I was forever bumping into him during my time there; walking through the Old City, buying books in the Educational Bookshop, scrabbling past St. Georges Cathedral on my way to Sheik Jarrah protests. Of course, I wanted to stop him to tell him how much I admired him and how much I keep him in my prayers… but I could not. Instead, I smiled broadly and said hello. That is all…
So, today I’ll tell you why..
Mordechai Vanunu is a Bad Ass!
In 1967 Vanunu responded to a advertisement for trainee technicians at the Negev Nuclear Research Center in Dimona. He was accepted and put through an intense training regimens in physics, chemistry, mathematics and English to become a nuclear plant technician in 1977. During this time most global intelligence agencies assumed that Israel had been developing nuclear weapons since the 60’s, but the country maintained a “nuclear ambiguity” by neither confirming or denying the existence of those weapons. By not admitting their possession of a nuclear arsenal, Israel avoids being defunded of the $2 billion per year in military and other aid by the U.S.
In the early 80’s he travelled extensively through Europe, the US and Canada and began to become critical of the policies of the Israeli government. Subsequently he formed “Campus” with 9 Jewish and Arab students and became affiliated with “Movement for the Advancement of Peace,” opposing the Lebanon War and campaigning for equal rights for Arab Israelis. In 1985 he violated his non-disclosure agreement and smuggled a camera into the Dimona location, taking 57 photos of the facility. One year later, citing his opposition to weapons of mass destruction, he revealed the details of Israel’s nuclear weapons to the British Sunday Times, including the photos he’d taken a year earlier. He described lithium-6 separation required for the production of tritium (a fundamental ingredient of fusion-boosted fission bombs), and the processing of plutonium used for the weapons – stating that Israel was using about 4 kg per weapon, making it possible to estimate that Israel had enough plutonium for 150 nuclear weapons.
The Times insisted on researching the story to ensure that it wasn’t another hoax (this followed shortly on the heels of the Hitler’s Diary hoax), and in his frustration at the lengthy process, Vanunu approached the Sunday Mirror. This ended up being his downfall as the owner, Robert Maxwell, allegedly (don’t wanna be sued here!) blows him into the Israeli Embassy. This, as I’m sure you can imagine, sets off a shit-storm and, not wanting to piss off Margaret Thatcher, decide to lure our friend to Italy with a honey trap operation – some real spy novel type of shit. Mossad agent, Cheryl Bentov lures Vanunu to Rome and injects him with a paralytic drug. He’s shoved into a white van, transferred to a speed boat, loaded onto the INS Noga (an electronic surveillance ship disguised as a merchant vessel) which then departed for Israel, anchoring off the coast between Haifa and Tel Aviv. He was shuttled to shore, taken into custody by Mossad and questioned – all the while his report is finally being published in the Times. Crazy shit, right?!
Vanunu was tried in secret in the Jerusalem District Court, convicted on counts of treason and espionage and sentenced to 18 years imprisonment – 11 of which were spent in solitary confinement due to the government’s “concern” that he would reveal more secrets. While in prison he took parts in small acts of disobedience; refusing to speak with guards, refusing psych treatment, refusing to read only English newspapers and watching only BBC.
To learn more about Mordechai, please visit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mordechai_Vanunu
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