What Americans Need to Know about
by Eileen Fleming
I'm not a traitor. I'm a man with a conscience
who did what he did out of a deep belief after much thought and
many doubts. But I knew that I had to do it, that I had no choice
somebody had to do it I contributed my share by making public
what the public ought to know and they shut my mouth behind the
- Mordechai Vanunu
Mordechai Vanunu was released from Ashkelon
prison to open air captivity in east Jerusalem on April 21, 2004
after 18 years-most all in solitary - on April 21, 2004.
In 1986, Mordechai Vanunu was clubbed,
drugged, bound and kidnapped from Rome by the Mossad because he
told the truth and provided the photographic proof of their clandestine
7-story underground WMD facility in the Negev.
In the case of Mordechai Vanunu, Americans
need to know that the restrictions that have held him captive
in Jerusalem come from the Emergency Defense Regulations which
were implemented by Britain against Palestinians and Jews after
World War II.
After WW II, Attorney Yaccov Shapiro,
who later became Israel's Minister Of Justice, described the Emergency
Defense Regulations as "unparalleled in any civilized country:
there were no such laws in Nazi Germany."
During one of my seven trips to Jerusalem
since 2005, I asked Vanunu, "If the British Mandate has expired
why not the British Mandate's Emergency Defense Regulations?"
Vaunu replied, "The reason given
is security but it is because Israel is not a democracy unless
you are a Jew. 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. My freedom
of speech trial began January 25, 2006 for speaking to the media,
the same day as the Palestinian elections When I decided to expose
Israel's nuclear weapons I acted out of conscience and to warn
the world to prevent a nuclear holocaust."
In 1963, Peres was Israel's Deputy Minister
of Defense when he met with President Kennedy at the White House.
Kennedy told Peres, "You know that we follow very closely
the discovery of any nuclear development in the region. This could
create a very dangerous situation. For this reason we monitor
your nuclear effort. What could you tell me about this?"
Peres replied, "I can tell you most
clearly that we will not introduce nuclear weapons to the region,
and certainly we will not be the first."
In 2005, Vanunu told me, "President
Kennedy tried to stop Israel from building atomic weapons. In
1963, he forced Prime Minister Ben Guirion to admit the Dimona
was not a textile plant, as the sign outside proclaimed, but a
nuclear plant. The Prime Minister said, 'The nuclear reactor is
only for peace.'
Kennedy insisted on an open internal inspection.
He wrote letters demanding that Ben Gurion open up Dimona for
inspection. The French were responsible for the actual building
of the Dimona. The Germans gave the money; they were feeling guilty
for the Holocaust, and tried to pay their way out. Everything
inside was written in French when I was there, almost twenty years
Back then, the Dimona descended seven
floors underground. In 1955, Perez and Gurion met with the French
to agree they would get a nuclear reactor if they fought against
Egypt to control the Sinai and Suez Canal. That was the war of
1956. Eisenhower demanded that Israel leave the Sinai, but the
reactor plant deal continued on.
When Johnson became president, he made
an agreement with Israel that two senators would come every year
to inspect. Before the senators would visit, the Israelis would
build a wall to block the underground elevators and stairways.
From 1963 to '69, the senators came, but they never knew about
the wall that hid the rest of the Dimona from them.
Nixon stopped the inspections and agreed
to ignore the situation. As a result, Israel increased production.
In 1986, there were over two hundred bombs. Today, they may have
enough plutonium for ten bombs a year.
On January 25, 2006, after nearly two
years of speaking to hundreds of foreigners since his release
from prison, Vanunu was convicted by the Jerusalem Magistrates
Court of 15 violations of a military order that had prohibited
him from talking to non-Israelis and because he attempted to "leave
the state" by taking a cab from Jerusalem to Bethlehem to
attend Christmas Eve mass at the Church of the Nativity in 2004.
The original indictment included 22 different violations; Vanunu
was charged with 19 and acquitted of four. He was acquitted of
speaking to foreign nationals on the internet and via video and
Just prior to the taping of 30 Minutes
with Vanunu on March 26, 2006, Vanunu told me, "Many journalists
come here to the American Colony, from CNN and NY Times. They
all want to cover my story, but their EDITORS say noCNN wants
to interview me; but they say they can't do it because they don't
want problems with the Israeli censor. BBC is doing the same thing.
Sixty Minutes from the United States from the beginning they wanted
to do a program, but because of the censor situation they decide
not to do it."
On July 2, 2007, Israel sentenced Vanunu
to six more months in jail for speaking to foreign media in 2004.
On September 23, 2008, the Jerusalem District Court reduced Vanunu's
sentence to three months, "In light of (Vanunu's) ailing
health and the absence of claims that his actions put the country's
security in jeopardy."
On June 14, 2009, Vanunu told me, "The
Central Commander of the General Army testified in court that
it is OK if I speak in public as long as I do not talk about nuclear
Vanunu's restrictions will be reviewed
again by the Israeli High Court after Dec. 21, 2009. On July 6,
2009, the Supreme Court stated, "pending a review of his
conduct, Vanunu will be able to ask for the restrictions to be
lifted and be allowed to travel abroad The state's representative
noted that six months may be too short a time period to determine
a change in Vanunu's behavior and that the state will reconsider
the restrictions based not only on Vanunu's behavior but a host
of other considerations, including the time that had lapsed since
he divulged state secrets to the British paper."
It will soon be twenty-four years since
Vanunu "divulged state secrets" and as Vanunu told me:
"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."
Regarding Israeli behavior towards Vanunu,
Americans need to know that in 1986, Israel kidnapped him from
Rome but Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and
Political Rights states: "No one shall he subjected to arbitrary
arrest or detention", including abduction of a person by
agents of one state to another state.
Vanunu was charged with and convicted
of treason and espionage. According to Section 99 of the Israeli
Penal Code, treason is defined as "an act calculated to assist
(an enemy) in time of war delivering information with the intention
that it fall into the hands of the enemy."
Section 113 defines aggravated espionage
as "deliver(ing) any secret information without being authorized
to do so and with intent to impair the security of the state"
and a sub-clause provides for a penalty of seven years for the
unauthorized collection, preparation, recording or holding of
secret information; if this is done with intent to impair the
security of the state and then, the penalty is increased to 15
Vanunu got 18 years and was also rendered
defenseless when the court ruled that his motivations were not
ideological and they refused to allow Vanunu's own statements
regarding his intentions to be considered in his defense.
A few days before Vanunu was lured from
London to Rome, where he was clubbed, drugged and kidnapped by
the Mossad, he spent three days being interviewed by Frank Barnaby.
Barnaby had been employed by the London
Sunday Times to review the 57 photos Vanunu had obtained at various
restricted locations in the Dimona and he also went to Jerusalem
to provide expert testimony at Vanunu's closed door trial.
Barnaby testified, "I found the fact
that Vanunu was able to smuggle a camera and films into and out
of Dimona and photograph highly sensitive areas in the establishment
astonishing. I very vigorously cross-examined Vanunu, relentlessly
asking the same questions in a number of different ways and at
different times 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 Isreal'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 and the design
of today's Israeli nuclear weapons will have been considerably
changed since then Modern nuclear weapons bear little relationship
to those of the mid-1980."
A total of 1,200 pages of transcript of
that closed door trial have been released and Vanunu told the
court: "I wanted to confirm what everyone knew, I didn't
want Israel to go on denying that it had nuclear weapons, and
Shimon Peres to go on lying to (then US president) Ronald Reagan,
saying that we didn't have a nuclear arsenal. I also wanted controls
to be placed on these weapons."
Defense witness and the Sunday Times journalist
who broke Vanunu's story, Peter Hounam, stated, "It is clear
that, as far as Vanunu's accusers are concerned, the trial is
not only about whether this decision to reveal the secrets of
Israel's atom bomb amounted to treason and espionage, it is also
about whether his decision to become a Christian was at the root
of his alleged treachery".
Hounam also testified that "We did
not pay him money, but only covered his expenses Money did not
Sunday Times journalist Wendy Robbins
wrote, "Mordechai never asked for nor received a single penny
for his information he blurted out the whole tale without first
setting out any financial preconditions. Mordechai got nothing
out of the whole episode. He never 'sold' Israel's secrets - he
In the 80's, Vanunu was transported to
and from his closed door trial in a crash helmet, handcuffs and
leg-irons, inside a van with blacked out windows that blasted
noise to assure Vanunu would not communicate with journalists
or supporters. During the court hearings, two Israeli security
agents flanked him at all times in order to be able to cover his
mouth if he began to reveal anything they deemed secret. The public,
the press and all observers - even Amnesty International - were
excluded from the hearings and the court's judgment was censored
On January 25, 2006, the first day of
a freedom of speech trial in Israel only two reporters from minor
media showed up for Vanunu's historic court case. Not one was
in the court room on February 22, 2006, when it was revealed that
Israel had gotten Microsoft to hand over all the details of Vanunu's
Hotmail account before a court order had been obtained by alluding
that he was being charged for espionage.
Vanunu wrote, "Microsoft obeyed the
orders and gave them all the details three months before I was
arrested and my computers were confiscated it is strange to ask
Microsoft to give this information before obtaining the court
order to listen to my private conversations. It means they wanted
to go through my emails in secret, or maybe, with the help of
the secret services, the Shaback, Mossad Sfard [Vanunu's attorney]
proved that the police had misled the judges who gave the orders
to arrest me: to search my room, to go through my email, to confiscate
my computers and that they misled Microsoft to believe they are
helping in a case of espionage. The State came to the court with
two special secret Government orders; Hisaion [documents or information
that are deemed confidential by the government and kept from the
court, the defendant, and lawyers.] This allows the prosecution
to keep documents related to my court hearing secret. One was
from the Minister for Interior Security and one from the Minister
Americans need to know that Vanunu's secretly
taped police interrogations, his 2004 Christmas Eve arrest for
"attempting to leave the country" when he attempted
to celebrate his first Christmas out of prison at the Church of
the Nativity in Bethlehem and the confiscation of his private
property by thirty Israeli Forces that stormed into his room at
St. George's Cathedral in 2004, according to Vanunu had all "been
done under the false and misleading statements to the courts of
'suspicion of espionage', and yet they are not charging me with
spy crimes and the fact is that I have not committed any crimes."
After Vanunu next faces the Israeli Supreme
Court, the world will know more about Israeli democracy and justice.
Until then, learn more and see and hear Vanunu in 2005, 2006,
2008 video interviews freely streaming at the Vanunu Archives.
Eileen Fleming is the author of Keep Hope
Alive and Memoirs of a Nice Irish American Girl's' Life in Occupied
Territory and the producer of 30 Minutes With Vanunu. Email her
at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read other articles by Eileen, or visit Eileen's