[East Jerusalem] On July 8, 2008, the final act in Mordechai Vanunu’s current trials plays out, when Israel either puts Vanunu behind bars for six more months, or “something else” as Vanunu wrote.
Mordechai Vanunu’s historic freedom of speech trial began in January 2006.
In July 2007, Israel convicted him on 14 [out of over a hundred interviews with foreign journalists] counts of violating the court order prohibiting him from speaking to any foreigners since his 2004 release from 18 years in prison for exposing Israel’s secret nuclear weapons program in 1986.
A possible something else that had been hoped for, was that Israel would be led by true friends to accept the Norwegians offer of asylum http://www.vanunu.org/ and allow Vanunu to leave the state which is all he has wanted to do since he emerged from Ashkelon prison on April 21, 2004.
On July 1, 2008 I received the following email reply from Norway:
Subject: Reply on your email concerning Vanunu
Dear Ms Fleming
Thank you for your email dated 12 July 2008 addressed to Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre concerning Mordechai Vanunu.
The Norwegian authorities have been following Mr Vanunu’s case for many years, and will continue to do so.
Norway has on several occasions raised the case of Mr Vanunu in bilateral talks with Israel and has emphasised that he must not be subject to any form of injury or insulting behaviour. We have also stressed that his human rights, including his rights of speech and movement, must be respected.
When Mr Vanunu was released from prison in 2005, a number of restrictions were placed upon him following decisions by Israeli judges. Norway recognises the Israeli juridical system and will act in accordance with their decisions.
Mr Vanunu’s application for asylum to Norway was sent by letter from Israel. As it is not possible to apply for asylum from abroad, his application was turned down on 21 May 2008 on formal grounds.
There are no restrictions on the part of Norway that prevent Mr Vanunu from visiting the country if it should be appropriate for him to do so.
Thomas Rem Berdal
Middle East Section
Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
The first time I crossed paths with Vanunu was in the courtyard of St. Georges Cathedral in June 2005, during my first of five trips to Israel Palestine. The last time I crossed paths with Vanunu was July 2007, nearby St. Stephen’s Dominican Church on Nablus Road.
Vanunu smiled when he told me,” This is the spot where they stoned to death the first Christian martyr for freedom of speech.”
It had been two weeks since Vanunu received the bad news of a six month sentence for speaking to foreign media –he is allowed to speak to Israeli journalists- but he wasn’t talking to any media because, “All the interviews I have given haven’t helped me.”
In 2005, the first of my three video interviews with Vanunu addressed the fact that President Bush could find WMD’s in Israel and not Iraq and how his faith helped him endure 18 years in jail for telling the truth.
Vanunu also told me stories that I wrote down about his childhood in an orthodox Jewish home in Morocco, adolescent rejection of the faith, the misery he saw as a sergeant in the IDF, university activism for Palestinian human rights, and how he happened to be baptized a Christian just days before being kidnapped, clubbed, drugged and locked up for 18 years because of the photographic evidence he provided of Israel’s secret underground nuclear weapons program in the Negev. 
Vanunu can be articulate, funny, and patient and a moment later; detached, distant and withdrawn. It is an honor to me that he continues to respond to my questions and what follows are his replies from June 2008, slightly edited for clarity.
E: Now that North Korea seems serious about foregoing its nuclear weapons what do you say in light of Israel’s secret nuclear activities?
V: The time is now for the US and the entire world to speak very clear and loudly about Israel’s ‘secret’ nuclear weapons. They locked me up for 18 years for exposing them, but they get away with nuclear ambiguity because the world is afraid they will be accused of anti-Semitism.
But any movement such as North Korea is doing is good news, because now, Israel must be led by the international community to follow the same world policies, the IAEA inspections and regulations and human rights and international law.
Also the Dimona is ancient and last week, the Israeli Ambassador visited the office of IAEA, Mohamed Elbaraede and the news reports that he complained about Iran. So, maybe now, Israel will also report in secret to the IAEA, about the future of Dimona?
Also Isreal wants to build or have Reactors for energy so they must accept and adhere to the NPT and all IAEA authorization and inspections.
The world is waiting for Israel to move as Korea is and South Africa did.
If Israel claims they don’t have nuclear weapons, then they must open up the Dimona or destroy it.
Israel’s atomic weapons cause every state in the M E to want them and the only way out is for Israel to sign the NPT or close down the Dimona.-vmjc
Previously Vanunu told me, “The Dimona is 46 years old; reactors last 25 to 30 years. The Dimona has never been inspected and Israel has never signed the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty but all the Arab states have…Twenty years ago when I worked there they only produced when the air was blowing towards Jordan ten miles away. No one knows what is happening now.
“The Israelis have 200 atomic weapons and they accuse the Palestinians and Muslims of terrorism. The world needs to wake up and see the real terrorism is the occupation and the Palestinians have lived under that terror regime for 40 years.
“Israel propaganda portrays all Palestinians as Muslim extremists and Hamas terrorists and neglect that Palestinian Christians are following the true message of Jesus Christ with nonviolent resistance. We need all Christians to come and see the truth for themselves.
“I really had no clue what I was doing by getting baptized a Christian; I just felt like I had to do it. It was my way to become a new being. It wasn’t until after my trial that I started to read the New Testament. While I was in prison, I would read aloud for a half hour, twice a day. I would read the entire New Testament and begin it again when I finished the Book of Revelation. I did this for myself, as well as for my captors–not so much the prison guards, but the ones who watched me on camera twenty-four hours a day. Once I covered up the camera that spied on me and was punished with one month in solitary, without any books or radio; no contact with anyone anywhere was allowed. It was just them, the Shen Beet, you know, like the FBI and the Mossad, like your CIA— they were watching me.
“They tortured me by keeping a light on in my cell constantly for two years. They told me it was because they were afraid I would commit suicide, and the oppressive camera was for my safety. They recruited the guards and other prisoners to irritate me. They would deprive me of sleep by making loud noises near my cell all night long.
“I chose to read them 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8, instead:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, and it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with THE TRUTH! It always protects, it always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres. Love never fails.
“For the first five years, twice a day I would loudly pray by reading Bible verses. I would also read the Anglican service from the Book of Common Prayer. I did it twice a day, everyday, for five years. I began to see I had become like a machine. I knew if I continued I would lose my mind. So after that, I only prayed in silence. Although I knew I was driving them nuts with my loud praying, it was driving me nuts, too. I changed my routine. I was allowed outside every day for two hours; I had been jogging around in circles for the two hours, but now I changed my routine. I began to alter that and all my routines so I would not be like a machine. I refused to eat when they brought my food in. I would decide everyday what time I would eat and what I would eat. I chose a different time everyday to do anything. The camera was there to learn my behavior so they could manipulate me. I knew I had to constantly change my routine. I began reading more books about health, nutrition, history, philosophy, and literature, and kept my prayer life quiet.” [IBID]
From a June 2008 email:
E: On April 19, 1995, you wrote:
“The real reason for this solitary is to make me into a fundamentalist religious man…Peres and Rabin want to silence me by engaging me with religious prayers…They portray them [Arabs] as religious fundamentalists, while the truth is that the Jews here in Israel are the real religious fundamentalists. They still believe that they are a superior race here in Israel, and that the Arabs are second class. The Arabs don’t have equal rights. This is the reason why. Israel doesn’t want a real peace, because they don’t want to give equal rights to the Arab peoples. That is the reason for Israel wanting to keep its racial superiority by force over all the Arabs. And to justify it they need Islamic fundamentalism.”
Can you comment on why people choose fundamentalism other than a lack of hope and cultural influences?
V: When people lose all hope to be free and liberated, but are under occupation, they have no power to change the situation. Israel keeps putting them under increasing pressures, so many cling to a connection with God. It is like a conspiracy; a conspiracy of hopelessness and poverty that conspire to attract people to fundamentalism.
E: Do you see connections between fundamental Jews and Muslims and the judgmental and escapist theology promoted in Christian Zionism?
V: Without fundamentalist religion in the government, the Jews could live in real peace. Christian Zionist are being used to fight Islam and the Muslim are holding onto God as their last hope while fundamentalist Jews, cling to Zionism.
E: You wrote in 1995 that you “stopped being interested in religion and stopped reading religious books” but you continued to identify with Jesus. How do you relate to Jesus in 2008?
V: Since my release from jail in 2004, my religion has also become my political statement. I am living among Palestinian Christians; they are real Christians living under military occupation, just like Jesus did. Church is a place for social meetings and for sharing political experiences.
E: Do you think 21st century man understands JC any better than in the first century?
V: If they have adopted his ideas to support the poor and not make wars, and understand there is no super race, no people who are more chosen than any other.
E: What do you think about the fact that JC was never a Christian, but that he was born, lived and died a Palestinian Jew under military occupation, and do you identify with him that way?
V: Yes, it is same today here in Jerusalem but with a different army.
I once wrote an Op-ed and called Vanunu a prophet. When he read the piece, he emailed me and in bold letters wrote: “DON’T CALL ME THAT!”
I won’t to his face, but in the spirit of freedom of speech, I cannot help myself. Prophets do NOT predict the future-as much as they point out impending doom. Vanunu pointed the way to the weapons of mass destruction program underground in the Negev desert, and yet, not one IAEA inspection has been allowed, nor demanded by the USA.
The Hebrew prophet Jeremiah also spent much of his life under house arrest in Jerusalem, for being a truth teller. We know more about the personal life and struggles of Jeremiah than any other Hebrew prophet. Jeremiah, which translates as “The Lord throws”-as in hurling, had few friends and is considered primarily a prophet of doom.
Jeremiah was intensely introspective, self-critical, timid by nature but honest and open about his feelings. Jeremiah never married and began prophesying in Judah from 604-586, a time of storm and stress when the doom of entire nations-including Judah itself-was being sealed. Jeremiah had been the king’s friend and confident, but the prophet soon entered a dreary round of persecution and imprisonment, alternating with only brief periods of freedom, and lived under virtual house arrest.
Jeremiah was also labeled a traitor by many for speaking the brutal truth, “I cannot keep silent…Disaster follows disaster; the land lies in ruins…My people are fools; they do not know me.”-Jeremiah 4:19.
1. Memoirs of a Nice Irish-American ‘Girl’s’ Life in Occupied Territory, Chapter 7: Brother V, Eileen Fleming
3. Letters From Prison to Father Dave, available in PDF by email from Fr. Dave @
Eileen Fleming, Reporter and Editor WAWA:
Author “Keep Hope Alive” and “Memoirs of a Nice Irish American ‘Girl’s’ Life in Occupied Territory”
Producer “30 Minutes With Vanunu” and “13 Minutes with Vanunu”