Whistle-blowers for peace
Read and SHARE the Amnesty International PRESS RELEASE: Over 50 parliamentarians and Amnesty have invited Vanunu to speak in June
Sign and continue to SHARE the Petition We are not free until Vanunu is free
In this post: Paul Oestreicher’s letter with love; 2) Duncan Campbell: Snowden and Vanunu; 3) CND on Vanunu’s continued harrassment. Richly illustrated throughout and Notes and links on whistleblowers – the heroic antidote to – ‘I’m just dong my job’. Next Nobel Prize: bravest exposer of cruel and humiliating practices.
The enduring demand of nuclear disarmament
Letter from Paul Oestreicher at Easter 2014
April 22, 2014
An Easter letter has not been a feature of my life even though Good Friday and its truly remarkable sequel have long been at the heart of my spiritual life. That centres not on the shame and glory of humanity in general but on a single human being on whom some of us try to model our life.
As thousands suffer and die every day and new life is born, often with scant hope of survival, it is each life and each death that is of inestimable value.
That is why I have chosen to write today about one man who has accepted great suffering and continues to do so in the hope that all people might live in peace. No more than Jesus, whom he has chosen to follow, does he lay claim to greatness.
He too was born into a Jewish family. He too put his conscience before his safety. He remains an outcast among his own people. His name – I expect you may know it already – is Mordechai Vanunu. A newspaper which, over the past year, has shown that it too is prepared to take risks for the sake of conscience, has chosen Easter to re-tell his story. [see below]
Many years have passed since I joined a group of ordinary citizens, albeit some of us well known, who went to Israel to appeal for Vanunu’s release from prison. Our concern was for one human being. We had no political agenda other than a plea for compassion. We were received politely by the President of Israel. Our plea was heard and resolutely rejected. Many others have done the same. An American family has legally adopted him as their son.
Few people remain sane after eleven years in solitary confinement, a breach of international law, and seven further years behind bars. He has remained steadfast in his convictions. He is now imprisoned in Israel, a state whose citizenship he has renounced, yet which will not allow him to leave.
What purpose is served in my writing this letter to my friends? Perhaps it is no more than an expression of my solidarity with one human being that I want to share. If you pray, that is one way, not the only way, of expressing your solidarity. Perhaps you will send this letter to others. What will it achieve? God knows. Perhaps that’s the wrong question. What is not in question is that what Vanunu wanted to achieve, to warn the world of the danger of nuclear weapons, is as relevant now as it has been since 1945. Only very recently did Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations, remind the world that the continuing presence of nuclear weapons leaves the world on a dangerous yet largely unacknowledged precipice.
In Britain the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, of which I remain a Vice-President, working from its offices in Mordechai Vanunu House, goes on tirelessly appealing for the United Kingdom to take seriously its lip service to non-proliferation and therefore to abandon its Trident Missile System. To join that campaign is one way of honouring a courageous whistle-blower.
So, raise your voice for Mordechai Vanunu at every opportunity. Who knows, maybe even Pope Francis will when he visits Israel and Palestine next week.
Barbara, a long time peace campaigner who went to prison in the cause, as I have not, joins me in this Easter greeting, written in New Zealand, the only country that has explicitly rejected nuclear weapons on its soil or in its territorial waters.
With love, Paul
Those who support the US whistleblower should back his Israeli predecessor in his bid for a new life abroad
By Duncan Campbell, Guardian
April 20, 2014
Ten years ago today, a man emerged from prison to be greeted by a crowd of his supporters embracing him with carnations and a crowd of his enemies drawing their fingers across their throats. He had served 18 years in prison, 11 of them in solitary confinement.
The man was Mordechai Vanunu, the whistleblower who, in 1986, came to Britain to tell the Sunday Times the story of the then secret nuclear weapons facility at Dimona in Israel. Out alone in London and disillusioned with the length of time the story seemed to be taking to reach publication, he was lured by a woman from Mossad to Italy. There, he was kidnapped, drugged and smuggled out of the country to Israel, where he was convicted of espionage.
On his release from prison, he was led to believe that he would soon be free to leave the country where he is vilified and regarded as a traitor. When I interviewed him in Jerusalem six months later, back in 2004, he was still hopeful that, having served his time, he would be able to start a new life abroad. It has turned out to be an empty hope. Last December, he failed in the high court of justice in his latest bid to be allowed to leave. Does Edward Snowden, as he adjusts to life in Moscow, wonder whether he will still be haunted and hunted by the US government for decades to come?
Under arrest: Mordechai Vanunu arrives in court in Jerusalem, December 2009, after being charged with violating a condition of his release from 18 years in prison – he had a Norwegian girlfriend. Since his release he has been repeatedly harassed and taken in by police for questioning. He has served a further three months in prison for talking to foreigners, which he continues to do in spite of the restrictions. See CND post below
No one seriously claims that the man who was exhaustively debriefed by the Sunday Times nearly 30 years ago has any secrets up his sleeve. The decision to restrict his movements seems to be based more on a desire to inflict punishment on an unrepentant man than for security concerns. A pacifist who has urged the Palestinians to pursue their aims by non-violent means, he was not a spy but was driven to his actions by a horror of Hiroshima and the possibility of a nuclear war in the Middle East.
Writing in Ha’aretz last year, Aluf Benn drew parallels between the cases of Vanunu and Snowden, who both “had junior positions in defence organisations, in which they were exposed to sensitive national secrets. Both became convinced their employers were responsible for immoral acts and decided to violate their oaths of secrecy and tell the world about them.” Benn suggested that “Israelis who support Snowden, and who see him as a freedom fighter who exposed the American empire in its hypocrisy and evil, need to relate to his Israeli predecessor in the same way”.
May 26, 2000 demonstration at Dimona, Israel, that marked International Women’s Day for Peace and Nuclear Disarmament. From the US Campaign for Free Mordechai Vanunu. Photo by Alberto Zankberg
Vanunu has also been compared with another American who blew the whistle on what he regarded as his country’s immoral activities. Indeed he has often been described as the Israeli Daniel Ellsberg, to which the latter responds: “I can only say that I would be proud to be known as the American Vanunu, although my own possible sentence of 115 years for revealing state secrets [the Pentagon Papers] 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 11 years of solitary confinement he was forced to endure.”
Supporters in Hiroshima who, unlike the British, feel a special responsibility for preventing the development of nuclear weapons. Uncredited photo
The UK and the British media have a special responsibility towards Vanunu. He was persuaded to come to London on the understanding that he would be protected. The Sunday Times journalist with whom he worked most closely, Peter Hounam, later wrote in his book on the case, The Woman from Mossad, that “to most sane people he did something brave and altruistic”. The National Union of Journalists recognised its duty to whistleblowers who risk everything and made Vanunu an honorary member on his release from jail. The proprietor of the paper that brought him to England also has responsibility and one hopes that he, too, may yet give Vanunu the sort of backing that those in his direct employment have had when faced with legal action.
These are unforgiving times for people who want to expose what governments want kept secret. In Egypt, journalists from al-Jazeera are held in prison on baseless charges, and over the past few weeks we have also seen how the authorities in Iraq, Libya, Turkey, China and Syria – to name just a few of the worst offenders – deal with those involved in propagating uncomfortable truths.
As the US secretary of state, John Kerry, continues to encourage the release of Palestinian prisoners to further the Middle East peace process, how admirable it would be if someone who risked his life and sanity for the very purpose of peace was finally allowed to lead a normal life in the country of his choosing.
The welcomers, as Mordechai is released from prison, Ashkelon, Israel, April 21st, 2004
CND media release
[undated, Vanunu was released on April 21st 2004, so infer])
Ten years ago today, several hundred of us from around the world waited with great anticipation outside the gates of Israel’s Ashkelon Prison, holding up signs saying “Thank you, Mordechai Vanunu: Peace Hero, Nuclear Whistle-blower”. After many years of campaigning for his freedom, the day had finally arrived: Mordechai Vanunu would walk out of the prison where he had spent each day of his 18 year sentence (12 of those years in solitary confinement) for blowing the whistle on Israel’s then secret nuclear arsenal. We were there to welcome him to freedom.
Our excitement had been somewhat dimmed a couple of days earlier, when Israel announced a list of oppressive and unjust restrictions on the soon-to-be-released whistle-blower. These restrictions continue to this day, having been renewed each April: Mordechai Vanunu remains under restrictions which require him to report and gain approval for any change in residence, to avoid diplomatic missions, to not speak to foreign nationals and which prevent him from leaving Israel, a thing Mordechai has wished to do ever since his release from prison.
Since his release he has been repeatedly harassed and taken in by police for questioning. He has served a further three months in prison for talking to foreigners, which he continues to do in spite of the restrictions.
In December 2013, an appeal to Israel’s High Court of Justice against this indefinite punishment for “crimes” for which he has served his full sentence proceeded much as previous appeals had. The government, in secret testimony, persuaded the court that “the evidentiary material suggests that there is still additional privileged information that [could be jeopardized] by the petitioner.”
However Vanunu has repeatedly insisted that he has no more secrets to tell, including in his first public statement to the throng of international reporters gathered to cover the moment that he emerged from prison on April 21, 2004. He shared all that he knew with UK Sunday Times journalists back in 1986 (information that is now more than 28 years old) – giving the world its first photographic proof of Israel’s clandestine production of nuclear weapons at the remote Dimona factory where he had worked as a technician until 1985.
He strongly believed that in a democratic country, people have the right to know what their government is doing, and, after examining his conscience, felt it was his responsibility to share the information he had. On the eve of publication, Vanunu was lured from London to Rome by a Mossad agent, where he was kidnapped, drugged and bound and put on a freighter to Israel. A secret court convicted him of espionage and treason.
We believe that Mordechai Vanunu is a hero for his courageous act of whistleblowing, not a traitor or a spy. And we think it’s likely that Israel would view a potential Iranian nuclear whistle-blower in the same light. In any case, it is time for Israel to stop this endless persecution of Vanunu. He is currently living in East Jerusalem, but very much wishes to leave Israel and start a new life.
CND branches from Stoke-on-Trent and Newcastle set up their stall for a world free of nuclear weapons
As we continue to work for a nuclear-free future, we invite people around the world to join us as we call on Israel to do the right thing, morally and legally, and finally lift Vanunu’s restrictions without further delay, ten years after the original court-imposed sentence for his “crime” has expired. Mordechai Vanunu must at last be given his freedom.
List of signatories:
(Israel) Yehuda Atai, Ronnie Barkan, Israeli human rights activist, Gideon Spiro, Meir Vanunu;
(UK) Yasmin Alam, Pat Arrowsmith, Geoffrey Austin, Ben Birnberg, Margaret & Jacob Ecclestone, Jay Ginn, June Hautot, Bruce Kent, Bruce Mackenzie, Carmel Martin, Jenny Morgan, Adeline O’Keeffe, David Polden, Ernest Rodker, Sabby Sagall, David Smethurst, Ben Soffa, James Thackera, Barry White;
(US) Barbara Beesley, Felice Cohen-Joppa, Nick and Mary Eoloff, Ken Hannaford-Ricardi, Art Laffin, Daniel McGowen, Executive Director of Deir Yassin Remembered, Mary H. Miller, Ronald H. Miller, Kim Redigan, Grace Ritter, Jeanie Shaterian;
(Ireland) Barbara Fabish, Mairead Maguire; (Norway) Fredrik Heffermehl;
(Australia) Phillip Mudge, Rev. David Smith. (41)
Sign the Petition to World Media and Israel: We are not free, until Vanunu is free! [see top of page]
Launched by Eileen Fleming, April 2014
On 25 December, Mordechai Vanunu’s 7th Supreme Court Appeal for his right to leave ‘the only democracy in the Middle East’ was heard.
On 29 December, Supreme Court Justice Asher Grunis denied Vanunu’s Appeal stating, “The restrictions are intended to prevent future dissemination of classified material. In recent years the court has examined the necessity of the restrictions several times, and each time has been convinced that they are necessary for state security. The evidence shown here, including the covert evidence, indicates that the plaintiff is still a source of classified information, and is not hesitant to disseminate the information.”
Vanunu told Eileen Fleming, “All the secrets I had were published in 1989 in an important book, by [Nuclear Physicist] Frank Barnaby, “The Invisible Bomb: Nuclear Arms Race in the Middle East.”
In 1986, Barnaby was hired by the London Sunday Times to vet Vanunu’s story and he testified at Vanunu’s closed door trial: “I found Vanunu very straightforward about his motives for violating Israel’s secrecy laws he explained to me that he believed that both the Israeli and the world public had the right to know about the information he passed on. He seemed to me to be acting ideologically.
“Israel’s political leaders have, he said, consistently lied about Israel’s nuclear-weapons programme and he found this unacceptable in a democracy. The knowledge that Vanunu had about Israel’s nuclear weapons, about the operations at Dimona, and about security at Dimona could not be of any use to anyone today. He left Dimona in October 1985.”
We the undersigned petition the World Media to seek and report the truth about Israel’s Nuclear Deceptions and to Israel we say the only way Vanunu can harm ‘the only democracy in the Middle East’ is with Bad PR!
TNT: Tell Nuclear Truths
Sign the Petition
We the undersigned petition the World Media to seek and report the truth about Israel’s Nuclear Deceptions and Vanunu’s nearly 10 year struggle for his right to fade into the world instead of continuing to make headlines.
A cyber trail of truth has been established to assist The Media at:
The Vanunu Saga and summed up in Secrets, Lies and SECURITY’S Vendetta against Vanunu Mordechai
Enshrined in “Beyond Nuclear: Mordechai Vanunu’s FREEDOM of SPEECH Trial and My Life as a Muckraker 2005-2010″
The Establishment of Israel’s statehood was contingent upon upholding the UNIVERSAL DECLARATION of HUMAN RIGHTS and every Member State is obligated to hold ALL other Member States to it:
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.Article 19
Notes and links
Wanting to not know: the punishment of whistleblowers, a few examples
Julie Bailey, the whistleblower who exposed Mid-Staffs hospital scandal is driven from her home, Daily Mail 2013
Daniel Ellsberg precipitated a national controversy in 1971 when he released the Pentagon Papers, a top-secret Pentagon study of U.S. government decision-making in relation to the Vietnam War, to The New York Times and other newspapers. He was awarded the Right Livelihood Award in 2006. From Wikipedia
Punishing whistleblowers is a very British tradition, Socialist Worker, August 2013
Last April, the DOJ served a subpoena on New York Times reporter James Risen, demanding to know his source for a story he published in his 2006 book regarding a ”reckless” and horribly botched CIA effort to infiltrate Iran’s nuclear program. That subpoena had originally been served but was then abandoned by the Bush DOJ, but its revitalization by the Obama administration was but one of many steps taken to dramatically expand the war on whistleblowers being waged by the current President, who ran on a platform of “protecting whistleblowers”:
NHS whistleblower on Mid-Staffs hospital:The whistleblower who exposed Mid-Staffs scandal is driven from her home, Daily Mail, June 25, 2013.
High Court of Justice Decides: Mordechai Vanunu Must Stay in Israel
Mordechai Vanunu’s demand that he should be allowed to leave Israel eventually reached Israel’s Supreme Court. On 29 December, Supreme Court Justice Asher Grunis denied Vanunu’s appeal, stating:
The restrictions are intended to prevent future dissemination of classified material. In recent years the court has examined the necessity of the restrictions several times, and each time has been convinced that they are necessary for state security. The evidence shown here, including the covert evidence, indicates that the plaintiff is still a source of classified information, and is not hesitant to disseminate the information.
On December 29, 2013, the High Court of Justice rejected the seventh petition submitted by Mordechai Vanunu against the restraining orders issued against him since his release from prison in 2004. Mr. Vanunu was convicted of offenses against state security, specifically providing confidential information on the activities of the Nuclear Research Center (NRC), and was sentenced to 18 years in prison. Since his release, Mr. Vanunu has been subjected to a series of restraining orders that limit his movement and forbid him from meeting foreigners or leaving the country.
From ACRI:December 29, 2013 – High Court of Justice Rejects Petition to Overturn Vanunu’s Restraining Orders
The Court ruled that it has reviewed the restraining orders several times in recent years, and has found time and again that they are necessary to protect national security.
Supreme Court President Grunis conceded that “there is a need to re-examine the necessity of the orders, and such review must take into account the passage of time … this assessment is necessary to ensure that the violation of the rights of the petitioner is proportionate given the sensitive information available to the petitioner and his motivation to disseminate it.”
The first of the series of petitions was submitted by ACRI. Since then, Mr. Vanunu has been represented by Attorneys Avigdor Feldman and Michael Sfard.