Statement by Jakob von Uexkull to the Knesset Constitution, Law and Judiciary Committee
April 19, 2005
I thank you, Mr. Chairman, for inviting me to speak. I am a former Member of the European Parliament, where I served on the Political Affairs Committee. I hold Swedish and German nationality but was born stateless, as my father was a political refugee from Germany. Several of my relatives were executed by the Nazis for their resistance activities. I grew up in an environment where the security of Israel was an issue of great importance.
I am the founder/chairman of the Right Livelihood Awards, commonly known as the Alternative Nobel Prizes, which are presented since 1985 in the Swedish Parliament on the day before the Nobel Prize presentations. In 1987 Mordechai Vanunu was awarded this prize by an international jury.
I see no contradiction between caring for the security of Israel and honouring Vanunu. The security of every nation is inseparable from the security of the world and every nuclear bomb makes the world less secure. For these are not rational weapons and their use can never be rational. How can a country be protected by a 'weapon' which would make it uninhabitable for countless generations?
After the end of the cold war, a close advisor to the British Prime Minister, Sir Peregrine Worsthorne, concluded that the use of the nuclear 'deterrent' would have made those responsible worse criminals than Hitler, Stalin and Mao combined. Of his previous belief in nuclear deterrence he wrote :"How could we ever have believed something so preposterous ?'
In this respect Israel is no different. Its use of -- even the serious threat to use -- one single nuclear bomb would turn it instantly in the eyes of the world into a pariah, outlaw nation. That is why I am convinced Mordechai Vanunu was right to conclude that the existence of such 'weapons' is a matter of public, of global concern which must not remain secret. Of course he broke the law and for that he has been punished with a unique harshness. Thus, the key Soviet nuclear spy Klaus Fuchs only served 9 years.
We are told that there are 'still very significant security risks' to Israel if Vanunu becomes a truly free man -- in the words of the Attorney-General testifying here last year. He also recognized that the continued restrictions on Vanunu's freedom 'damages' Israel. Clearly, it is up to you to decide which damage and which risks are, on balance, greater. In making this decision, I ask you to reflect on a few points:
1. As a former parliamentarian, I have learnt to be skeptical of claims by the security services which go against common sense. In a democracy, such services should be 'on tap' -- used as necessary --- but not 'on top'. It is up to elected legislators to look at the broader picture.
2. Scientific and technological progress is rapid. Would this not be the case, especially, in an installation like Dimona? Is there any area where 20-year-old scientific knowledge is not obsolete today? Is there any likelihood that Vanunu would have known in 1986 what secret information would still be significant 19 years later, and decide to hold it back in order to reveal it when he is allowed to leave Israel? Such a suggestion is obviously absurd.
3. What the security services fear is therefore clearly not more secrets about Dimona, but most probably Vanunu speaking out about his kidnapping, which they carried out. It is on this point that you need, in the interests of this country, to take a broader view than they are able to. For the ongoing restrictions on Vanunu's freedom are causing much greater, self-inflicted damage to Israel than any further such revelations possibly could.
It is easy -- but wrong -- to blame resurgent anti-semitism whenever Israel faces increasing criticism and hostility. It is probably not understood here how much attention the case of Mordechai Vanunu continues to receive in Europe -- and why .
Today the European Union is not just an economic, legal and political community but also increasingly a values community, united by a common ethics and culture. For many years, Israel has shown a desire to be part of that community, for example in cultural and sports events.
Kidnapping a person from European territory is a shocking affront against those values, which will not be forgiven until Vanunu is free to return from where he was forcibly and illegally removed. This issue will not go away. Numerous resolutions in the European Parliament and presentations from EU governments have so far been ignored by Israel, which has clearly underestimated the continuing enormous international support for Mordechai Vanunu.
In today's turbulent times Israel needs its friends more than ever -- but it is losing them fast. The deeply disturbing growing lack of sympathy for Israel in the European mainstream is to some extent obscured by the opportunistic support Israel now gets from both religious ('Christian Zionist') and anti-religious (anti-Islamic) fundamentalists. But this odd assembly is no substitute for what is being lost.
At a time when the values of (international) law and democratic rights are increasingly under threat in our world, your committee can send a powerful signal by urging the Government of Israel to let Mordechai Vanunu go.