Eileen Fleming: Vanunu Encounters

By Eileen Fleming
Special to PalestineChronicle.com

On July 2, 2007, the whistle blower of Israel’s WMD Program, Mordechai Vanunu was sentenced to six more months in jail for interviews he gave foreign media in 2004.

As an independent journalist, I have been freely streaming video interviews of Vanunu from 2005 and 2006 on my website in the spirit of Article 19 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human rights which Israel agreed to uphold in 1948 and in fact, was contingent upon their statehood: "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."

During my five journeys to Israel Palestine since June 2005, Vanunu and I have crossed paths every time and in the spirit of Article 19 we have spoken and I have been freely streaming video of him. *


In 1986, Vanunu was a low tech worker in Israel’s underground WMD facility in the Negev, but the sign out front back them still proclaimed it was a Textile Plant. All employees signed a secrecy agreement to never speak about what they did in the Dimona, and all jobs were compartmentalized, so very few ever woke up to the fact that they were but a cog in the making of weapons of mass destruction.

Because Vanunu was a good worker, he was cross trained in many areas and then suffered a crisis of conscience about being a part of what could become a nuclear holocaust. Without consulting family or friends, he decided to document the facts underground in the Dimona nuclear weapons of mass destruction plant by photographing the evidence.  

Vanunu easily obtained the keys to the restricted areas after they had been carelessly left in the shower room by a supervisor. Vanunu shot two rolls of film in the underground WMD facility without detection but did not develop them until ten months later while in Sydney, Australia.

The photos were published in the London Sunday Times just as Vanunu was being kidnapped, clubbed, drugged and bound by the Mossad in Rome and then flung onto an Israeli ship heading home.

Israel tried Vanunu for treason in a closed door trial and locked him up for 18 years, most all of it in solitary. Vanunu has not set foot into the Dimona in 22 years and International Inspectors never have.

On April 21, 2004, Vanunu was released from Ashkelon Prison, but is still not free. He has lived under the draconian 1945 British Mandate State of Emergency Regulations, which forbids him from leaving Israel and speaking to media and foreigners. After WW II, Attorney Yaccov Shapiro, who later became Israel’s Minister Of Justice, described the Emergency Defense Regulations which denies Vanunu the inalienable rights of freedom of speech and movement as "unparalleled in any civilized country: there were no such laws in Nazi Germany."[ N.S. Ateek, Justice and Only Justice p.34]

Vanunu Interviewed

I met Vanunu for the first time in June 2005, and was curious about his childhood and how and why he-a secular Jew existentialist became a Christian just a few weeks before being kidnapped by the Mossad. He filled me in on all of that, and during our encounters since then, he has told me much more.

Some of what Vanunu has said to me," This administration tells me I am not allowed to speak to foreigners, the Media, and the world. But I do because that is how I prove my true humanity to the world.

"The Israelis have 200 atomic weapons and they accuse the Palestinians and Muslims of terrorism. The Dimona is 46 years old; reactors last 25 to 30 years. The Dimona has never been inspected and Israel has never signed the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty but all the Arab states have."

"Twenty years ago when I worked there they only produced when the air was blowing towards Jordan ten miles away. No one knows what is happening now. The world needs to wake up and see the real terrorism is the occupation and the Palestinians have lived under that terror regime for 40 years.

"It’s very sad that Hilary Clinton went to the Jewish Wailing Wall and forgot the real crying wall is the Palestinian wall; the apartheid wall, the wall is not for defense, but to keep this conflict permanent.

"The only way to peace is peace; the only way is nonviolence. The only answer to Israeli nuclear weapons, their aggression, occupation and oppression, and the wall and refugee camps is to answer them with truth and a peaceful voice. When I became the spy for the world, I did it all for the people of the world. If governments do not report the truth, and if the media does not report the truth, then all we can do is follow our consciences. Daniel Ellsberg did, the woman from Enron did, and I did. The United States needs to wake up and see the truth that Israel is not a democracy, unless you are a Jew. Israel is the only country in the Middle East where America can right now find nuclear weapons.

"America can also find where basic human rights have been denied Christians: right here in Israel. The time has come for the United States to see the truth of Zionism. It began as a secular nationalist movement, not a religious one. Then some Christians believed that when Israel became a nation, it was the beginning of the second coming. They are deluded if they believe peace will come through atomic weapons. Atomic weapons are holocaust weapons. Christians should be the first people against them.

"The Christians in America should be helping the Christians here. America needs to wake up to this fallacy that Jesus will come back by nuclear war. America needs to wake up to the fact that the Palestinian Christians here have no human rights. Aren’t Christians supposed to be concerned about other Christians? Aren’t Christians supposed to be concerned about all the poor and oppressed?

"My human rights have been denied me because I am a Christian. When I was on trial, I was treated just like a Palestinian: no human rights at all, and cruel and unusual punishment, all because I told the truth. The government spread slander about me, that I was a homosexual, that I hated Jews, that I wanted fame and money. What I did was sacrifice my life for the truth. In prison, I really began to feel like Jesus and Paul. When Jesus threw the money changers out of the temple, it was like me in Dimona, exposing the Israelis’ dirty secrets. I felt like Paul, being thrown in prison for speaking the truth.

"The only real way to worship is in loving one’s enemies. It was not easy to love my tormentors; it was only because I felt so much like Jesus crucified on the cross, and as if I was crucified in prison, that I could do it. It was not ever easy. I have forgiven but not forgotten anything, and I never will. In Israel, a life sentence is twenty-five years. Even murderers go free after seventeen. They imposed the same restrictions on me that Palestinians receive: no human rights at all; no phone; no visitors, except family, and only through an iron grill; no vacation; no holidays; and no gifts. Even murderers get out for vacations! I was locked up for eighteen years and still cannot go on vacation; I cannot leave, and that is all I am asking for, just to leave here. For eighteen years in prison, they even attempted to control my thoughts on paper. I would write exactly what I wanted and they would censor words like kidnapped and atomic bomb. They would show me how they chopped up my letters, but I continued to write exactly what I wanted. They held my body, but never my spirit or mind.

"Israel is only a democracy if you are a Jew."

Annually, for the last twenty years Mordechai Vanunu has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. In 2007, Vanunu was nominated by Bishop Desmond Tutu, who received the Nobel Prize in 1984, for his courageous and fearless opposition against the South African apartheid system.

At the Russian Compound in Jerusalem, on February 2, 2007, Vanunu’s historic freedom of speech trial which began on January 25, 2006 was concluded. He had been brought back to court because he spoke his mind to foreign media after his 2004 release from jail, and on April 30, 2007, Vanunu was convicted on 14 -out of 21- counts of violating the court order that prohibited him from speaking to foreign journalists, who have been MIA ever since.

Vanunu was also convicted for traveling the four miles from Jerusalem to Bethlehem when he hoped to attend Christmas Eve mass at the Church of the Nativity, his first Christmas after being released from 18 years in jail [most of it in solitary] on April 21, 2004. Instead of church, Vanunu spent Christmas Eve in jail and charged with attempting to flee Israel.

On Christmas Eve 2007, he was again arrested and hauled into jail. Vanunu had committed the ‘crime’ of having dinner with a German tourist, who was also hauled into jail and interrogated. On December 27, 2007, I received an email from Vanunu:

"…they were very harsh to the young German girl, they were questioning here like by the KGB…she was in a separate room. She was still there after I left at 24:00…So do what ever you can, you are in a free country. Next court hearing Jan. 8."

Vanunu’s appeal fighting the six month jail sentence was to begin January 8, 2008, but the day before, Israel instead sentenced him to six months community service.

Indeed, Vanunu’s saga is far from over.


– Eileen Fleming is a reporter and editor; she is the author of “Keep Hope Alive” and "Memoirs of a Nice Irish American Girl’s’ Life in Occupied Territory". She is also the producer of "30 Minutes with Vanunu."

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