I have raised a problem which should be dealt with... I did not invent the problem it existed... I did my duty, now others must follow in my path.
For a decade, Mordechai Vanunu worked as a technician at Israel's Dimona ("Imagination" in Hebrew) nuclear reactor in the Negev Desert. Prior to his voluntary departure in 1985, he took sixty photographs providing documentary proof that the facility was a clandestine nuclear-weapons manufacturing site.
Vanunu was by most accounts a very moral and philosophical man. In 1986, he travelled to England to alert the world to his evidence. He gave the Sunday Times his photographs and technical testimony, which they published on October 5th.
On September 30th, 1986, Vanunu was drugged and abducted by Israeli Mossad agents in Rome and, in contravention of all international laws, spirited back to Israel. On November 9th, Israel admitted that Vanunu was being secretly detained in Ashkelon Prison. On December 28th, Vanunu revealed details of his abduction on the palm of his hand through the window of the police van taking him to court, and two days later began a 35 day hunger strike. His trial did not commence until August 30, 1987. Finally, on March 24 and 27,
1988, Vanunu was found guilty and sentenced to 18 years imprisonment.
Vanunu's crime was to reveal that Israel is the world's sixth largest nuclear nation, with 100-200 nuclear bombs in its possession. These weapons can decimate any Arab capital within 1,400 km.
Its leaders have always cryptically stated that Israel would never be the first nation to use nuclear weapons in the Middle Fast, but that they also would never be only the second.
In Vanunu's defence, George Quester (a University of Maryland professor and expert on nuclear proliferation) testified in the secret court hearing that Vanunu disclosed nothing new. He submitted as evidence one book which alone had a bibliography of over 100 journal articles on Israeli nuclear weapons.
There have been numerous prior disclosures. CIA Director Allen Dulles publicly stated that Israel had a nuclear weapons program in 1960. CIA classified reports on Israel nuclear capability became public information in 1976 and again in 1978 when mistakenly released to a U.S. environmental group. In 1976, Time Magazine reported that Golda Meir was prepared to launch nuclear weapons during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. The Los Angeles Times in 1984 quoted U.S. Defence Nuclear Agency figures showing that Israel had about 100 weapons. Reports are now emerging that Israel placed its nuclear weapons on alert during the Gulf War- despite the anti-Scud Patriot missiles. This may have kept Saddam from launching chemical weapons at Israel.
Debate has raged within Israel on whether to publicly confirm possession of the bomb. Few call for its abolition and dismantling. A minority of intellectuals advocate dropping the pretence of not having nuclear weapons, withdrawing to 1967 borders while returning land taken by force from Arab countries, and warning that any aggressor would face a nuclear attack. Those of the status quo see in the bomb the ultimate pacifier of neighboring aggression, the equalizer against an attack by demonstratively larger Arab ground forces if in coalition, and the ability to deter a U.S.-imposed Palestinian settlement on Israel. Nuclear nations are ultimately lawless they are willing to kill everyone.
Possession of the bomb has only escalated the arms race in the whole Middle East region. Despite Israeli destruction in 1981 of a nearly completed Iraqi nuclear power plant, Iraq continued efforts to produce its own bomb. Chemical and biological weapons, much more easily procured or manufactured, seem to have proliferated in the region.
Israel's nuclear weapons program also led it into a most unsavory relationship with the apartheid masters of Pretoria. In October 1989, NBC News reported that in exchange for missile technology to South Africa, Israel gained access to an isolated long-range missile site in Oveberg, South Africa, and a continuous supply of enriched uranium for its nuclear warheads. The first missile launching test took place July 5, 1989.
Also in late 1989, Israel approached Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. (AECL) to purchase a CANDU nuclear power reactor. AECL demanded that Israel sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. It did not and there has been no sale.
Meanwhile Mordechai Vanunu lingers in his Ashkelon Prison cell of 2 x 3 metres. Don't forget him!
You can write to the Ambassador, Israeli Embassy, 410 Laurier Ave. W., Suite 601, Ottawa, ON, K1R 7T3.
Or write to Mordechai Vanunu, Ashkelon Prison, Ashkelon, Israel.
Organize demonstrations where you live on September 30th until Mordechai is freed.
Steven Dankowich is a peace activist with ACT for Disarmament.