NUCLEAR VANUNU BACK IN ISRAELI COURT
By Jerry Levin
(Hebron, West Bank, Palestine January 26, 2006). Here's a Palestine
election day story that was probably not reported in your local,
regional or national mainstream press outlets. It took place in a tiny
but definitely not crowded court room in West Jerusalem where the
second trial of Mordechai Vanunu got underway. Given the fact that the
trial began on the day when the attention of the entire international
press corps stationed in Israel was concentrated in the West Bank and
Gaza, it was virtually assured that the episode would pass by mainly
unnoticed and unremarked. "At first, the judge arranged the trial for
the 15th of January," Mordechai explained good naturedly while waiting
for the proceedings to begin. "But then he moved it, because the
Israel government wanted it be on the day of the election,"
So all the attention by the public and the media would not be on
Vanunu but on the elections.
"But why that?"
"Because each time I am in the courts it reminds them of Israel's
atomic weapons. The Zionists want to keep hiding them and stopping the
Vanunu, of course, is the irrepressible whistle blowing former
Orthodox Jew turned Anglican gadfly who back in 1986 at considerable
risk revealed to a British newspaper the fact of Israel's secret full
speed ahead nuclear armaments program. After letting that particular
cat out of the bag, he was kidnapped to Israel by secret agents and
sentenced to eighteen years in solitary confinement for revealing that
specific truth. Most First World governments still officially pretend
that the little man on the stair he revealed is still not there…on the
stair. The fiction allows them to resist seeking to curtail the
program like they have been trying to do in Iran and North Korea.
After serving the full eighteen year term, Vanunu was released from
jail, confined to Jerusalem and forbidden to give interviews to
foreign journalists. He has observed the travel restriction
scrupulously; but the minute he was released in April 2004 he launched
a nonstop campaign of civil disobedience by talking to foreign
reporters in English either in person or by electronic hook up. In
fact he remains eagerly accessible to any one who cares to call him up
to see if he is available.
So after eight months of deliberately thumbing his nose at what he
considers an intolerable infringement on his right to speak publicly
and on the day when the attention of the international press was
otherwise occupied reporting the death of Yassir Arafat, his room in
the guest house of Anglican St. Georges' Cathedral was raided by
Israeli police. All of his materials: tapes, DVDs, notebooks,
computers were seized; and he was taken away for hours of
interrogation before being let go [See From The Inside Looking Out,
Report-44:Mordechai, December 21, 2004].
"And this trial relates back to that raid over a year ago?"
"Yes, that was the beginning. They arrested me. They questioned me.
And now we have this trial about how they want to continue to
interfere with me. See, what I say to the reporters is only what I
said in 1986. What I am doing that is new, now that I am out of
prison, is expressing my political views about what I found out then.
I don't know any new secrets. I told all I knew. So they are against
my freedom of speech and movement. They don't want me to talk against
Israel making nuclear weapons proliferation in the Middle East. They
don't want me to say that they should be abolished because in 1986
they already had 230 atomic bombs and the hydrogen bomb. They don't
need all that for defense. Those are holocaust bombs. They are for
The trial is taking place in the lowest tier of the Israeli court
system; it's called the Peace Court in the hopes that the disputants
can come to some kind of agreement before a trial has to take place.
"So, are you willing to make a deal with the prosecutor, like for
instance, you let me go and I'll stop talking to the foreign press
while I am here?
"Yes, that's what I told to my lawyers when the government said, `We
want to end this case by agreement, by deal.' So, I said, `I am ready
for that when you tell me when and how I can leave the country, to
start a new life, to work, and to write my story for the record.'"
"So what did the prosecutors say when you said, `Just let me go?'"
"I'm still waiting to hear from them."
"And," I replied, "I'm still trying to get my mind around what they
are prosecuting you for?"
"For doing interviews like we are doing right here in the court, in
front of the Prosecutor."
The first day was taken up with the introduction of evidence: snippets
from recordings of more than twenty interviews with all the usual
suspects: interviews by the likes of Amy Goodman, David Frost, lesser
lights from the Australian media, and the kind of radio stations and
websites that Bill O'Reilly et al love to bash: KPFA, KPFP, WBAI, etc.
Each one contained his complaints and concerns about 1) what he had
learned about Israel's role in the small nation nuclear proliferation
issue and 2) the infringement and circumscribing of his rights since
At one point an amusedly incredulous Vanunu nudged me in the ribs and
whispered, "Can you believe this. They are doing my testifying for me?"
A little later his lead lawyer, Avigdor Feldman, objected when the
prosecution tried to introduce recordings of his phone conversations
and transcripts of chat room discussion. The broadcast and website
interviews were one thing being public in nature, but phone
conversations and chat room chatter, being private, is another. The
judge said he'd think about that.
And after that, the proceedings turned a bit sinister when it was
revealed that the several interrogations of Vanunu by the police had
been secretly videotaped. Some were played in court.
When the session ended, Vanunu said, "We don't know what will be the
outcome, verdict and maybe a sentence." But, once again he reiterated
what he darn well thinks it ought to be. Acquittal, of course. "This
is about freedom of speech," he said. "We have not committed any
crimes. So I think really it is Israel's democracy system that is on
trial. Either there is freedom of speech for Vanunu or there is no
freedom of speech for him. Because what I did since leaving the prison
is just expressing my views; and that is my right to do."
Trial as currently scheduled takes up again on February 9 and 12..