Monday, May 07, 2007

This photo of a jaunty 52 year old man and a star-struck young lady was a crime. The young woman you see is me and I am standing with Mordechai Vanunu. Mordechai is the Israel Daniel Ellesburg, a brave man who was imprisoned 18 years for exposing Israel’s secret nuclear weapons program. Of those 18 years, Mordechai spent 11 in solitary confinement. “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,” says Mordechai. On April 30th, Vanunu was convicted violating a military order forbidding him from speaking to foreign journalists. Now this man, who has already suffered so much on behalf of nuclear disarmament, is facing more jail time.

I became interested in Mordechai’s continuing plight when I met with him at St. George’s Cathedral in Jerualem and he committed the crime of speaking to me. I found his story engrossing. For most of my life, Mordechai has been held captive for a disclosing a grave danger to my life and the lives of all of us on this planet. In 1986, when I was just two years old, Mordechai told Britain's Sunday Times that Israel assembled hydrogen and neutron bombs at the Dimona reactor and was annually producing 40 kilograms of plutonium, enough to make 10 atom bombs. He was soon abducted and imprisoned.

Just before I turned 20, Mordechai was released, but not freed. As soon as Mordechai stepped out of prison, he was slapped with a military order controlling his movements within Israel, preventing him from leaving the country and barring him from contacting foreigners. Israeli authorities insist that after 18 years, Mordechai still knows military secrets.

But Mordechai is easily the most stubborn person I know. When the Israeli military forbade him from speaking with foreigners, Mordechai decided to speak only to foreign journalists. Mordechai has become a master of non-cooperation, techniques that he says helped to keep him sane during his long years of solitary confinement. But Mordechai has paid the price of conscience and more. As he tells anyone who will listen, “All that I want is to be free, to leave [Israel].”

I am now 23 years old and Mordechai’s stubbornness has caught up him. On April 30th, he was convicted on 14 counts of speaking with foreign journalists, telling them, it seems, exactly what he told newspapers in 1986. Sentencing will take place May 18th. His lawyer has pointed out that, “this verdict convicts a person for being in contact with other people - regardless of the content of their conversation.” Amnesty International has said that if Mordechai is jailed, they will regard him as a prisoner of conscience.

Mordechai has more than served his time. How much more of my life will Mordechai spend behind bars for the crime of telling the truth?

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