Vanunu is free: The campaign against Israeli nukes continues
Author: Aki ORR
Originally Published at Peace and Conflict Monitor on: 05/20/2004
At 11 a.m. on Wednesday, April 21, 50 years old Mordechai Vanunu emerged from the gates of Shikmona Prison in Ashkelon, Israel, after 18 years inside, raising both hands and marking “V” in each. A photo of his victorious stance filled the front page of most Israeli newspapers next morning and appeared all over the world. A few hundred people met him outside. Some with cheers some with jeers. “Hang the traitor,” demanded posters of religious-nationalist Jewish extremists while “Welcome Mordechai” and flowers were waved by his supporters. The atmosphere was tense but dozens of police officers separated the two camps. The Israeli Press, consistently hostile to Vanunu, commented that his opponents were violent and noisy while his supporters were calm and composed. Many of them flew in from abroad, among them British actress Susanna York, and his adopting parents Nick and Mary Eolof from Minnesota. Vanunu made a short statement in English to the dozens of journalists who surrounded him. He demanded: “Open Dimona reactor to international control”. When I met him after his release, I found him calm, relaxed and determined as ever to fight against nukes.
This stance shattered the propaganda campaign against him organized by the Israeli authorities, which presented him as “Spy”, “Traitor”, “Deranged”, and “money minded”. This campaign, planned and organized by dozens of Israeli security experts, and with the help of many Israeli journalists, academics, psychologists, and filmmakers, seemed to collapse like a tower of cards, when Mordechai raised his arms marking the “V”. No spy, traitor, deranged person, or greedy informer marks “V” on emerging from prison. Such people may, at best, mutter: “I succeeded”, but not “I won”. Only a campaigner for a cause declares, “I won”.
The victory Vanunu celebrated is not yet the victory of his cause. It was a victory over all the efforts of the Israeli authorities to break his spirit. He spent 11 years of his sentence in solitary confinement with lights on for 24 hours and a TV camera focused on him. His mail was censored. He was denied remission of one third of his sentence granted regularly to criminal prisoners.
An Israeli journalist, Ron Ben-Yshai, once wrote “Vanunu showed details of Israeli nuclear weapons to Palestinian terrorists in prison”. The warden of the Shikma prison immediately denied this (and remember that Vanunu was under close surveillances for 24 a day) but Ben-Yshai continues to peddle Secret Service propaganda on Israeli TV and Press. The Israeli Press persists in calling Vanunu “The Atom spy”. He was allowed one visit per fortnight by his family. Two brothers, joined by the American couple that adopted him as a son, visited him regularly. He survived all this and emerged from prison victorious, and ready to continue the campaign against nuclear weapons everywhere, without making Israel an exception.
Anyone asking Israeli officials today what is Israel’s nuclear policy will get the standard reply given for 45 years, namely – “Israel will not be the first to introduce nuclear weapons into the Middle-East”. This surprises most people who assume, rightly, that Israeli nukes are a well-known fact, underlined by Israel’s repeated refusal to sign the nuclear “Non Proliferation Treaty”. Moreover, as the purpose of Israeli nukes is to deter Arab states, the knowledge that it has them is essential for deterrence. Why then does Israel refuse to admit it has nukes?
The answer is simple – to avoid embarrassing the US, which opposes proliferation of nuclear weapons, apart from its own arsenal of course, and must, according to the Symington Amendment, stop all economic and military aid to any country producing or hoarding them. If the US invaded Iraq to prevent Sadam from building nukes, surely it ought to do the same to Israel. To relieve the US of this “peace-keeping” burden and of accusations of duplicity, Israel repeats its mantra, hailed as “Ambiguity”, and lauded as a masterpiece of political wisdom by all Israeli political commentators. Many banal Ph.D.s and academic careers grew from analyzing this banality.
Of course, Israel fools no one. The US knows exactly what happens in the Dimona reactor. Edward Teller, father of the H-Bomb, visited Dimona and is a friend of Prof. Yuval Ne’eman of T-A University, who helped build Israel’s nukes. Ne’eman is an extremist nationalist who was a member of Israel’s Parliament and government. Israel deceived the US in 1956 when it got the Dimona reactor from France for helping France and Britain to invade Egypt to topple President Nasser who nationalized the Suez Canal.
Britain and France, who owned the Canal, wanted to invade Egypt, topple Nasser, and reposes the Suez Canal. But public opinion in Britain, france, and worldwide was against this. So, Israel offered to help by invading Egypt, annexing the Sinai Peninsula. This enabled Britain and France to send troops to the Suez Canal “to separate the combatants, and restore peace”.
The three Peace Loving Prime Ministers (Ben Gurion, Eden, and Guy Mollet) signed a collusion treaty but denied it publicly. Britain wanted to re-establish its imperial role. France wanted to put an end to Nasser’s support for the FLN in Algeria. Israel wanted to annex Sinai and put an end to Nasser’s efforts to unify the entire Arab world. On 22 of October 1956, Ben-Gurion flew to Paris and signed a secret pact with Britain and France to jointly invade Egypt. Until his death in 1973, he denied this. Even Shimon Peres (serving as B.G.s messenger, bypassing Foreign Minster Golda Meir who opposed the plot) denied this for 30 years. Only in 1986, in a conference at Beer-Sheba University celebrating the 30th anniversary of this plot did Peres admit what he and his mentor BG repeatedly denied.
Whom did they deceive? Not the Arabs, who repeatedly accused Israel of collusion with Britain and France. Not world public opinion, which read memoirs by French and British Generals and Statesmen detailing this collusion. So who remains? The Israeli public and the Eisenhower administration, both opposed to this plot. Neither of them knew at the time that in return for this help France gave Israel the Dimona reactor. Eventually the US forced Britain, France, and Israel to retreat from Egypt.
Anyone seeking details of this reactor can find them on the Internet by searching for the French Marcoule G1 reactor built in 1956 to produce Plutonium for nuclear bombs. Dimona and Marcoule G1are twins were built at the same time for the same purpose. However, Marcoule G1 was later upgraded to G2 and G3 and eventually closed down, while Dimona, which is a radiation hazard for two decades, plods on. Professor Uzi Even (who worked in Dimona) appeared on Israeli TV on April 20th to discuss Vanunu’s release saying Vanunu had no more secrets, and added that Dimona was dated and is a radiation hazard. He revealed that Dimona scientists appeared before a Knesset Committee investigating Dimona and had deliberately deceived the Committee. The Israeli Press and TV remained silent about this sensational revelation. The “Hush Hush” attitude to anything related to Dimona is a holy duty observed by every Israeli patriot. When Dimona follows Chernobyl, all these patriots will claim they knew nothing about the impending disaster.
Vanunu knew nothing about the production of nuclear weapons in Dimona when he applied for a job there. Officially, Dimona is a “Center for nuclear research”. At that time, vanunu sympathized with the US fanatic Rabbi Kahana. The security people who questioned him did not see this as a reason to disqualify him. Once he got the job and had a salary, he took a mortgage for a flat and enrolled at Beer-Sheba University to study Philosophy. Gradually his views changed. He was upset by the discrimination against Palestinian students at the University and participated in demonstrations demanding “Two Nations – Two States”. His philosophy studies led him to evaluate the moral issues created by nuclear weapons. This motivated him to resign from his post at Dimona. Before leaving, he photographed his work to rebut future denials of his role. What outraged him was the fact that the decision to build nuclear weapons was never discussed in the Israeli parliament, government, Army, or Press. It decided secretly by one man – David Ben-Gurion. This anti-democratic fait accompli on a fateful issue outraged Vanunu.
First, he thought to inform the Israeli Press, but when he realized it would not publish anything without authorization of the Censor, and that the editor will hand him over to the authorities, he decided to remain silent. He left Israel to travel abroad keeping the film undeveloped in his pocket and never discussed the nuclear policy anywhere. He spent two days in Moscow on his way to Australia but never approached anyone with his story or film. In Australia, he maintained his silence. Eventually he mentioned it to a Columbian journalist with whom he shared a room. The Columbian persuaded him to develop the film and informed the “Sunday Times” in London asking for money in return for the story. The “Sunday Times” sent Peter Hounam to investigate, kicked out the greedy Columbian and invited Vanunu to London for an examination of his story by British scientists. He knew he would not be paid for the information. Later on, his story, and his identity, which he wanted to be kept a secret, were published by the “Sunday Times”. Eventually the Israeli Secret Service found him and lured him to Italy from which he was hijacked to Israel. His trial was held secretly without a murmur in the Israeli Press. He was sentenced to 18 years in prison.
Officially, he is a liar who publicized a bomb that does not exist. One wonders why the Israeli legal system imposes such a heavy sentence on one liar while Ben-Gurion, who lied to the Israeli public about his collusion with France and Britain in 1956, causing the death of some 600 Israeli soldiers, was never charged or tried for his crime
It seems Bismarck’s was right when he commented that it is better not to observe closely two activities – the making of sausages – and of politics. Vanunu described the development of his political convictions in a poem published in Israel in 1987. He wrote,
”I am the clerk, the technician, the mechanic, the driver.
I was told: Do this and that. Don’t look Right or Left.
Don’t read the page. Don’t look at the machine.
You are responsible only for one screw, for one seal.
Mind one thing only. Don’t think of what’s above you.
Don’t think for us. Drive. Keep driving.
The big ones think, the clever ones, that they know the future.
Don’t worry. Don’t fear. It’s OK. All’s OK.
Our small clerk works well. He is a simple technician. Small.
Like all clerks, who have ears but don’t hear, eyes but don’t see.
We are the ones who think, not the small ones.
Tell them, he thought to himself, the average citizen, the man with the head that is not small.
Who is the Boss here?
Where is the train going?
Where is their head? I’ve got a head too.
Why do I see the whole machine? Why do I see the abyss?
Does this train have a driver?
The clerk, the driver, the mechanic, the technician, lifted
their head, stepped back and saw the whole monster.
Unbelieving he rubbed his eyes, and yes, it’s right
I’m right. I do see a monster.
I’m part of the system. I signed this form.
Only now, I read its end.
This screw is part of a Bomb. This screw is Me.
why didn’t I see it and why do others go on turning screws?
Who else knows? Who saw? Who heard?
The King is indeed naked. I see him. Why me?
It’s not for me. It’s too big for me.
Stand up and call out. Call out to the people.
Me? the screw, the mechanic, the technician?
Yes you. You are the secret agent of the people.
You are the eyes of the State. Spy, tell us what you saw.
Tell us what those who know, the wise ones, hide from us.
Without you, we have only the abyss. The holocaust.
You and you alone sit at the wheel and see the abyss.
I’ve no choice. I’m small. An average citizen. But I’ll do my duty.
I’ve heard the voice of my conscience and have nowhere to run.
The world is small. Small for the Big Brother.
I’m at your service. I’ll do my duty. Relieve me of it.
Come and judge. Lift my burden. Share it with me.
Continue my work. Stop the train.
Get off the train.
Next stop is ‘Nuclear Holocaust’.
Next book. Next machine. No.
There is no such thing.”
The campaign to make the Middle East a zone free of all weapons of mass-destruction under international control continues. Israel opposes this aim. Vanunu did his share. It is up to us to share the burden.
Bio: Aki ORR is a member of the campaign for a Middle East free of all weapons of mass-destruction. You can write to Mordechai Vanunu at: Mordechai Vanunu c/o Cathedral Church of St. George 20 Nablus Road PO Box 19018 Jerusalem 91190 Israel