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Last Updated: 05/20/2004Vanunu is free: The campaign against Israeli nukes continues
By Aki ORR
As 50 years old Mordechai Vanunu was released last month after 18 years in prison, Aki Orr reminds us that the campaign to make the Middle East a zone free of all weapons of mass-destruction under international control continues.
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.
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.
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.
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
”I am the clerk, the technician, the mechanic, the driver.
Our small clerk works well. He is a simple technician. Small.
Tell them, he thought to himself, the average citizen, the man
with the head that is not small.
Who is the Boss here?
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.
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