VANUNU’S PHOTOS OF DIMONA – 1985
Mordechai Vanunu brought his camera to work in late 1985, shortly before leaving his eight-year stint as a technician at Israel’s nuclear weapons factory at Dimona.
Acting on his conscience, he carefully took about 60 photos of the top-secret labs and unique production processes involved. When some of these photos were originally published in the London Sunday Times’ exposé, they confirmed his eyewitness testimony about the extent of Israel’s nuclear weapons program and revealed Israel to be one of the world’s top nuclear powers. To this day, the Israeli government refuses international inspection of Dimona and continues to deny the existence of its nuclear arsenal. [click here for more of Vanunu’s story: archive/story.html]
While their publication resulted in Vanunu being locked away for an 18-year prison sentence, his photographs of Israel’s nuclear weapons factory – a bold statement against nuclear secrecy and for the abolition of nuclear weapons – are here for all to see.
Click on the thumbnail views below to see the full-size photos in this selection.
Mordechai Vanunu in 2009.
October 14, 1954 (age 57)
Marrakesh, French Morocco
|Other names||John Crossman|
|Known for||Nuclear whistleblower|
|Denomination||Anglican Church of Australia|
Mordechai Vanunu (Hebrew: מרדכי ואנונו; born 14 October 1954) 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.
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”. In 2010, the British artist Richard Hamilton completed a painting based on the famous press photograph of Vanunu in transit after his abduction, with the information concerning his capture in Rome scrawled on his hand for the press outside.
Early and educational life
Vanunu was born in Marrakech, Morocco, to a Sephardi Jewish family; his parents were Orthodox Jews, and his father was a rabbi. In 1963, Vanunu’s family emigrated to Israel under the Law of Return. Vanunu was nine years old at the time, and had four brothers and sisters. His parents had six more children in Israel. The family settled in Beersheba, where Vanunu studied in an Ultra-Orthodox elementary school, and attended but did not finish a Bnei Akiva yeshiva high school. Vanunu was conscripted into the Israel Defense Forces in 1971, where he served as a sapper in the Combat Engineering Corps with the rank of First Sergeant. Vanunu was stationed on the Golan Heights, and saw action during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Vanunu was honorably discharged in 1974, and began studying physics at Tel Aviv University. After failing two exams at the end of his first year, he left the university.
Negev Nuclear Research Center
Vanunu’s photograph of a Negev Nuclear Research Center glove box containing nuclear components he gave to the British press.
In 1976, Vanunu applied for a job at the Negev Nuclear Research Center, an Israeli facility used to develop and manufacture nuclear weapons located in the Negev Desert south of Dimona. Most worldwide intelligence agencies estimate that Israel developed nuclear weapons as early as the 1960s, but the country has intentionally maintained a “policy of deliberate ambiguity“, neither acknowledging nor denying that it possesses nuclear weapons. Vanunu was responding to an advertisement for trainee technicians to work at the facility. After a lengthy interview with the facility’s security officer, he was accepted for training, and was put through an intensive course in physics, chemistry, mathematics, and English. He did sufficiently well to be accepted, and was employed as a nuclear plant technician and shift manager in February 1977.
In 1979, he became a part-time geography and philosophy student at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beersheba. At that time he became critical of many policies of the Israeli government, forming a group called “Campus” with five Arab and four Jewish students. Vanunu was also affiliated with a group called “Movement for the Advancement of Peace”. He opposed the 1982 Lebanon War, and campaigned for equal rights for Israeli-Arabs. In his security file at the Negev Nuclear Research Center, it was noted that he had displayed “left-wing and pro-Arab beliefs”. Vanunu graduated from Ben-Gurion University in 1985 with a BA in philosophy and geography.
In early 1985, Vanunu lost his job following a mass layoff of workers due to government cutbacks, but his labor union won him his job back. After he resumed working at the facility, Vanunu secretly smuggled in a camera and covertly took 57 photographs. He continued to work at the facility before being fired after he participated in a pro-Arab rally and called for the creation of a Palestinian state.
Disclosure, abduction and publication
On 5 October 1986, the British newspaper The Sunday Times ran the story on its front page under the headline: “Revealed: the secrets of Israel’s nuclear arsenal.”
In late 1985, Vanunu took a backpacking trip through the Far East, eventually settling in Australia and taking a job as a taxi driver in Sydney. He renounced Judaism and converted to Christianity, joining the Anglican Church of Australia. In June 1985, he met Oscar Guerrero, a freelance journalist from Colombia. Guerrero persuaded Vanunu to sell his story, claiming that his story and photographs were worth up to $1 million. After failing to interest Newsweek, Guerrero approached the British Sunday Times, and within a few days, Vanunu was interviewed by Sunday Times journalist Peter Hounam. In early September 1986, Vanunu flew to London with Hounam, and in violation of his non-disclosure agreement, revealed to the Sunday Times his knowledge of the Israeli nuclear programme, including photographs he had secretly taken at the Dimona site.
The Sunday Times was wary of being duped after having previously been embarrassed by the Hitler Diaries hoax. As a result, the newspaper insisted on verifying Vanunu’s story with leading nuclear weapon experts, including former U.S. nuclear weapons designer Theodore Taylor and former British AWE engineer Frank Barnaby, who agreed that Vanunu’s story was factual and correct. Vanunu gave detailed descriptions of lithium-6 separation required for the production of tritium, an essential ingredient of fusion-boosted fission bombs. While both experts concluded that Israel might be making such single-stage boosted bombs, Vanunu, whose work experience was limited to material (not component) production, gave no specific evidence that Israel was making two-stage thermonuclear bombs, such as neutron bombs. Vanunu described the plutonium processing used, giving a production rate of about 30 kg per year, and stated that Israel used about 4 kg per weapon. From this information it was possible to estimate that Israel had sufficient plutonium for about 150 nuclear weapons.
Vanunu states in his letters that he intended to share the money received from the newspaper (for the information) with the Anglican Church of Australia. Apparently, frustrated by the delay while Hounam was completing his research, Vanunu approached a rival newspaper, the tabloid Sunday Mirror, whose owner was Robert Maxwell. In 1991, a self-described former Mossad officer or government translator named Ari Ben-Menashe alleged that Maxwell had tipped off the Mossad, possibly through British secret services, about Vanunu. It is also possible that they were alerted by enquiries made to Israelis or to the Israeli Embassy in London by Sunday Mirror journalists.
The Israeli government decided to capture Vanunu, but determined to avoid harming its good relationship with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and not wanting to risk confrontation with British intelligence, determined Vanunu should be persuaded to leave British territory under his own volition. Israel’s efforts to capture Vanunu were headed by Giora Tzahor. Through constant surveillance, the Mossad found that Vanunu had become lonely and eager for female companionship. Masquerading as an American tourist called “Cindy”, Israeli Mossad agent Cheryl Bentov befriended Vanunu, and on 30 September persuaded him to fly to Rome with her on a holiday. This relation has been perceived as a classic honey trap operation whereby an intelligence agent employs seduction to gain the target’s trust—a practice which has been officially sanctioned in Israel. On the day Bentov met Vanunu, the Israeli Navy electronic surveillance ship INS Noga was ordered to the Italian coast.
The Noga, disguised as a merchant ship, was fitted with electronic surveillance equipment and satellite communications gear in its superstructure, and was primarily used to intercept communications traffic in Arab ports. As the ship was heading from Antalya in Turkey back to Haifa, the captain was instructed to change course for Italy and anchor off the coast in an encrypted message. The Noga arrived off the Italian port city of La Spezia and anchored in international waters, just outside Italian waters.
Once in Rome, Vanunu and Bentov took a taxi to an apartment in the old quarter of the city, where three waiting Mossad operatives overpowered Vanunu and injected him with a paralyzing drug. Later that night, a white van hired by the Israeli embassy arrived, and Vanunu was carried to it on a stretcher. The ambulance drove out of Rome, down the coast to a pre-arranged point. Vanunu was transferred to a waiting speedboat, which then rendezvoused with the waiting Noga anchored off the coast. Vanunu was brought onto the Noga in total secrecy. The crew were told to assemble in the ship’s common room and lock the door as Vanunu and the Mossad agents were taken aboard. The ship then set sail for Israel. During the journey, Vanunu was kept in a cabin, with Mossad agents taking turns guarding him. None of the Noga’s crew were allowed to look at the prisoner. On 6 October, the ship anchored off the coast of Israel between Tel Aviv and Haifa, where it was met by a smaller vessel to which Vanunu was transferred. The vessel then took Vanunu to Israel.
On 5 October, the Sunday Times published the information it had revealed, and estimated that Israel had produced more than 100 nuclear warheads.
In July 2004 Vanunu claimed in the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper that the State of Israel was complicit in the assassination of John F. Kennedy. He claimed there were “near-certain indications” that Kennedy was assassinated in response to “pressure he exerted on Israel’s then head of government, David Ben-Gurion, to shed light on Dimona’s nuclear reactor”.  
Vanunu was put on trial in Israel on charges of treason and espionage. The trial, held in secret, took place in the Jerusalem District Court before Chief Justice Eliahu Noam and Judges Zvi Tal and Shalom Brener. Vanunu was represented by Avigdor Feldman, an Israeli civil and human rights lawyer. He was not permitted contact with the media but he wrote the details of his abduction (or “hijacking”, as he put it) on the palm of his hand, and while being transported he held his hand against the van’s window so that waiting journalists could get the information.
On 27 February 1988, the court sentenced him to eighteen years of imprisonment from the date of his kidnapping. The Israeli government refused to release the transcript of the court case until, after the threat of legal action, it agreed to let censored extracts be published in Yedioth Ahronoth, an Israeli newspaper, in late 1999.
The death penalty in Israel is restricted to special circumstances, and only two executions have ever taken place there. In 2004, former Mossad director Shabtai Shavit told Reuters that the option of extrajudicial execution was considered in 1986, but rejected because “Jews don’t do that to other Jews.”
Vanunu served his eighteen-year sentence at Shikma Prison in Ashkelon. He spent more than eleven years of his sentence in solitary confinement, allegedly out of concern that he might reveal more Israeli nuclear secrets and because he was still bound by the contract that swore him to secrecy on the subject. While in prison, Vanunu took part in small acts of non-submission, such as refusing psychiatric treatment, refusing to talk with the guards, reading only English-language newspapers, and watching only BBC television. “He is the most stubborn, principled, and tough person I have ever met,” said his lawyer, Avigdor Feldman.
In 1998, Vanunu appealed to the Supreme Court for his Israeli citizenship to be revoked. The Interior Minister denied Vanunu’s request on grounds that he did not have another citizenship.
Many critics argue that Vanunu had no additional information that would pose a real security threat to Israel, and that the Israeli government’s real motivation is a desire to avoid political embarrassment and financial complications for itself and allies such as the United States. By not acknowledging possession of nuclear weapons, Israel avoids a US legal prohibition on funding countries which proliferate weapons of mass destruction. Such an admission would prevent Israel from receiving over $3 billion each year in military and other aid from Washington.
On the basis of this research and my own professional experience, I am ready to challenge any official assertion that Mr. Vanunu possesses any technical nuclear information not already made public.
His last appeal against his conviction, to the Supreme Court of Israel in 1990, failed.
Release, liberties restrictions and asylum applications
Vanunu was released from prison on 21 April 2004. Surrounded by dozens of journalists and flanked by two of his brothers, he held an impromptu press conference, but refused to answer questions in Hebrew because of the suffering he said he sustained at the hands of the State of Israel. 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. “You didn’t succeed to break me, you didn’t succeed to make me crazy,” he said. Vanunu also called for Israel’s nuclear disarmament, and for its dismantlement as a Jewish state. Around 200 supporters and a smaller number of counter-demonstrators attended the conference. He indicated a desire to completely dissociate himself from Israel, initially refusing to speak in Hebrew, and planning to move to Europe or the United States as soon as the Israeli government would permit him to do so. Shortly before his scheduled release, Vanunu remained defiant under interrogation by the security service, Shin Bet. In recordings of the interview made public after his release, he is heard saying “I am neither a traitor nor a spy, I only wanted the world to know what was happening.” He also said, “We don’t need a Jewish state. There needs to be a Palestinian state. Jews can, and have lived anywhere, so a Jewish State is not necessary.” “Vanunu is a difficult and complex person. He remains stubbornly, admirably uncompromisingly true to his principles, is willing to pay the price”, said Ha’aretz newspaper in 2008.
A number of prohibitions were placed upon Vanunu after his release from jail and are still in force, in particular:
- he shall not be able to have contacts with citizens of other countries but Israel
- he shall not use phones
- he shall not own cellullar phones
- he shall not have access to the Internet
- he shall not approach or enter embassies and consulates
- he shall not come within 500 metres of any international border crossing
- he shall not visit any port of entry and airport
- he shall not leave the State of Israel
Israeli authorities state that their reason of these forbiddances and liberties restrictions is fear of his spreading further state secrets and that he is still bound by his non-disclosure agreement. These stipulate that he must inform the authorities in advance about his place of residence, his movements between cities, and whom he intends to meet. While a court found in 2005 that he should be free to go to the Gaza Strip and West Bank, a year later further restrictions explicitly forbade him to visit either, reversing the court’s initial decision.
Vanunu says that his knowledge is now outdated and he has nothing more he could possibly reveal that is not already widely known. Despite the stated restrictions Vanunu has given interviews to the foreign press since his release, including a live phone interview to BBC Radio Scotland.
On 22 April 2004, Vanunu asked the government of Norway for a Norwegian passport and asylum in the country for “humanitarian reasons,” according to Norwegian media. He also sent applications to other countries, and stated that he would accept asylum in any country because he fears for his life. Former conservative Norwegian Prime Minister Kåre Willoch asked the conservative government to give Vanunu asylum, and the University of Tromsø offered him a job. On 9 April 2008, it was revealed that Vanunu’s request for asylum in Norway was rejected in 2004 by Erna Solberg, Minister of Local Government in the liberal coalition government led by then Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik. While the Norwegian foreigner directorate (State Department) (UDI) had been prepared to grant Vanunu asylum, it was suddenly decided that the application could not be accepted because Vanunu had applied for it from outside of the borders of Norway. An unclassified document revealed that Solberg and the government considered that extracting Vanunu from Israel might be seen as an action against Israel and thereby unfitting the Norwegian government’s tradition role as a friend of Israel and as a political player in the Middle East. Since the information has been revealed, Solberg has rejected criticism and defended her decision.
Vanunu’s application for asylum in Sweden has also been rejected on the grounds that Sweden, like Norway does not accept absentee asylum applications. He also unsuccessfully requested asylum in Ireland, which would require him to first be allowed to leave Israel. He has not applied for asylum in his native Morocco.
In 2006, Amnesty International‘s British branch chief, Keith Allen, wrote that Microsoft handed over the details of Vanunu’s Hotmail email account by alluding that he was being investigated for espionage. This happened before a court order had been obtained.
International calls for his freedom of movement and freedom of speech made by organizations supporting Vanunu have been either ignored or rejected by Israel.
On 15 May 2008, the “Norwegian Lawyer’s Petition for Vanunu” was released, signed by 24 Norwegian attorneys. It calls on the Norwegian government to urgently implement a three-point action plan “within the framework of international and Norwegian law” and allow Vanunu to travel to, live and work in Norway.
On 11 October 2010, Vanunu’s appeal to rescind the restrictions and allow him to leave Israel and speak to foreigners was denied by the Israeli Supreme Court.
Arrests and hearings
Yossi Melman, an Israeli journalist, wrote in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz “Vanunu’s harassment by the Israeli government is unprecedented and represents a distortion of every accepted legal norm.” Vanunu was denied parole at a hearing in May 1998. Five years later, parole was again refused. At this parole hearing, Vanunu’s lawyer Avigdor Feldman maintained that his client had no more secrets and should be freed. But the prosecution argued that the imminent war with Iraq would preclude his release. After the hearing, Feldman said, “The prosecutor said that if Vanunu were released, the Americans would probably leave Iraq and go after Israel and Israel’s nuclear weapons – which I found extremely ridiculous.” The real force blocking Vanunu’s release, who had been known only as “Y”, was exposed in 2001 as Yehiyel Horev, the head of Mossad‘s nuclear and military secrets branch. Following his release in 2004, Vanunu appeared in Israeli courts on numerous occasions on charges of having violated the terms of his release. He was arrested and detained for attempting to go to Bethlehem, on at least one occasion his room in St. George’s Cathedral was raided by policemen and his belongings were confiscated.
Yehiel Horev, the strictest of all the security chiefs in Israel, especially in regard to the protection of institutions such as the Dimona facility and the Biological Institute, is apprehensive that if Vanunu goes abroad, he will continue to be a nuisance by stimulating the public debate over Israel’s nuclear policy and the nuclear weapons he says Israel possesses. This is the secret that has not yet been told in the affair: the story of the security fiasco that made it possible for Vanunu to do what he did, and the story of subsequent attempts to cover-up, whitewash and protect senior figures in the defense establishment, who were bent on divesting themselves of responsibility for the failure.
- On 11 November 2004, Vanunu was arrested by the International Investigations Unit of the Israel Police at around 9am while eating breakfast. The arrest stemmed from an ongoing probe examining suspicions of leaking national secrets and violating legal rulings since his release from prison.
Police officers wearing bulletproof vests and carrying machine guns entered the walled compound of St. George’s Anglican Cathedral, where Vanunu had been living since his release. Police removed papers and a computer from his room. After a few hours’ detention, Vanunu was put under house arrest, which was to last seven days.
- On 24 December 2004 in a vehicle marked as belonging to the foreign press, Vanunu was arrested by Israeli Police while he was attempting to enter the West Bank in violation of his release restrictions (see above), allegedly to attend mass at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. After posting bail of 50,000 NIS, he was released into five-day house arrest.
- On 26 January 2005 the BBC reported that its Jerusalem deputy bureau chief, Simon Wilson, was banned from Israel after he refused to submit interview material made with Vanunu to Israeli censors. Vanunu gave the interview in violation of court orders. Wilson was allowed to return to Israel on 12 March 2005 after signing an apology letter acknowledging that he defied the law.
- On 17 March 2005 Vanunu was charged with 21 counts of “contravening a lawful direction” (maximum penalty two years’ imprisonment per count) and one count of “attempting to contravene a lawful direction.”
- On 18 November 2005 Vanunu was arrested at the al-Ram checkpoint north of Jerusalem as he was returning by bus from the West Bank. The Israeli authorities claimed Vanunu’s travel ban includes visits to the Palestinian territories.
- On 13 April 2007 Vanunu was informed that the Israeli government has continued his house arrest in Jerusalem and renewed all the restrictions against him, for the fourth time and third year of detention in east Jerusalem.
- On 30 April 2007 Vanunu was convicted of violating the order barring foreign contacts and traveling outside Jerusalem.
- In July 2007, Vanunu was sentenced to a further six months imprisonment for speaking to foreigners and traveling to Bethlehem. The court’s sentence was unexpected, and even the prosecution expected the court to hand down a suspended sentence, meant solely as a deterrent. Following his sentence, Vanunu commented that his conviction proved that Israel was still ruled, in effect, by the British Mandate because the law under which he was convicted is from that era. “Maybe I need to turn to the Queen or to Tony Blair in order to grant me justice,” he said.
- While having dinner at the American Colony Hotel in East Jerusalem with a foreigner, Vanunu was arrested for the second time on a Christmas Eve.
- On 7 January 2008, the day before his appeal against the above sentence was to begin, Vanunu was re-sentenced to six months of community service.
- On 7 April 2008 Vanunu learned that Israel had renewed the restrictions against him for the fifth time. On 9 April 2008 it was reported that Norway had joined Sweden, Canada and Denmark in refusing asylum to Vanunu.
- On 9 April 2008 unclassified documents revealed that the former Norwegian coalition government led by former Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik denied Vanunu asylum in 2004 as a supportive gesture to Israel.
- On 13 May 2008 Vanunu wrote that although three judges attempted to convince the Government Lawyer to offer community service in East Jerusalem, it was denied.
Vanunu’s appeal against his six months jail sentence was set to resume on 8 July 2008
- On 15 May 2008 the Norwegian Lawyer’s Petition called upon the Norwegian government to urgently implement a three-point action plan within the framework of international and Norwegian law, to grant Vanunu asylum and permission to work and stay in Norway.
- On 23 September 2008 the Jerusalem District Court announced: “In light of (Vanunu’s) ailing health and the absence of claims that his actions put the country’s security in jeopardy, we believe his sentence should be reduced.” Vanunu said his health is fine and that, “The issue is about my right to be free, my right to speak and my right to leave the state.”
- In October 2008, Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond called for Vanunu’s release, saying, “The Scottish Government is well aware of the campaign by the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign and supports the lifting of all restrictions imposed on Mr Mordechai Vanunu.”
- On 26 November 2008, “Vanunu’s Supreme Court appeal fighting a three month jail sentence [reduced from six] for speaking to foreigners – who happened to be media – in 2004, is scheduled to be heard in the New Year.”
- On 14 June 2009, Vanunu stated, “The Central Commander of the General Army testified in court that it is OK if I speak in public as long as I do not talk about nuclear weapons…
They renewed the restrictions to not speak to foreigners until November. The appeal [against three months in jail for speaking to foreign media in 2004] was scheduled for January, then May 6th and June 18th. Now I am waiting for a new court date.”
- On 6 July 2009, Vanunu’s “attorney Avigdor Feldman…and the state agreed that after six months, pending a review of his conduct, Vanunu will be able to ask for the restrictions to be lifted and be allowed to travel abroad.”
- On 28 December 2009, Vanunu was arrested by Jerusalem Police in a hotel following an alleged meeting with his girlfriend.
- On 29 December 2009, Russian media reported that a search of Vanunu’s belongings uncovered a letter from an American causing Israeli officials to be concerned that “he could be orchestrating something.” On 1 January 2010, it was revealed that Vanunu has known his Norwegian girlfriend, Kristin Joachimsen, a scholar and an associate professor of Biblical studies for two years.
- On 7 January 2010, Vanunu published a video message to the media regarding his most recent arrest and Israel’s “impotent” nuclear ambiguity.
- On 14 April 2010, Vanunu reported that the restrictions denying him the right to leave Israel were renewed for another year.
- On 11 May 2010, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that Mordechai Vanunu, will “serve a three-month jail sentence handed to him by Jerusalem District Court and not community service” which will begin on May 23, 2010.
Vanunu had been sentenced to community service, but had stated his refusal to perform community service in west Jerusalem, claiming that he would be in danger of being assaulted by a member of the Israeli public, but offered to do community service in east Jerusalem. The Court refused Vanunu’s offer. Eleven days earlier, Amnesty International had released a press release following the announcement of this sentence: “If Mordechai Vanunu is imprisoned again, Amnesty International will declare him to be a prisoner of conscience and call for his immediate and unconditional release.”
- On 24 May 2010, Vanunu began serving his three-month prison sentence. On June 18, it was reported that Vanunu had been placed in solitary confinement.
- On 8 August 2010, Vanunu was released from prison.
- On 14 July 2011, Vanunu appealed to the Israeli Supreme Court to instruct Interior Minister Eli Yishai to revoke his Israeli citizenship, claiming that “the Israeli street” and media were treating him belligerently, and that he could “no longer find his place in Israeli society”, and that despite his release from prison, “the State of Israel continues to penalize him by imposing various restrictions on his person and travels”.
Vanunu’s appeal noted an amendment to the Citizenship Act which allowed the Interior Minister to revoke his citizenship even if he did not hold another one, and claimed that revocation of his Israeli citizenship would allow him to seek citizenship or permanent residency in a European country.
- On 31 August 2011, Vanunu wrote: “The court hearing about the restrictions, not to speak to foreigners, not to leave Israel will be on Oct’ 3 [it is possible the date can be changed]. About canceling my Israel citizenship, we are waiting to hear from Interior minister or we will have one more court hearing.”
- On 1 May 2012, Vanunu deactivated his Facebook and Twitter accounts after an announcement that the Israeli government was monitoring those accounts.
- On 6 June 2012, the High Court of Justice denied Vanunu’s petition to renounce his Israeli citizenship. Vanunu said, “I want them to revoke my citizenship so that I can begin my life.”
Awards and honours
Vanunu wrote the poem “I’m Your Spy” early during the first eleven and a half years he was held in strict isolation.
In March 2009 Vanunu wrote to the Nobel Peace Prize Committee in Oslo:
I am asking the committee to remove my name from the list for this year’s list of nominations. I cannot be part of a list of laureates that includes Shimon Peres, the President of Israel. He is the man who was behind all the Israeli atomic policy. Peres established and developed the atomic weapon program in Dimona in Israel..Peres was the man who ordered the kidnapping of me in Italy Rome, Sept. 30, 1986, and for the secret trial and sentencing of me as a spy and traitor for 18 years in isolation in prison in Israel. Until now he continues to oppose my freedom and release, in spite of my serving full sentence 18 years. From all these reasons I don’t want be nominated and will not accept this nomination. I say No to any nomination as long as I am not free, that is, as long as I am still forced to be in Israel. What I want is freedom and only freedom.
In December 2004, he was elected by the students of the University of Glasgow to serve for three years as Rector. On 22 April 2005 he was formally installed in the post, but could not carry out any of its functions as he was still confined to Israel. The Herald newspaper launched a campaign for his release.
In 2005 he received the Peace Prize of the Norwegian People (Folkets fredspris). Previous recipients of this prize include Vytautas Landsbergis (1991), Alva Myrdal (1982), Mairead Maguire and Betty Williams.
On 24 February 2010, the Nobel Institute Director, Geir Lundestad, announced that for the second year in a row, Mordechai Vanunu had declined the honour of being nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Vanunu wrote, “What I want now, I need now, is freedom, passport, [not] awards.”
On 21 September 2010, the Teach Peace Foundation recognized Mordechai Vanunu for his courageous actions to halt the development and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction by the Israeli government.
On 16 November 2010, the International League for Human Rights released their letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak and Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai, seeking Vanunu’s free departure out of Israel to allow him to receive this years Carl-von-Ossietzky-Medal at the Award Ceremony in Berlin on 12 December 2010.
The 12 December 2010, Carl von Ossietzky Medal Ceremony in Berlin was renamed a protest and also for nuclear disarmament. On this occasion a music-composition for Vanunu was released and had the first performance. Pravda reported that Nobel Laureate Mairead Corrigan-Maguire, called the enforced absence of Vanunu ‘shameful’ and that the International League of Human Rights never received a response from their letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu, Defence Minister Barak and Interior Minister Yishai.