Israel arrests Mordechi Vanunu, again

On Monday, Israeli authorities arrested famed nuclear whistleblower Mordechi Vanunu on a charge that he met with a foreigner in violation of the conditions of his release from prison in 2004.  CCTV provides video of Vanunu’s attorney saying that the meeting with a Norwegian woman was of a romantic nature, and no classified information was disclosed.

Mordechi Vanunu after his release from Israeli prison in 2004. Photo (c) by Ronald H. Miller.

In 1986, Vanunu revealed that Israel had developed nuclear weapons at its facility in Dimona in the Negev Desert.  He provided photos to Peter Hounam of the Sunday Times of London. An Israeli agent then lured Vanunu to Italy where he was drugged, kidnapped, and flown to Israel.  There, he was convicted of treason and sentenced to 18 years — a sentence he served in full, mostly in solitary confinement. When releasing Vanunu in 2004, Israel ordered him not to leave the country and not to communicate with foreigners.  Vanunu’s appeal of these restrictions is pending in Israel’s Supreme Court. Just last week, Uzi Eilam, a retired army brigadier-general and former head of Israel’s Atomic Energy Commission stated Vanunu "served the regime because his revelations helped Tel Aviv intimidate others…he should be let go. I don’t think he has significant knowledge to reveal (about Dimona) now." As Vanunu already spilled the beans about Israel’s nukes in 1986, one must wonder about why Israel is still keeping a lid on him.  His Wikipedia page posits that Israel has to deny the existence of its nuclear program to continue getting large amounts of aid from the U.S. government. However, it is hard for me to believe that the U.S. government missed the 1986 news reports.  To me, this is a familiar pattern of punishing the whistleblower.  The cat is already out of the bag on Israel’s violation of nuclear non-proliferation. The goal now is to make an example of Vanunu so that none of Israel’s other nuclear technicians become tempted to join this peacenik activist. For this purpose, Israel’s interests are furthered by arresting him in the middle of his romantic encounter with the Norwegian in the hotel.


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