Mordechai Vanunu — prisoner of conscience still
The recent media revelations of the Israeli justice system’s treatment of Ben Zygier, who was known as Prisoner X, has further exposed to the world the charade that is the carefully manufactured image of Israel as a supposedly democratic and liberal state.
Many politically aware people already know about Israeli human rights abuses, massacres and other crimes, but the almost total lack of reporting in the mainstream media of the true nature of Israel has kept some people in the dark about the immorality of the Israeli state that lurks behind the mask.
For many people this particular incident, with its widespread exposure of the Israeli treatment of one of their own citizens has it seems opened their eyes to the real Israel.
Zygier, an Israeli-Australian duel citizen, worked for Israel's secret service — until it decided he was a problem for whatever reason. Perhaps he had pangs of conscience about things he saw or knew about regarding Israel’s sordid intelligence activities, such as the misuse of Australian passports and the assassination of Palestinians and was going to talk and therefore had to be silenced.
Israeli authorities secretly arrested Zygier and held him in solitary confinement without charge or trial. Information about him was withheld under a suppression order by the Israeli intelligence service, Shin Bett. Not even his Israeli jailers knew his name and did not receive any visitors.
Zygier was being held in a wing of Ayalon Prison that holds only a single cell, which is cut off from the rest of the prison by double iron doors. The prisoner was been placed in conditions of total isolation from the outside world. Not even other prisoners could see or hear him.
So it was that Prisoner X became ensnared in Israel’s Kafkaesque security system, until information about his death in 2010 and his burial in Melbourne emerged on Australian TV this year. According to Israel, he committed suicide in a secure, suicide proof and constantly video monitored cell.
Zygier is just one example of how the Israeli military and government grossly mistreat people. There is also the case of anti-nuclear and human rights campaigner Mordechai Vanunu.
In 1986, Vanunu took a courageous moral stand against nuclear weapons. Vanunu exposed Israel’s secret nuclear weapons arsenal to the world after becoming disillusioned with his work as a technician at Dimona Nuclear Research Centre in Israel.
The information revealed Israel had hundreds of advanced nuclear warheads (the sixth largest stockpile in the world). Under a policy of nuclear ambiguity, Israel still denies it has nuclear weapons.
Vanunu's brave actions led to him being kidnapped by Israeli Mossad agents in Italy and transported back to Israel where he was charged with espionage and treason and convicted in a secret trial. Vanunu’s abduction was a violation of Italian and International Law.
For this “crime”, he spent 18 years in jail. More than 11 of these years were spent in solitary confinement in a six metre square cell under constant camera observation. Amnesty International described these conditions as “cruel, inhuman and degrading”.
Vanunu was released from prison in 2004, but Israeli authorities imposed a strict military supervision order on him. Under this order Vanunu is banned from meeting journalists, supporters and foreign citizens. He cannot use phones or the Internet, go near foreign embassies, ports or airports or move address without informing the police.
Vanunu is also subject to continuous police surveillance, his internal movements are confined to Jerusalem and he is forbidden to leave Israel.
These Israeli restrictions deny Vanunu’s rights to freedom of expression, movement and association. Amnesty said that as Vanunu has served his full sentence, these limitations are a breach of international law. He has been rearrested and jailed several times since 2004 for breaching these regulations.
In mid-2010, Vanunu spent another three months in solitary confinement central Israel. He had been sentenced to serve more time for unauthorised meetings with his Norwegian girlfriend and journalists, and for travelling to Bethlehem to attend Christmas Eve mass.
Amnesty campaigned for Vanunu’s unconditional release. Amnesty's Malcolm Smart said: “Mordechai Vanunu should not be in prison, let alone be held in solitary confinement … to return him to such conditions now is harsh and unjustified.”
Scientists say that the Israeli claims that Vanunu has any more secret details to reveal are ridiculous and this is merely a pretext for continuing to punish him. Vanunu remains committed to nuclear disarmament.
Vanunu followed his conscience and has since been imprisoned and persecuted by Israel. After being released from prison, his civil, political and human rights have been grossly abused. He has served his prison time and under international law he is entitled to his liberty.
Many respected people, including Bishop Desmond Tutu, linguist and writer Noam Chomsky, peace activist Mairead Maguire, Yoko Ono and the late playwright Harold Pinter have supported his just struggle for real freedom.
Just like Nelson Mandela and Aung San Suu Kyi, Vanunu is a political prisoner living in captivity and under constant risk of further detention in prison. He has served his prison time and is entitled to a life free of Israel’s repressive rules.
Vanunu’s plight needs to be publicised and for concerned people to do whatever you can do to support Vanunu. Demand that Israel respect his basic human rights, lift the unjust regulations and give Vanunu genuine freedom, including the freedom to travel and to leave Israel.