Monday, January 12, 2009

Militaristic Israel's Mordechai Vanunu Case Remembered

During the 2008 election campaign both Democratic President-Elect Barack Obama and U.S. Secretary of State-Designate Hillary Clinton expressed their concern that the U.S. imperialist version of “Peace in the Middle East” would be threatened if the Iranian government acquired nuclear weapons. Ironically, the Zionist movement’s militaristic Israeli government in the Middle East--which Obama & Clinton regard as a U.S. government ally—has already been producing nuclear weapons at its Dimona nuclear bomb factory for many years.

In 1987, nine Australian senators, the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation and 36 members of the British Parliament nominated Mordechai Vanunu for the 1987 Nobel Peace Prize. In their letter of nomination, the nine Australian senators wrote the following:

“We believe that Mordechai Vanunu’s action in revealing details of Israel’s nuclear weapons arsenal to the world was motivated by a great and long standing desire for world peace, and we believe that he deserved the world’s recognition for his selfless action. The award of the Nobel Peace Prize to him would be a timely and appropriate expression of such recognition.”

Vanunu was a technician at the Dimona Nuclear Bomb Factory from August 1977 to November 1985 who, after becoming anti-war in his politics, decided to photograph for the world what the Israeli government was actually doing inside its Negev Nuclear Research Center. After passing the photographs on to investigative reporters at the London Sunday Times in 1986—which published the long news story on Oct. 5, 1986 that first revealed the existence of the Israeli government’s Dimona Nuclear Bomb Factory—Vanunu was kidnapped in Rome by Israeli Mossad agents, taken to Israel, tried by a secret Israeli tribunal, convicted of espionage and treason on March 24, 1988, and sentenced to an 18-year prison term.

According to the book Triple Cross by Louis Toscano, after learning from the Israeli embassy in London that the London Sunday Times was about to print its expose of the Dimona Nuclear Bomb Factory, then-Israeli Prime Minister [now-Israeli President] Peres telephoned then-Mossad Chief Admoni on Thursday, September 25, 1986 “for a briefing on the Vanunu operation” and “Admoni assured Peres that agents were in position in London, prepared to pounce on Vanunu once the Sunday Times story appeared.” The then-Israeli Prime Minister [now-Israeli President] Peres then “indicated he didn’t want to hear any more, and instructed Admoni to inform him when the agents completed their mission.” According to Triple Cross, the reason why Peres didn’t want to “hear any more” about how the Israeli agents were going to kidnap Vanunu on foreign soil was that “it was important for government officials to be able to deny any knowledge of the dirty tactics employed by their spies.”

According to Triple Cross, the then-25-year-old Cheryl Hanin-Bentov, who had lived in Orlando, Florida for the first 17 years of her life, “became the key to capturing Mordechai Vanunu.” After moving to Israel in 1978 and receiving some intelligence training while serving in the Israeli Army, Hanin-Bentov had married a major who worked for Israeli Military Intelligence. A few weeks before the London Sunday Times was to publish its Dimona Nuclear Bomb Factory expose’, Hanin-Bentov—“traveling on her U.S. passport NO. 040936379, issued at Miami, Florida”—entered London with other Israeli agents. After befriending Vanunu, she persuaded him to travel with her to Rome on British Airways Flight 504 a few days before the London Sunday Times article was to be published.

After Hanin-Bentov and Vanunu arrived in Rome, according to Triple Cross, she “walked briskly out of the terminal and waved at a man slouched against a small red taxi” and the taxi dropped the pair off in front of an apartment building. Entering the apartment building, according to the same book, Hanin-Bentov and Vanunu “climbed the stairs to a second-floor apartment” and then Hanin-Bentov “drew a key from her shoulder bag and opened the door, standing aside to let Vanunu enter first.” Former UPI Jerusalem Bureau Chief Toscano described in his Triple Cross book what apparently happened next to Vanunu:

“The door slammed shut behind him. In an instant, he was attacked by two Mossad agents…He was knocked to the floor on his stomach. As the agents knelt on either side of him, pinning his arms, Bentov took a syringe filled with a fast-acting sedative from a bag lying on a table. One of the agents pulled up Vanunu’s right shirt sleeve and Bentov plunged the needle into his arm. In a matter of seconds, Vanunu was unconscious.”

In a late 1991 telephone interview with Downtown, then-War Resisters League staff person David McReynolds said he thought Israel’s secrecy about its nuclear weapons was not unusual since “any country will be secretive about its nuclear weapons,” but that he thought the kidnapping and imprisonment of Mordechai Vanunu by the Israel government “was a scandal.”

(Downtown 1/15/92)