He survived his vindictive spell in isolation, and pariah status, with head unbowed – now Israel must allow him to go
When the nuclear whistleblower, Mordechai Vanunu, was released from prison in 2004 after serving 18 years, 12 of them in solitary confinement, he said he was ready to start a new life. The authorities in Israel were not. He was charged with breaking the terms of his parole which forbade him from speaking to foreigners, a restriction which can be traced to the emergency regulations of the British Mandate. A week ago Vanunu was released once again, after serving 10 weeks for that so-called offence.
He said he hoped the prime minister and the head of Shin Bet would solve the problem of having to rearrest him by letting him leave the country. The idea that 24 years after he leaked details and pictures of Israel’s nuclear bomb programme to the Sunday Times, and six years after he completed his sentence, this junior technician from Dimona would still have sensitive secrets up his sleeve is plainly ludicrous. It is one that no serious Israeli military analyst accepts.
He survived his vindictive spell in isolation, and his pariah status as Israel’s most reviled man, with his head unbowed. As Daniel Ellsberg, the man who released the Pentagon Papers has said, Vanunu is the preeminent hero of the nuclear era. By telling the truth, and revealing that his country’s stockpile was much larger than the CIA and others had guessed, he certainly caused it mild problems 24 years ago, when Norway announced a ban on exports of heavy water. He causes no problems now. Israel must allow Vanunu to go.