Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Reading about that lead me to this

There may be a development in the case of Mordechai Vanunu. He was the Israeli nuclear technician and whistleblower who in 1986 confirmed to a British newspaper what all politically-sentient beings already knew: Israel had nuclear weapons. For that, Israeli agents lured him from the UK to Italy, where he was drugged, kidnapped, taken back to Israel, labeled a traitor, and charged with revealing state secrets. He was convicted and spent 18 years in prison, a dozen of them in solitary confinement. He was finally released in April 2004.

If you can call it released. He was placed under a variety of restrictions limiting his movements, his contacts, and his ability to speak with any non-Israeli. He was not allowed to leave Israel. Over the intervening years, the restrictions have been repeatedly renewed.

Vanunu, for his own part, has been defiant about the restrictions on contacts with foreigners and has been sentenced to house arrest several times and, last July, to six months in jail. A hearing to appeal an additional six month sentence is scheduled for May 13.

The breaking news involves the fact that back in 2004, Vanunu had requested asylum in Norway. Aftenposten (Norway) reported last Wednesday that
news emerged that the Norwegian government stepped in to reject an appeal for asylum from long-imprisoned Israeli physicist Mordechai Vanunu.

Newspaper Bergens Tidende reported Wednesday that Vanunu's application for asylum in Norway had in fact been approved by the country's immigration agency UDI (Utlendingsdirektoratet) back in 2004.

UDI was overruled, however, by Norway's center-right government at the time. Political considerations, not least Norway's efforts to remain on good terms with Israel and the US, were more important than Vanunu's human rights, critics now charge.
UDI officials are supposed to be free to make decisions without political interference. But like a lot of other "spoz-ta"s, political expedience overruled both policy and justice.

In the wake of the revelation, Vanunu renewed his request for asylum. However, Reuters reported on Friday, Norwegian officals "held out no hope that he would be accepted." One reason why:
Norwegian daily Dagsavisen on Friday cited an Israeli diplomat as saying that giving Vanunu asylum would be considered interference in Israel's internal affairs and a "sign of the generally anti-Israeli sentiment in Norway."
That is, pulling out the same sort of bullying tactics that always get pulled out: Any action, any statement, anything of which the Israeli government disapproves is proof of "anti-Israel" - and by inferred and sometimes explicit extension, anti-Semitic - "sentiment."

However, and this is the real breaking news part, a group called We Are Wide Awake quotes a statement from Fredrik Heffermehl of the International Vanunu Committee, saying that on Sunday night the Socialist Left Party, one of the parties in Norway's three-party ruling coalition, decided to invite Vanunu to come to Norway in May.

That of course is not the end of his problems; first and foremost, Israel has to be willing to let him go, which it has shown no inclination to do. But the existence of a formal invitation, in essence an offer of asylum (and a standing offer of a job, removing another potential snag), does serve to increase pressure on Israel to at the very, very least, explain just what it is that this man, who has served his sentence, could possibly know and reveal after more than 20 years that justifies the continued attempts to gag him - or is it, as I suspect, a combination of simple spite at their inability to intimidate him into complete silence and a desire to send a message to other would-be whistleblowers of the consequences of disobedience?

The meaning of the phrase has changed since 2004, but its significance hasn't: Free Mordechai Vanunu!

Footnote: Haaretz (Israel) reported on Monday that
Israel and the United States signed an agreement several days ago to step up cooperation in the field of nuclear safety.

The new agreement broadens and upgrades previous accords between the two countries in this field, which were signed over the past two decades. It will enable the Israel Atomic Energy Commission to access most of the latest nuclear safety data, procedures and technology available in the U.S. ...

Even though the agreement is essentially technical in nature, it has much greater significance, as many countries, including the U.S., are inclined not to cooperate with Israel on any aspects related to the nuclear field, because Israel is not a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
Apparently, this is another area where Israel gets special treatment.

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