(Hebrew: מרדכי ואנונו; born 14 October 1954),
Also known as John Crossman, is a former Israeli nuclear technician who, citing his opposition to weapons of mass destruction, revealed details of Israel's nuclear weapons program to the British press in 1986.
He was subsequently lured to Italy by a Mossad agent, where he was drugged and abducted by Israeli intelligence agents. He was transported to Israel and ultimately convicted in a trial that was held behind closed doors.
Vanunu spent 18 years in prison, including more than 11 in solitary confinement. Released from prison in 2004, he became subject to a broad array of restrictions on his speech and movement. Since then he has been arrested several times for violations of those restrictions, including giving various interviews to foreign journalists and attempting to leave Israel. He says he suffered "cruel and barbaric treatment" at the hands of Israeli authorities while imprisoned, and suggests that his treatment would have been different if he were Jewish (Vanunu is a Christian convert from Judaism).
In 2007, Vanunu was sentenced to six months in prison for violating terms of his parole. The sentence was considered unusual even by the prosecution who expected a suspended sentence. In response, Amnesty International issued a press release on 2 July 2007, stating that "The organisation considers Mordechai Vanunu to be a prisoner of conscience and calls for his immediate and unconditional release." In May 2010, Vanunu was arrested and sentenced to three months in jail on suspicion that he met foreigners in violation of conditions of his 2004 release from jail.
"Revealed: The Secrets of Israel's Nuclear Arsenal"Vanunu has been characterized internationally as a whistleblower and by Israel as a traitor. Daniel Ellsberg has referred to him as "the preeminent hero of the nuclear era".
On October 5, 1986Mordechai Vanunu worked at Dimona Nuclear Power Plant in Israel from 1976 to 1985 as a technician and learned about Israel's secret production of plutonium for nuclear weapons. In 1985 Vanunu believed it was his responsibility to inform the citizens of Israel as well as the rest of the world that nuclear weapons were being built and stored in Israel.
the London Sunday Times newspaper headlines boldly announced, "Revealed: The Secrets of Israel's Nuclear Arsenal." The startling story, based on interviews with Vanunu and the 60 photographs he provided showing Israeli plutonium spheres used for triggers in nuclear warheads, revealed that Israel was fast developing nuclear weapons.
In detail, Vanunu's data showed that Israel possessed over 200 bombs with boosted devices, neutron bombs, F-16 deliverable warheads, and Jericho warheads. The boosted weapons shown in the Vanunu photographs revealed a sophistication that inferred the requirement for testing. Vanunu revealed for the first time the underground plutonium separation facility where Israel was producing 40 kilograms annually, several times more than previous estimates. Photographs showed sophisticated designs which scientific experts say enabled the Israelis to build bombs with as little as 4 kilograms of plutonium. [Source: Farr]
Vanunu never saw the newspaper because five days prior to the release of the story he was lured to Rome and kidnapped there by Israeli secret agents.
Two questions asked by newspaper readers in 1986:
- Why would a country use nuclear weapons if the weapons would poison themselves?
- Would a sane leader destroy the earth with nuclear weapons?
Mordechai Vanunu was convicted in a secret trial"I have sacrificed my freedom and risked my life in order to expose the danger of nuclear weapons which threatens this whole region. I acted on behalf of all citizens and all of humanity."Israeli intelligence agents brought Vanunu back to Israel where he was secretly tried and convicted of treason and espionage. Israeli citizens and the rest of the world were not allowed to listen to his defense.
A photo takenby Vanunu of the Dimona Control Room
This is a photo of a plutonium separation plant's control room, with equipment recognizable by nuclear scientists as part of a nuclear weapons production facility. Dimona Nuclear Weapons Facility Machon 2, Negrev Desert, Israel (courtesy M. Vanunu : He was sentenced to eighteen years in prison. He has served over eleven and a half years in solitary confinement.
Vanunu has not changed his mind. He waved a peace sign leaving the prison ...In 2001 the conditions of his confinement changed, and he was allowed visits from his immediate family, his lawyer, and an Anglican clergyman, but no one else. Amnesty International and world leaders pleaded with Israel for his release. Vanunu was released from Shikma prison in the coastal town of Ashkelon in Israel on April 21, 2001. Severe restrictions accompanied his release. He may not contact foreigners nor leave Israel for six months. And he is not allowed to worship in a church or temple of his choice. These restrictions may be extended indefinitely.
Mordechai Vanunu remains convinced that responsible nations should refuse to own nuclear weapons"You didn't succeed to break me, you didn't succeed to make me crazy."He has not changed his mind about the moral wrong of nuclear weaponry. Vanunu sacrificed his freedom. He remains convinced that nations should not possess nuclear weapons. He is imprisoned for a cause he considered absolutely necessary for the integrity of both his own life, the life of his country, and for the greater good of humanity and the planet --- to see very few people, to breathe the air within the same four walls day in and day out, and to know of the world that exists beyond the constraints of the prison cell are sacrifices that many people would not choose to make.
Today Israel is known to possess at least 100 nuclear weapons. The time has come, now in the 21st Century, to dismantle all nuclear weapons, and to abolish all weapons of mass destruction. The Nuclear Age is over.
Vanunu was released from prison with grave restrictions on his activities as a citizen on April 21, 2004. [Story]
On the morning that Mordechai Vanunu is released from prison after serving 18 years for revealing to the world that Israel had a nuclear arsenal, we go to Ashkelon to speak with his adoptive parents and a coordinator of the US Campaign to Free Mordecai Vanunu.
[includes rush transcript]
Nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu was released from prison this morning in Israel after serving 18 years for revealing to the world that the country had a nuclear arsenal. For more than 11 of those 18 years, Vanunu was kept in solitary confinement.
He walked out of the Shikma prison in the coastal town of Ashkelon flashing a peace sign and waved to cheering supporters. At an impromptu press conference, Vanunu said he was proud of what he did and described what he called "very cruel and barbaric treatment" at the hands of Israeli intelligence and the military.
Vanunu said Israel’s Mossad spy agency and the Shin Bet security services tried to rob him of his sanity by keeping him in solitary confinement for nearly 12 years. He said his message to these forces was "You didn’t succeed to break me, you didn’t succeed to make me crazy." He said his case was proof that "you cannot break the human spirit."
Now that he has been released from prison, Vanunu faces what his supporters call draconian restrictions placed on him by the Israeli government. The restrictions derive from emergency rules inherited by Israel from the 1940s British mandate over Palestine.
Among them:Vanunu will have to register to live in an Israeli city of his choice, he will have to give notice to the authorities if he wishes to travel to another city, he will not be allowed to leave Israel for 6 months, a rule that could be extended indefinitely. Vanunu is forbidden to contact foreigners either by phone or in person and he will not be allowed to go within 100 meters of any embassy, visit any port of entry, come within 300 meters of any international boundary and he may not be allowed to worship in a church of his choice.
Here is some of what Vanunu said today right after he walked out of Shikma prison.
Mordechai Vanunu, Israel’s nuclear whistleblower speaking to the press just minutes after he was released from his 18-year prison sentence.
Mordechai Vanunu worked as a nuclear technician at Dimona, Israel’s secret nuclear installation from 1976 to 1985. He worked there at a time when Israel was insisting it would not be the first to introduce nuclear weapons to the Middle East. What Vanunu discovered is that Israel was secretly developing an extensive nuclear program, hiding its existence from the Israeli people and parliament, and the world.
The Dimona facility where Vanunu worked harbored an underground plutonium separation plant operated in strictest secrecy. As the years went by Vanunu grew increasingly troubled as he realized his work was part of Israel’s nuclear bomb program. In 1985, before leaving Dimona, he took extensive photographs inside the factory.
Traveling through Asia with the film in his backpack, Vanunu made his way to Sydney, Australia, where he converted to Christianity and joined an Anglican church social justice community where he shared the story of his nuclear background. The London Sunday Times, learned of his story and sent a reporter to Sydney. The newspaper then flew Vanunu to England, where his photos and facts were further checked by British scientists familiar with nuclear weapons. Vanunu’s story, published October 5, 1986, gave the world its first authoritative confirmation that Israel had become a major nuclear weapons power, with material for as many as 200 nuclear warheads of advanced design. But days before the story was published, on September 30, 1986, Vanunu was lured to Rome by a female Mossad agent, where he was kidnapped, drugged and put on an Israeli cargo vessel. In Israel, he was charged with treason and espionage. His trial was conducted in total secrecy and he was sentenced to 18 years in prison.
Mary Eoloff, Mordechai Vanunu’s adoptive parentFelice Cohen-Joppa, coordinator of the
TRANSCRIPTThis is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
- AMY GOODMAN: Here is some of what Mordechai Vanunu said today right after he walked out of prison.
- MORDECHAI VANUNU: I am Mordechai Vanunu, the man behind the publicized article from October 5, 1986. The article was about Israel’s nuclear weapons. I was kidnapped in Rome, Italy, by Israeli spies the. I was brought to Israel, arrived at the prison on October 7. I was here — I am here in this prison from October 7, 1986 to today. I was in cruel barbaric conditions kept by the Israeli spies. This prison is guided and controlled by the shin bet. I’m proud and happy that I did what I did. I’m proud and happy that I did what I did. All of this blah blah blah about secrets is not the case. My case is the article that was published. There is no more secrets. The secrets are published in the hands of all of the world. All of the world, 187 city had the secrets. The secrets are revealed. I’m able now to start my life.
- AMY GOODMAN: Mordechai Vanunu, holding his news conference as he walked out of prison today after 18 years. He worked as a nuclear technician at Damona, Israel’s secret nuclear installation from 1976 to 1985. Mordechai Vanunu worked there at a time when Israel was insisting that it would not be the first to introduce nuclear weapons into the Middle East. What Vanunu discovered was that Israel was developing an extensive nuclear program, hiding its existence from the Israeli people, the parliament and the world. The Damona facility where Vanunu worked had an underground plutonium separation plant operating in strictest secrecy. He grew troubled as he realized his work was part of Israel’s nuclear bomb program. In 1985, before leaving Dmona, he took extensive photographs inside the factory. Traveling through Asia with the film in his backpack, Vanunu made his way to Sydney, Australia, where he converted to Christianity, joined an Anglican church and social justice community where he shared the story of his nuclear background. The London "Sunday Times" learned of his story and sent a report to Sydney. The newspaper flew him to England where his photos and facts were checked by British scientists familiar with nuclear weapons. Vanunu’s story published on October 5, 1986, gave the world its first authoritative confirmation that Israel had become a nuclear — major nuclear weapons power with material for as many as 200 nuclear warheads of advanced design. The days before the story was published on September 30, 1986, Vanunu was lured to Rome by a female mow sad agent where he was kidnapped, drugged and put on an Israeli cargo vessel. In Israel, he was charged with treason and espionage. His trial was conducted in total secrecy and he was sentenced to 18 years in prison. As he walked out of the prison, he was met by his adoptive parents, Nick and Mary Eloff. Mary joins us on the phone from Israel. Welcome to Democracy Now!.
Mordechai Vanunu stands strong for his principles, the preservation of the earth and mankind, the refusal to accept weapons of mass destruction as a "necessary evil."There is a necessary responsibility which nations must accept for the good of the earth. Canada, New Zealand, and other nations have agreed to never possess nuclear weapons.