INTERNATIONAL SUPPORTERS CELEBRATE WITH VANUNU
More than 80 supporters from over a dozen countries, including British Parliament members Jeremy Corbyn and Colin Breed, actor Susannah York, adoptive parents Nick and Mary Eoloff from St. Paul, and Nobel Peace Laureate Mairaed Maguire comprised the international delegation that had joined Israeli supporters at the prison gate. Together they had planned a celebration dinner that evening at a restaurant in Jaffa.
But the press also published that location, and because of security concerns the dinner had to be canceled.
Mordechai Vanunu very much wanted to greet the people who had come from around the world to see him, and Bishop Riah invited the group to St. George's. We were struck by his strength, dignity and warmth, as he greeted, hugged and kissed us all. Many of us had tears in our eyes as he thanked us for our support over the long years of his incarceration.
Some of those who couldn't be with us to share our joy were remembered, particularly Sam Day, who for many years had worked tirelessly for Mordechai Vanunu's release as the coordinator of the U.S. Campaign, until his death in 2001.
RESTRICTIONS AND THREATS
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) is representing Vanunu in an appeal of the draconian restrictions to Israel's High Court.
In addition to not being allowed to leave Israel, some of the restrictions include: not being allowed to come within a certain distance of embassies, ports, and borders; not being allowed to travel within Israel beyond the city of his residence without advance permission; not being allowed to speak about his work at Dimona; not being allowed to speak to the foreign press; and limits on and monitoring of phone and internet use.
At a prison vigil and press conference at Ashkelon Prison on April 20, the eve of Vanunu's release, many of the 200 supporters who gathered tied black cloths across their mouths in protest of these outrageous restrictions, which were denounced by Amnesty International as a violation of Vanunu's human rights.
The restrictions have the effect of "banning" Mordechai Vanunu from participating fully in civil society, at risk of further imprisonment.
The injustice of such banishment is compounded by the fact that Vanunu is in danger in Israel. One extremist, who threw himself on the hood of the car as Vanunu left the prison, told a reporter in front of the church the next day, "We will pursue Vanunu wherever he goes. ... Wherever he goes, we'll be there. He'll never be able to walk free until the last day of his life."
Two days after his release, an Internet poll by Ma-ariv, an Israeli newspaper, asked, " What should be done with Vanunu?," and "killed" was one of several responses to choose from. Restrictions on Mordechai Vanunu's freedom of movement and speech are an outrageous injustice.
It is time for Israel to end its continued punishment of Vanunu, to stop its revenge, and to let him go.
Felice Cohen-Joppa is coordinator of the U.S. Campaign to Free Mordechai Vanunu.
A version of this article was first published in the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, June 2004.