Mordechai Vanunu — my friend, my hero, my brother — has
again been arrested in Israel on "suspicion" of the "crime" of "meeting
with foreigners." I myself have been complicit in this offense,
traveling twice to Israel for the express purpose of meeting with him,
openly, and expressing support for the actions for which he was
imprisoned for over eighteen years. His offense has been to defy, openly
and repeatedly, conditions put on his freedom of movement and
associations and speech after he had served his full sentence,
restrictions on his human rights which were a direct carry-over from
the British Mandate, colonial regulations in clear violation of the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Such restrictions have no place
in a nation evincing respect for a rule of law and fundamental human
rights. His arrest and confinement are outrages and should be ended
perspective on Mordechai and his behavior was expressed as well as I
could do it today in the following op-ed published in 2004 on the day
of his release from prison. I can only say that I would be proud to be
known as the American Vanunu: though my own possible sentence of 115
years for revealing state secrets was averted by disclosure of
government misconduct against me which pales next to the Israeli
misconduct in assaulting, drugging and kidnapping Vanunu in the process
of bringing him to trial, let alone the eleven years of solitary
confinement he was forced to endure.
From the Los Angeles Times, April 21, 2004:
Vanunu is the preeminent hero of the nuclear era. He consciously risked
all he had in life to warn his own country and the world of the true
extent of the nuclear danger facing us. And he paid the full price, a
burden in many ways worse than death, for his heroic act — for doing
exactly what he should have done and what others should be doing.
"crime" was committed in 1986, when he gave the London Sunday Times a
series of photos he had taken within the Israeli nuclear weapons
facility at Dimona, where he had worked as a technician.
that act — revealing that his country's program and stockpile were much
larger than the CIA or others had estimated — Vanunu was kidnapped from
the Rome airport by agents of the Israeli Mossad and secretly
transported back for a closed trial in which he was sentenced to 18
years in prison.
spent the first 11 1/2 years in solitary confinement in a 6-by-9-foot
cell, an unprecedented term of solitary under conditions that Amnesty
International called "cruel, inhuman and degrading."
after serving his full term, he is due to be released today. But his
"unfreedom" is to be continued by restrictions on his movements and his
contacts: He cannot leave Israel, he will be confined to a single town,
he cannot communicate with foreigners face to face or by phone, fax or
e-mail (purely punitive conditions because any classified information
that he may have possessed is by now nearly two decades old).
irony of all this is that no country in the world has a stronger stake
than Israel in preventing nuclear proliferation, above all in the
Middle East. Yet Israel's secret nuclear policies — to this day it does
not acknowledge that it possesses such weapons — are shortsighted and
self-destructive. They promote rather than block proliferation by
encouraging the country's neighbors to develop their own, comparable
will not change without public mobilization and democratic pressure,
which in turn demand public awareness and discussion. It was precisely
this that Vanunu sought to stimulate.
in Israel or in any other case — not that of the U.S., Russia, England,
France, China, India or Pakistan — has the decision to become a nuclear
weapons state ever been made democratically or even with the knowledge
of the full Cabinet. It is likely that in an open discussion not one of
these states could convince its own people or the rest of the world
that it had a legitimate reason for possessing as many warheads as the
several hundred that Israel allegedly has (far beyond any plausible
requirement for deterrence).
Vanunus are urgently needed. That is true not only in Israel but in
every nuclear weapons state, declared and undeclared. Can anyone fail
to recognize the value to world security of a heroic Pakistani, Indian,
Iraqi, Iranian or North Korean Vanunu making comparable revelations?
the world's need for such secret-telling is not limited to citizens of
what nuclear weapons states presumptuously call rogue nations. Every
nuclear weapons state has secret policies, aims, programs and plans
that contradict its obligations under the Nuclear Nonproliferation
Treaty and the 1995 Declaration of Principles agreed to at the NPT
Renewal Conference. Every official with knowledge of these violations
could and should consider doing what Vanunu did.
is what I should have done in the early '60s based on what I knew about
the secret nuclear planning and practices of the United States when I
consulted at the Defense Department, on loan from the Rand Corp., on
problems of nuclear command and control. I drafted the Secretary of
Defense Guidance to the Joint Chiefs of Staff for the general nuclear
war plans, and the extreme dangers of our practices and plan were apparent to me.
now feel derelict for wrongfully keeping secret the documents in my
safe revealing this catastrophically reckless posture. But I did not
then have Vanunu's example to guide me.
I finally did have an example in front of me — that of young Americans
who were choosing to go to prison rather than participate in what I too
knew was a hopeless, immoral war — I was inspired in 1971 to turn over
a top-secret history of presidential lies about the war in Vietnam to
19 newspapers. I regret only that I didn't do it earlier, before the
bombs started falling.
should long since have been released from solitary and from prison, not
because he has "suffered enough" but because what he did was the
correct and courageous thing to do in the face of the foreseeable
efforts to silence and punish him.
outrageous and illegal restrictions proposed to be inflicted on him
when he finally steps out of prison after 18 years should be widely
protested and rejected, not only because they violate his fundamental
human rights but because the world needs to hear this man's voice.
The cult and culture of secrecy in every nuclear weapons state
have endangered humanity and continues to threaten its survival.
Vanunu's challenge to that wrongful and dangerous secrecy must be