If Israel’s recent large-scale military exercise in the Mediterranean does indeed turn out to be a precursor to an attack on Iran due to the latter’s alleged nuclear plant as many sources suggest, it will only be the latest in a series of hypocritical acts by Western nations, bombing countries such as Iraq into submission whilst amassing nuclear resources themselves, which, of course, are not subject to inspection. Meanwhile, the original whistleblower on Israel’s nuclear arsenal, Mordechai Vanunu, continues to suffer gross infringements on his freedom of movement: “My future plans can only consist of waiting. I am here in East Jerusalem just waiting. Waiting to be free to leave.”
Before a 1986 feature by the Sunday Times, made possible by solid evidence given to a journalist by Vanunu, revealed that Israel had accumulated a huge wealth of advanced nuclear weapons including neutron and hydrogen bombs, the country had denied possessing even a single atom bomb. Whereas Vanunu felt it was only ethically right to reveal Israel’s lies to the world in the hope that other major powers would pressure the country to stop its weapons proliferation, his government decided that he should be punished for his “treachery”.
Born in Morocco in 1954, his family moved to Israel in 1963 where he converted from Judaism to Christianity as a teenager. In 1976 he became a technician at Dimona nuclear plant whilst simultaneously studying philosophy and geography at Ben Gurion University. At this time, he began to have deep misgivings about a number of his country’s policies. Vanunu formed a radical group called “Campus” with four Jews and five Palestinians, and became involved with an organisation known as the Movement for the Advancement of Peace. Consequently, he risked being dismissed for “mixing with Arabs”.
As his disillusionment grew and he began to realise how huge the stockpile of nuclear warheads was at the plant where he was working, his conscience forced him to speak out. He travelled to London to meet with the Sunday Times, but by the time his story was published, he had already been lured to Rome, abducted by agents from the Israeli secret police organisation Mossad and chained up and drugged on board a ship bound for Israel. There, he was sentenced in a secret trial to 18 years imprisonment for treason and espionage, despite not having talked to any foreign power or received any renumeration for his story.
Whilst imprisoned, he claims that the strategy of the Israeli authorities was to break him by using tactics such as eleven years of solitary confinement, giving him razors to slit his wrists, sleep deprivation and forcing his mother to wait for hours on end in the hot sun so that when she was finally allowed in to visit him she would be crying. He also recalls how they attempted to brainwash him, “they interrogated me and kept on trying to modify my brain. They gave me good food on Jewish celebrations but I just threw it in the garbage. They sent me nice Jewish “friends” to talk to me in my cell but I told them that they were spies and to leave me alone.”
In 2004, his sentence served, he was finally released. Yet since then he continues to live under house arrest and has endured further periods of imprisonment for “crimes” such as visiting Bethlehem at Christmas and talking to foreigners. Why does Vanunu continue to be harassed four years after his initial release and when all the information he has was so long ago revealed? Vanunu believes his enforced solitude by the Israeli authorities is part of an attempt to turn him into a “religious fundamentalist”, which would help to justify their harsh treatment of him, and argues that this is true of the portrayal of Arabs in general by Israel, which tries to paint the Palestinians as a terrorist people: “They portray them as religious fundamentalists, while the truth is that the Jews here in Israel are the real religious fundamentalists. They still believe that they are a superior race here in Israel, and that the Arabs are second-class. The Arabs don’t have equal rights. Israel doesn’t want a real peace, because they don’t want to give equal rights to the Arab peoples. That is the reason for Israel wanting to keep its racial superiority by force over all the Arabs. And to justify it they need Islamic fundamentalism.”
Indeed, a large part of the effort by Western governments in the “War on Terror” has been to foster fears amongst the population of “Islamic extremism” and “radical Muslims”, whereas their aggressive foreign policies have perhaps served to fan the flames of what they purport to be against. Similarly, Vanunu believes that the Israeli government has attempted to promote religious fundamentalism amongst the Palestinians by “a new type of psychological warfare.” He explains: “When people lose all hope of being free, liberated, no longer living under the occupation, and they have no power whatsoever to change the situation, with Israel putting them under increasing pressure, they are forced to hold and cling on to their connection with God. It is a conspiracy. [The Palestinians] have a very poor standard of living, and no hope. Israel will win by making them into Muslim fundamentalists.”
Does Vanunu regret blowing the whistle on Israel’s nuclear arsenal? “Not at all. One should be prepared to go to the cross for one’s beliefs”. Israel’s treatment of this brave man who has sacrificed his freedom in the fight against nuclear weapons is one more factor amongst a multitude that make a mockery of that country’s claim to be a democracy.
Categorised in: Article
This post was written by Joanna Allan