SPOTLIGHT ON...

THE U.S. CAMPAIGN TO FREE MORDECHAI VANUNU

BY MAX OBUSZEWSKI

The U.S. Campaign to Free
Mordechal Vanunu
2206 Fox Avenue
Madison, WI 53711
[608] 257-4764

A campaign to free Mordechai Vanunu sprang up in the United States after the former Israeli nuclear technician was kidnapped in 1986 and then convicted in a secret trial for releasing information to the London Sunday Times that confirmed his country's secret nuclear weapons program. Vanunu, who was not paid for the information, is serving an 18-year sentence in solitary confinement in an Israeli prison cell measuring six feet by nine. Amnesty International has condemned his treatment as "cruel, inhuman and degrading."

Vanunu worked for nine years as a technician at Israel's secret nuclear weapons factory at Dimona in the Negev desert. After leaving Dimona, he felt he had to release the story of the secret project in order to inform the Israeli people of the government's clandestine program to develop weapons of mass destruction. An Israeli court, however, reacted by convicting him of espionage, treason, and revealing state secrets. On September 6, 1993 the Supreme Court of Israel rejected his final appeal.

On September 30, Vanunu will be incarcerated ten years. Demonstrations calling for his immediate release are planned for that day in cities around the world-Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, London, New York, New Zealand, Oslo, Ottawa, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Sydney, Australia, Tel Aviv, Toronto, Vancouver, Wellington, New Zealand and Winnipeg.

There will also be a 12 noon rally that day at Connecticut and Van Ness Avenues in Washington, D.C. After the rally, Sam Day, the co-ordinator of the U.S. Campaign to Free Mordechai Vanunu, will lead a march to the Israeli embassy on Van Ness and International Drive. The local contact for the rally and march is Art Laffin at [202] 882-9649. Since his capture, Vanunu has been held in solitary confinement with no regular access to human contact and with a bare minimum of visits allowed, under very restrictive conditions, with his immediate family, his pastor and his lawyer. One reason Vanunu remains in solitary confinement is to deny him access to the media. The Israeli government denies the existence of its nuclear weapons program.

The Israeli Ministry of Justice issued a September 22, 1993 memorandum regarding Mordechai Vanunu. For obvious reasons, the Ministry's propaganda denigrates Vanunu's action. The memo claims, for example, without any verification, that Vanunu was paid for the information provided to the London Sunday Times. This is vehemently denied by the Campaign to free Vanunu. An even more scurrilous accusation made in the memo is that a Palestinian Liberation Organization [PLO] hi-jacking of a bus taking workers to Dimona on March 7, 1988 was a result of the story in the Sunday Times. Three workers were killed. However, without corroborating evidence, the memo claims "It is logical to conclude that the terrorists who committed this murderous attack were aided by information revealed by Vanunu."

Both the claim of payment and the "logical conclusion" that PLO members acted on information revealed in the Sunday Times were presented as part of "The Factual Background." The memo, despite discussing international law, avoids the issue of Vanunu's kidnapping by the Mossad in Rome. It is very unlikely that an outside intelligence service could have accomplished this act of terrorism without the connivance of the Italian government. Regardless of what level of Italy's government participated, the Mossad's action violated international law.

According to Seymour Hersh in his book Israel's Nuclear Arsenal and American FOreign Policy, The Sampson Option, Vanunu was compromised by Nicholas Davies, the foreign editor of the Daily Mirror, sibling newspaper of the Sunday Mirror, an Israeli asset who did some gunrunning for them. Besides fingering Vanunu to the Mossad, Davies, with Robert Maxwell, publisher of the Mirror Group newspapers, published an anti-Vanunu story as part of a disinformation campaign on behalf of the Israeli government.

Political figures from around the world will gather in Tel Aviv on October 14 for a two-day conference to talk about the case of Mordechai Vanunu, a prisoner of conscience. The conference will be sponsored and chaired by British physicist Joseph Rotblat, winner of the 1995 Nobel Peace Prize, who champions the release of Vanunu and has called for laws protecting whistleblowers. The focus of the gathering will be the impact of weapons of mass destruction on human rights.

Speakers from the United States will include Rabbi Philip J. Bentley, president of the Jewish Peace Fellowship, Patricia Browning of New York City, an Episcopal Church leader, Hugh E. Dewitt, senior scientist at the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory in California, and Daniel Ellsberg, whose unauthorized release of the Pentagon Papers in 1971 helped end the Vietnam War. Among those calling for his release on humanitarian grounds are the European Parliament, Amnesty International, the Federation of American Scientists, the Jewish and Episcopal peace fellowships, Pax Christi and Terry Anderson and other former American Middle East hostages.

Those interested in joining us for the September 30 rally in Washington can contact me at 323-7200. "Free Vanunu" petitions are available as well.

Part of the petition's wording is as follows:

"Mordechai Vanunu has our total support for his courageous action to alert the world to yet another country building a nuclear arsenal. Israel must acknowledge this right to speak the truth, and stop inflicting the torture it has been guilty of during the past ten years that it has kept Mordechai in solitary confinement."

Copyright © 2003 The Baltimore Chronicle and The Sentinel. All rights reserved. We invite your comments, criticisms and suggestions.

Republication or redistribution of Baltimore Chronicle and Sentinel content is expressly prohibited without their prior written consent.

This story was published on Wednesday, September 4, 1996.