How many times is Israel going to make an example of Mordechai Vanunu? He was released from prison in 2004 after serving 18 years – much of it in solitary confinement. He has just been jailed again for ‘talking to foreigners’. The stringent terms of his release three years ago forbade him from having any contact with foreigners and from leaving the country.
Vanunu was first jailed, in 1986, for revealing information about Israel’s nuclear programme to the Sunday Times. If one follows the logic of Israel’s latest actions, the implication is that Vanunu remains a danger to national security. More than 20 years on, his knowledge of Israel’s nuclear capability is apparently so acute that he cannot be trusted to have any contact with foreigners, and can certainly not be allowed to go abroad, where he might spread all kinds of top secret information. Israel’s nuclear technology has, apparently, not advanced since the moment Vanunu was kidnapped by Mossad in Rome.
According to Vanunu’s lawyer, there was no suggestion in the prosecution that there had been any breach of state security: he was jailed for breaching the conditions of his release.
Israel continues to maintain an extraordinary fiction around its nuclear capability – more than 50 years since Shimon Peres, Israel’s new president, first did a deal with the French to build a nuclear reactor. Peres himself has acknowledged this, but last year, when Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert publicly confirmed in an interview that Israel has nuclear weapons, his aides were quick to step in and say that he hadn’t actually meant what he’d said. Vanunu is partly a victim of this continuing farce. Israel is also clearly bent on making an example of him in seeking to condemn him to a life of eternal punishment.
Mordechai Vanunu wants to live a normal life, as a free man. It’s time for Israel to cease its persecution and give him his freedom.