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US Israel Murder

 
 
The man who knew too much
He was drugged, kidnapped and locked up for 18 years after revealing Israel's nuclear secrets to the world.   Next month Mordechai Vanunu is finally set to be released, but just how much freedom will he be allowed?   Robert Fisk reports He was drugged, kidnapped and locked up for 18 years after revealing Israel's nuclear secrets to the world.   Next month Mordechai Vanunu is finally set to be released, but just how much freedom will he be allowed?   Robert Fisk reports
By Robert Fisk
The Independent
23 March 2004
Any Israeli who bought the 16 February edition of the daily newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth would have believed that a truly wicked man was about to be released from Ashkelon prison Each time a suicide bomber blew himself up, the prisoner would celebrate.   Worse still, said the paper, the inmate — once a keeper of Israel's nuclear secrets — wants to endanger his country further after his release.   "He told me," a former prisoner was quoted as saying, "that he has additional material and that he will reveal secrets...."
Should it be a surprise, then, that the very same prisoner, supposedly celebrating the slaughter of innocents while preparing to betray his country yet again, holds a clutch of awards from European peace groups, the Sean McBride Peace prize and an honorary doctorate from the University of Tromso?.   In 2000, the Church of Humanism told him: "You are honest, courageous and morally highly motivated, and may the great sacrifice you have made serve to protect not only those living in Israel but all the peoples of the Middle East and perhaps the world."   The same man has also been put forward as a nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Mordechai Vanunu, it seems, can only be loved or loathed.   Indifference to the former Israeli nuclear technician is impossible.   For he is the man who, in 1986, took evidence to The Sunday Times of the full story behind Israel's secret nuclear weapons plant at Dimona in the Negev desert, complete with the total number of advanced fission bombs there — 200 at the time — and, even more disturbingly, complete with pictures.   He said that Israel had mastered a thermonuclear design and appeared to have a number of thermonuclear bombs ready for use.   He was subsequently lured by a girl from London to Rome and then kidnapped, drugged and freighted back to Israel by Israeli secret policemen.   But in just six weeks' time, after 18 years of imprisonment — 12 of them in solitary confinement — the world's most famous whistleblower is scheduled for release.   Israel — not to mention the world — is holding its breath.
Will he divulge further secrets of Dimona — always supposing he has any after 18 years of incarceration — or curse the country of which he is a citizen, albeit a citizen who converted to Christianity before his arrest and who wants to emigrate to the United States?   Will he emerge a cowed man, anxious only to apologise for the terrible betrayal he inflicted upon his country?   Or will he, as his friends and supporters and his adopted American parents hope, become an apostle of peace, one of the greatest of this generation's prisoners of conscience, the man who tried to rid the world of the threat of nuclear annihilation?
The Israeli government is still uncertain how to confront Vanunu's release on 21 April.   They are known to be considering — perhaps have already decided upon — "certain supervisory means" and "appropriate measures" to shut Vanunu up.   In the second half of January, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon met with Menachem Mazuz, Israel's attorney general, and the defence minister, Shaul Mofaz, and discussed whether Vanunu should be refused a passport.   Vanunu would be free to sunbathe on the beaches of Tel Aviv but could not tour the world advertising Israel's nuclear power.   It's a sign of how fearful the Israeli administration has become at the prospect of this one man's release that Sharon also summoned to this conference Yehiel Horev's so-called "Defence Ministry Security Unit", the country's internal and external intelligence services — Shin Beth and the equally overestimated Mossad — and a representative of the Israeli Atomic Energy Committee.
Horev, it is now known, wanted to go much further than Sharon.   He proposed clapping an administrative detention order on Vanunu — Israel's usual way of dealing with Palestinians whom they regard as "terrorists" — although the meeting apparently came to the conclusion that this would only enhance Vanunu's reputation as a martyr for world peace.   There's another way of shutting Vanunu up, of course.   He can be publicly freed and then — the moment he starts talking about his work as a nuclear technician — he can be tried again and thrown back into Ashkelon jail — or Shikma prison, as the Israelis call it now.
But the real problem that Vanunu represents is that he will remind the world at a critically important moment in the history of the Middle East that Israel is a nuclear power and that its warheads stand ready to be fired from the Negev desert.   He will also remind the world that the Americans, despite battering their way into Iraq to destroy Saddam Hussein's nonexistent weapons of mass destruction, continue to give their political, moral and economic support to a country that has secretly amassed a treasure trove of weapons of mass destruction.
How can President Bush remain silent on Israel's nuclear power when he has not only illegally invaded an Arab state for allegedly harbouring nuclear weapons and condemned Iran for the same ambitions, but also praised — along with Tony Blair's government — Colonel Gaddafi of Libya for abandoning his nuclear pretensions?   If the Arab states are being "defanged" — always supposing they had any real fangs in the first place — why should Israel not be "de-nuclearised"?   Why can't the United States apply the same standards to Israel as it does to the Arabs?   Or why, for that matter, can't Israel apply the same standards to itself that it demands of its Arab enemies?
This is the debate that the Israeli and the American governments wish to stifle.   In the United States, where any discussion of the Israeli-American relationship that deviates from the benign is routinely condemned as subversive or "anti-Semitic", discussion of Israel's nuclear power is not something that Washington will want to hear on the Sunday talk shows.   Vanunu, it should be said at once, is well aware of all this, of his own importance — infinitely greater than it was when he was a mere junior technician at Dimona — and of the role that tens of thousands of anti- nuclear campaigners expect him to play in the world.   Many times, through friends and through his own brothers, Vanunu has said that he has no new nuclear secrets but has the right to oppose nuclear weapons in Israel or anywhere else.   "All I want to do is to go to America, get married and start a new life," he says.
No one can doubt Vanunu's conviction.   Born in 1954 to a religious Jewish family in Morocco, he immigrated to Israel at the age of nine, performed his military service in the mid-Seventies and began work at Dimona in November 1976 while completing a graduate course in philosophy and geography.   Perhaps it was during his travels in Thailand, Burma, Nepal and Australia in early 1986 that he decided he had a moral duty to talk about Israel's nuclear weapons.   In the same year, he was baptised at an Anglican church in Sydney.   Vanunu had clearly become deeply distressed at Israel's growing nuclear power when he walked into British newspaper offices in September of 1986 in the hope of telling the world the truth about Dimona.   He had dropped by Robert Maxwell's Daily Mirror at first, handed over his photographs of the nuclear plant and waited for a reply.   Unknown to Vanunu, Maxwell sent the pictures round to the Israeli embassy in London to "take a look at them", supposedly to "confirm" whether or not the story was true.   It seems likely that Maxwell had motives other than journalistic integrity in this betrayal of Vanunu.   After his death at sea in 1991, Maxwell, who had stolen millions in pensioners' funds, was given a state funeral in Israel at which Shimon Peres praised his "services" to the state.
Maxwell's Daily Mirror ran a "spoiler" story on 28 September, belittling Vanunu and carrying the headline "The Strange Case of Israel and the Nuclear Con Man."   The Sunday Times ran with the full story — but Vanunu had already disappeared.   Entrapped by a female Mossad agent, he had been lured on to a British Airways flight to Rome and promptly kidnapped.   It seems, in fact, that he was seized inside Rome's Fiumicino Airport.   Unable to speak to journalists, he carefully wrote out details of his movements on the palm of his hand and pressed it to the window of his prison truck as it took him to court.   "Rome ITL 30:9:86 2100 came to Rome by BA504," he had written.   He had been kidnapped at 9pm on 30 September at Rome International.   Were the Italian authorities involved in his kidnap?   Were they present when he was seized?   Perhaps Vanunu can tell us.
He is certainly a man of endurance. Once, during his 12 years of solitary, the prison authorities accidentally freed him for exercise before Arab prisoners in the jail-yard had been returned to their cells.   Vanunu immediately walked towards them.   One of the Arabs, a Lebanese imprisoned for smuggling arms into the West Bank, was among the first strangers to bring word of Vanunu's appearance to the outside world.   "Vanunu fell into step with us and smiled at us and it was a time before we realised who he was," the freed Lebanese later told The Independent.   "He said it was good to be with us and we thought he was a brave man.   Then the guards realised their mistake and we were pushed and shoved away from him, back to our cells."
An Israeli journalist visiting another prisoner was amazed to see Vanunu.   "For a short moment I saw a bucolic scene," he wrote, "as if taken from some other reality: a serene man, sitting on a bench in a garden and reading Nietzsche in English.   I approached him and extended my hand.   Pleased to meet you, my name is Ronen,' I said.
"I'm Motti, the most confined prisoner in the State of Israel," he replied.   Before we could continue to talk, screaming wardens rushed over and grabbed him away."
A former prisoner, Yossi Harush, has provided another glimpse of the imprisoned Vanunu in the years after his solitary confinement ended.   "During the day," Harush told Yedioth Ahronoth, "during walks, he meets people and talks with them.   I spoke a lot with Vanunu.   We were friends.   He would come to my cell... He has good conditions.   He is treated nicely in prison... He has no restrictions on leaving his cell, but he is restricted within the prison.   I myself, as a working prisoner, painted a red line that he is forbidden to cross.   I was ordered to do that, and afterwards our relationship cooled off."
Vanunu has been regularly visited by an Anglican clergyman, Dean Michael Sellors.   It was Sellors who pointed out to him that his release date coincided with the Queen's birthday.   "He said that in that case, he'd better get a ticket and greet her himself."
Vanunu has also taken heart in the actions of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, a normally conservative organisation, which has stated that, "any sanctions against Mordechai after release would be illegal and immoral."   A chatline on the Hebrew website of the Israeli daily Maariv shows that a number of young Israelis regard Vanunu as a hero rather than a threat.   Mary Eoloff, a retired American schoolteacher who, with her husband, adopted Vanunu in the hope that he could be given US citizenship and released, was the first to reveal that when Israeli security men offered to release him a year before the expiry of his 18 years in jail, Vanunu turned them down.   "He believes in freedom of speech," she said.
It remains to be seen if Israel will allow Vanunu the free speech he loves.   Horev, the defence ministry security official who attended Sharon's meeting, has spoken of the threat that he believes the nuclear technician represents, which seems to be about ambiguity rather than state secrets.   Horev compares this ambiguity to water in a glass.   "My job is to ensure that the water doesn't spill over the glass," he said recently.   "Up until the Vanunu affair, the water was at a very low level.   The affair caused the water level to rise significantly and caused Israel great damage, but the water still didn't overflow.   If we let certain people act in the matter, the water will spill."
The Israeli journalist Raanan Shaked was a good deal more cynical when he spoke on the subject on Israel's Channel 10 TV.   "Who is the main threat to Israel?" he asked.   "Of course, Mordechai Vanunu!   He is the big danger.   Israeli democracy simply cannot withstand the impact of this one man saying what every child knows: we have nuclear weapons."
On 21 April, when Vanunu is released, we shall find out if the water is going to overflow — and whether Vanunu will cross the red line painted so ominously on the floor at the instruction of the authorities.
Tuesday, 20 April, 2004
Vanunu: Israel's nuclear telltale
Vanunu being transported between jail to court.

Vanunu gets a message to the outside world: 'Vanunu M, was hijacked in Rome...'
Vanunu gets a message to the outside world: "Vanunu M, was hijacked in Rome..".
The spotlight falls back on Israel's secret nuclear weapons programme on Wednesday, as Mordechai Vanunu, the man who exposed it, walks from jail after an 18-year sentence. BBC News Online's Martin Asser looks at the significance of the case.
Mordechai Vanunu's revelations in 1986 appeared to confirm suspicions about Israel's nuclear arsenal and showed a weapons programme bigger and more advanced than anyone had previously thought.
He had worked for nine years as a technician at the Dimona nuclear research centre in the Negev desert — but he left in late 1985 to backpack around the Far East, having become disillusioned with his work.
Before quitting he surreptitiously snapped two rolls of film at the top secret nuclear plant, including equipment for extracting radioactive material for arms production and laboratory models of thermonuclear devices.
It is not clear whether Vanunu was already set upon blowing the whistle on Israel's secret nuclear activities, but by the following year he had joined a group of anti-nuclear Christians in Sydney, Australia, coincidentally being baptised as an Anglican.
One of the group, Colombian-born freelance journalist Oscar Guerrero, persuaded him to follow his conscience and publish the pictures along with detailed information about the Dimona plant.
It was a decision that led him first to London and the Sunday Times — then to Rome and kidnapping by Israeli intelligence service Mossad — then back to Israel and a long jail sentence.
He was a traitor to this country
Shimon Peres
Secret deal
Israel is thought to have begun its quest for weapons of mass destruction soon after the establishment of the state in 1948.
Faced by a hostile region and vastly outnumbered by its enemies, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion desired a nuclear deterrent, but without wanting to upset Israel's friends by introducing non-conventional weapons into a flashpoint region.
So Israel did a secret deal with France to build the Dimona plant, which is thought to have gone into production to make the ingredients for nuclear weapons in the 1960s.
Successive governments employed a policy of "nuclear ambiguity" and have hidden behind the (apparently misleading) formula that "Israel will not be the first to introduce nuclear weapons into the Middle East".
Sunday Times Vanunu story.

The 1986 Sunday Times story that lifted the lid off Israel's nuclear weapons programme
The 1986 Sunday Times story that lifted the lid off Israel's nuclear weapons programme
Ever since admitting that the Dimona plant housed a nuclear reactor rather than a textile factory, Israeli officials have insisted it is intended for exclusively peaceful purposes.
Israel never signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, so Dimona is not subject to international scrutiny - and its "ambiguity" policy has been accepted by Washington (which has laws preventing it from supporting proliferating states) at face value.
It was against this murky backdrop that the Vanunu affair exploded in 1986.
Stunning revelation
Mordechai Vanunu is a Moroccan Jew born in 1954, whose family arrived in Israel in 1963.   In 1971 he became a sapper in the Israeli army, having failed in his main ambition to join the air force.
After military service he was taken on as a trainee at Dimona and ended up working in the underground Machon 2 facility, which he claimed was responsible for the production of the bomb components plutonium, lithium dueteride and beryllium.
I claim that I wanted to tell the world about what was happening... this is not treason, it is informing the world
Mordechai Vanunu
Outside his top secret job, Vanunu began studying philosophy at Ben Gurion university, where he became more and more involved in politics — espousing pro-Palestinian views and joining the anti-war movement.
By 1985, he learnt that he was being made redundant, but he had already decided to leave the plant, taking his infamous photographs before his departure.
The world was stunned when the Sunday Times published its expose Revealed: The Secrets of Israel's Nuclear Arsenal on 5 October 1986.
Experts tricked
Editor Andrew Neil described the three-page spread as the greatest scoop he achieved as head of one of the UK's most influential papers.
Not only did Vanunu's account expose the sham of the blind-eye policy towards Israel's nuclear capability by its main ally, Washington.
Lathe for making plutonium rods.

Vanunu's pictures showed nuclear weapons making equipment in close detail.
Vanunu's pictures showed nuclear weapons making equipment in close detail
His information, which was verified by experts in the nuclear field, also indicated that Dimona was capable of producing much more weapons-grade plutonium than previously thought.
According to him, the plant had been upgraded several times to increase production of plutonium and in 1985 could make 1.2 kg per week, enough for up to 12 nuclear warheads a year.
Israel's estimated nuclear capability had to be revised from a handful of weapons to approximately 100-200 warheads, ranging from battlefield weapons to warheads that could lay waste whole cities.
He also recounted stories of how US experts allowed to inspect the site in the 1960s had been tricked by false walls and concealed lifts so they did not even realise the six underground floors at Machon 2 existed.
Hate figure
Before the Sunday Times had even printed its story, Mordechai Vanunu had been lured away from London and kidnapped in Rome in a much-publicised Mossad sting.
Drugged and bound, he was shipped back home to face the full force of Israeli justice.
He may have been hailed as a heroic whistle blower by the anti-nuclear camp outside Israel, which has campaigned doggedly on his behalf and even had him nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, but there have been few tears shed for him by Israelis.
Former Prime Minister Shimon Peres — who ordered his capture, reportedly on Italian soil so as not to embarrass the then-British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher — expresses the prevailing view.
"[Vanunu] was a traitor to this country.   I can't go into all the processes... The fact is that he was brought to trial," Mr Peres said in a recent BBC interview.
Certainly he has done little to endear himself to the Israeli public — abandoning Judaism, appearing to endanger national security and jeopardising ties with Washington, Israel's greatest supporter.
And his 18 years incarceration — more than half of the time in solitary confinement — seems if anything to have sharpened his political views.
"I claim that I wanted to tell the world about what was happening... this is not treason, it is informing the world, unlike Israel's policies," he said in a taped prison interview leaked two days before the release.
Using draconian measures inherited from pre-1948 British emergency legislation the Israeli judiciary is taking steps to make sure that Vanunu does not spill any more of Israel's secrets.
He says he has none, but wants to continue his campaign for Israel to abandon nuclear arms — so he still has the ability to cause plenty of embarrassment.
SEE ALSO:
Vanunu 'is still security risk'
09 Mar 04 | Middle East
Israel's nuclear programme
22 Dec 03 | Middle East
Mid-East call on Israel to disarm
21 Dec 03 | Africa
Israeli nuclear 'power' exposed
16 Mar 03 | Correspondent


Tuesday, 20 April, 2004
Israel confirms Vanunu restraints
Mordechai Vanunu

Israelis still view Vanunu as a threat to security
Israelis still view Vanunu as a threat to security
Israel has set out the range of restrictions on former nuclear technician Mordechai Vanunu when he is released from jail on Wednesday.
Vanunu has spent nearly 18 years in prison for revealing details of Israel's nuclear arms programme.
He had hoped to move abroad, but has been told he must not go near airports or ports or talk to foreigners without permission after his release.
Israel insists he still poses a threat to national security.
"Mordechai Vanunu has revealed state secrets about the Dimona nuclear plant. He still possesses state secrets including some which he has not revealed," the government said in a statement justifying the restrictions.
'Hostile campaign'
Israelis heard Vanunu's voice for the first time on Monday in a tape recording of a recent interrogation in which he defended his actions.
VANUNU CURBS
No passport
May not leave Israel for a year
Contact with foreigners only by permission
Barred from foreign embassies
Media interviews not permitted
Banned from discussing nuclear secrets

The prisoner was combative and defiant, saying there was nothing more for him to add about Israel's nuclear secrets and querying the need for a Jewish state.
In a BBC interview, Vanunu's brother Meir called into question the veracity of the tape and said the UK government had a duty to ensure his protection amid what he described as a "very hostile" media campaign against him.
"The [UK] government was quiet and maybe collaborated with this situation of letting him be kidnapped from Britain, and he has paid an incredible price," Mr Vanunu said.
Israel's Prisons Authority has announced that Vanunu will be freed from Ashkelon's Shikma prison at 1100 (0800 GMT) on Wednesday.
Anti-nuclear protesters have been gathering in Israel to be at the prison gates for his release.
Fresh warnings
Israel said it could have imposed much tougher post-release restrictions on Vanunu - and the length of time the current regime will remain in place depends on his behaviour.
Israeli press reports also speak of some curbs in the Vanunu case being lifted - for example the ban on the media discussing his kidnapping in Rome by Israeli agents in 1986.
A reported ban on his going near embassies in Tel Aviv has also been eased - but he cannot enter one.
On the other hand he has been warned not to tell the media about his work at Dimona and to report to the police if anyone asks for an interview.
He also may not reveal any classified information, even information that he had previously given to the Sunday Times and was published by the UK paper before his abduction 18 years ago.
WATCH AND LISTEN
Meir Vanunu, brother of Mordechai Vanunu
"They are continuing to portray him as a very dangerous man"



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For archives, these articles are being stored on TheWE.name website.
The purpose is to advance understandings of environmental, political,
human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues.