In l986 a young Israeli man, called Mordechai Vanunu, followed his conscience and told the World that Israel had a nuclear weapons program. He was convicted of espionage and treason and given an 18-year sentence. After serving this (12 of which were in solitary confinement) Mordechai Vanunu was released. In April 2004 about 80 people from around the world went to welcome him out of prison. Unbelievably, upon his release Mordechai was served with severe restrictions, which forbade him many basic civil liberties including his right to leave Israel, to speak to foreigners and foreign media and his travel within Israel restricted.
Each year around the 2lst April, he receives a letter from the Prime Minister renewing restrictions, and Mordechai starts, yet again, the process of appealing these restrictions through the Israeli court. Most recently he has been charged with breaking the restrictions, by talking to foreign media, and given a 6 months prison sentence, which when he appealed, was set as community service. On 8th July, 2008, he will appear before an Israeli court regarding this service and his case.
Four years since leaving Ashkelon prison, (and 22 years since he told about Israeli nuclear weapons) Mordechai Vanunu lives in modest accommodation in East Jerusalem, confined within a few miles radius, unable to earn a living, unaware of what to do to gain his freedom, unable to leave Israel, his life in danger, and left wondering if the Israeli Security will ever agree to let him leave the country. They say he is a threat to National Security, but everyone know that it is 22 years since Mordechai worked in Dimona Nuclear Plant, and the Nuclear industry has moved on. A well-known Israeli Nuclear scientist has testified that Mordechai can know nothing after such a long period, yet Israeli Security insists he is a risk to National Security, and Israeli Court and Government, refuse to let him go thereby compounding an injustice, and breaking international laws.
Governments around the world have let Mordechai Vanunu down. They remain silent when they should be demanding the Israeli government uphold its obligations under UNDHR (Universal Declaration of Human Rights), and allow Vanunu to leave. (Everyone has the right to leave any country including their own and to return to their country – Article 13 – 2 UNDHR).
So will Mordechai remain in Israel until he dies, or can anything be done to gain his freedom? I believe now Mordechai Vanunu’s freedom rests in the hands of the Israeli people themselves. Some years ago I asked a young Israeli friend why she thought Israel was holding Mordechai. She replied simply, “Because our Government does not trust its own people.” She added, “If the Israeli people would demand his release, it might be possible that he would be free to leave Israel and get on with his life.” I don’t know if she is right or wrong, I don’t know the Israeli mind or politics well enough to guess, but what I do know is that in the Jewish faith and tradition, there is a great deal of emphasis put on justice and doing what is right. I can now only hope and pray that on 8th July, 2008, that some Israeli voices will be raised to call for justice for Mordechai Vanunu, who has paid the high price of 22 years of his life for following his conscious, and whether you hate or love Mordechai Vanunu, to be fair you have got to admit that he has suffered enough and it’s time to let him go NOW.