challenged.
Then, on Thursday, November 8th, the Israeli Occupation Forces – eight tanks and four bulldozers, to be exact – invaded southern Gaza, shooting and killing a 13-year old boy. Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (via):
According to investigations conducted by PCHR, at approximately 16:30 on Thursday, as a result of the indiscriminate shooting by IOF military vehicles that had moved into the ‘Abassan village, 13-year-old Ahmed Younis Khader Abu Daqqa was seriously wounded by a bullet to the abdomen. At the time he was shot, Ahmed had been playing football with his friends in front of his family’s house, located nearly 1,200 meters away from the area where the IOF were present.
So, even if honest observers brush to the side the cruel and inhumane Israeli blockade on Gaza and refuse to let it influence the equation of exactly which side started this flare up of violence, it is clear Israel started this latest clash. And in response to the response, Israel has waged a harsh, disproportionate military assault.
This would be a simple thing to understand if, for example, Western media bothered to ask the other side what happened. Palestinian news media immediately reported that the anti-tank missile Israel was supposedly responding to was admitted to by the Popular Resistance Committees, who described it as “revenge” for preceding Israeli violence on Gaza. But that basic task of honest journalism is apparently out of the question.
Every single Israeli incursion or attack on Gaza is accompanied by the same narrative: Israel fairly responded to unprovoked Palestinian rocket fire. The last major war on Gaza, Operation Cast Lead in December ’08-January ’09, also carried this narrative. Israel committed war crimes in that one-sided conflict, targeting and killing hundreds of civilians, using indiscriminate weapons, and intentionally destroying civilian infrastructure. It has become an accepted fact – even among critics of Israel – that the offensive was a response to Hamas rocket fire. The rocket fire did indeed occur immediately before the assault, but it was in response to Israel’s breaking of the six-month cease-fire, which even Israeli officials in WikiLeaks cables admitted Hamas had kept to.