On the New Charges Against Vanunu
by Daniel Ellsberg
Daniel Ellsberg, activist and author of the recent book "Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers," recently returned from meeting Mordechai Vanunu in Jerusalem. Ellsberg was to have testified to a Knesset Committee against the restrictions placed on Vanunu, but the Committee hearing was cancelled. On March 17, the day after the Committee had been scheduled to convene, Israeli police delivered an indictment to Mordechai Vanunu listing 22 new charges against him, most of which are based on interviews with foreign media. Ellsberg wrote the following response to these new charges.
The fact that Israel has a large and growing nuclear arsenal - larger than Britain's - has been recognized by the rest of the world ever since Mordechai Vanunu revealed it conclusively nineteen years ago. For demolishing his country's policy of concealment, denial and " ambiguity" of its status as a nuclear weapons state, Vanunu served eighteen years in prison, including an unprecedented period of eleven and a half years of solitary confinement in a six-by-nine foot cell.
Meanwhile, not one of the harms that some feared might result from his revelations has materialized in the slightest degree. The notion that any further details he could disclose, nineteen years later, could harm Israel's national security is absurd. Why then, after he has served his full sentence, is the State of Israel invoking British Mandate Emergency Regulations of 1945, pre-dating its own independence, to threaten him with prison for exercising his fundamental human rights to speak to foreigners and foreign journalists? Why do its leaders still insist on suppressing any open discussion in Israel itself of its real military posture and its implications for their security?
Here's one possible answer. This very month both Israel and the US are making open threats of armed attacks as early as this summer on Iran's nuclear weapons potential. For Israel to confirm openly Vanunu's revelations at this particular time - dramatically abandoning forty years of obfuscation - would attract unfavorable attention to the fact that such threats or attacks against Iran are aimed not at achieving a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the Middle East but at prolonging, indefinitely, Israel's monopoly of nuclear weapons in the region. That is an unstated aim for both the US and Israel, but a less than compelling justification for war. This may be a reason - but not a legitimate one - for returning Mordechai Vanunu to silence in solitary.
What the world needs of this prophet of the nuclear era is not his silence but his freedom to speak and travel, to inspire others to follow his example of truth-telling in their own countries, above all here in the United States.