Open Letter of Appeal to the Jewish People
NOBEL LAUREATES, 19 Jul 2010
I write to ask for your help in gaining the freedom of a good man, a man of peace, and a man of conscience.
In the Jewish scriptures there is great emphasis on justice and freedom and it is for such, for one man, that I write to seek your help.
He will not be aware that I am writing this Appeal, but I do so in the hope that, with your help, it will produce his freedom, and not (and this I must risk) cause yet more punishment and cruelty to be inflicted upon him.
However, I feel when I tell you the story, it will touch your hearts and there will be those amongst you who will be able to help him gain his freedom.
In May 2010 this man was returned to prison to serve three months for allegedly breaking his prison release restrictions and speaking to foreign media. On Sunday, 11 July 2010, he had his first visit in seven weeks. His brother, Meir, was granted a 30 minute visit. There was a glass window between them and they spoke by phone. He wore a prison uniform. He is held in the hardest prison section in the prison. It has the most notorious criminals in the country, well known hard murder cases. All but a dozen are in severe isolation conditions. He is in a cell by himself for 24 hours a day, no window but a small wire covered crack at the top part of one wall. He has about an hour’s walk a day in a very tiny yard. He was simply thrown in a cell by the security agents, the door locked, and left to suffer there all alone. He has not spoken to anyone in all the seven weeks and this visit was (apart from a short visit of his lawyer six weeks ago) the first conversation he had in seven weeks. His food is limited in quality and quantity, and his reading material are two books he has with him. Of course his spirits are down as a result of being put in such harsh, inhuman and cruel conditions.
His name is Mordechai Vanunu, and he is in an Israeli prison cell. Mordechai is no stranger to prison. In l986 Mordechai Vanunu told the world that Israel had a nuclear weapons programme and was given 18 years imprisonment for doing so. He is the Israeli nuclear whistle blower and 24 years later continues to be punished for trying to warn the Israelis and protect both Israel and the world from a nuclear weapons disaster. Mordechai Vanunu served the full 18 years of his sentence (eleven years in solitary ) and upon release, instead of allowing him to leave Israel, the Israeli government put severe restrictions upon him, including forbidding him to leave Israel and not to speak to foreign media.
It was the alleged breaking of these restrictions and speaking to foreign media that resulted in Mordechai’s return to prison for three months. He has six weeks left to serve in these harsh prison conditions, and even upon release will still have to remain in Israel until April 2011 when the restrictions will be reviewed and probably renewed yet again, as they have been renewed each year for the past six years. Some people say Vanunu will never be allowed to leave Israel but will die there, if indeed in the meantime his spirit is not broken by his ill treatment and he loses his sanity.
The Shabak continues to tell the Israeli government he is a security risk and must not be released and the Israeli judiciary and government obey them and keep him imprisoned. Vanunu is no risk to Israeli national security. He has no nuclear secrets. I have asked some Israelis why they think Israel refuses to allow Mordechai Vanunu to leave Israel. Various reasons are given but the most frequent answer is that they feel the Israeli government does not trust its citizens; holding Mordechai Vanunu, forever if necessary, sends out the signal to Israeli citizens to behave themselves.
It seems, if this is so, that the strategy is working. To date only a few courageous Jewish persons have raised their voices against such cruelty and injustice perpetrated upon Mordecai, and called for him to be allowed to leave Israel. But I don’t believe Mordechai will ever be allowed to leave Israel and will die in Jerusalem. I have met Mordechai many times since he was released from prison on 2l April 2004. He is a good man, a man of peace, and a true Gandhian spirit. Instead of punishing him, Israel should be proud of Mordechai Vanunu; I believe that future generations of Israelis will look back and realize that there lived amongst them a great visionary and man of peace, not only for Israel, but for the human family. It was with great joy that I nominated him several times for the Nobel Peace Prize, as did many other prominent names during the past 24 years. He richly serves the NPP as he lives and acts in the true spirit of Alfred Nobel, who left his prize for those who would work for peace and disarmament.
However, it is with the deepest sadness that I acknowledge that in spite of world campaigns by many, including Amnesty International (and personal letters from myself to President Obama, President Shimon Peres) Mordechai Vanunu continues 24 years later to be most cruelly imprisoned and punished by Israel. Most political, spiritual leaders and international bodies of our time are silent in the face of Israel’s abuse of Vanunu’s basic human right to freedom of speech and liberty, which is in violation of many international laws.
However, I have hope that he will be freed and I place my hope in those Jewish people who read this story and are moved to right a wrong continuing to be done to Mordechai Vanunu, and they will demand that their government give him his freedom, and allow him to leave Israel.
Nobel Peace laureate and member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment.
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 19 Jul 2010.
Anticopyright: Editorials and articles originated on TMS may be freely reprinted, disseminated, translated and used as background material, provided an acknowledgement and link to the source, TMS: Open Letter of Appeal to the Jewish People, is included. Thank you.
This work is licensed under a CC BY-NC 4.0 License.
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