Vanunu speaks about his November 18th arrest

Mordechai Vanunu

Mordechai Vanunu, often dubbed the “Israeli nuclear whistle-blower,” was arrested on Friday 18th November for traveling to the East Jerusalem suburb al-Ram. Vanunu, 51, was released on the following day and returned to his de facto house arrest at St. George’s Cathedral in Jerusalem, where he has sought refuge since being released from his 18-year detention and torture under Israeli authorities.

The former nuclear technician made international headlines in 1986 when he revealed to the world that Israel had undertaken a covert nuclear weapons program at the Dimona nuclear facility. His revelations led independent experts to confirm that Israel has 100 to 200 nuclear bombs. Since his release, Israel has kept Vanunu under close watch, fearing that he might rally further criticism of the regime’s illicit conduct. This tactic has produced the opposite effect as Vanunu remains resilient in his efforts to publicize the systematic repression of Palestinians and their censorship of critical thought. In addition to his anti-nuclear campaigning, Vanunu has repeatedly called for the dismantlement of Israel’s racist policies, and the fundamental right of return for Palestinian refugees.

“Last Friday, the Israeli authorities abused their power yet again to arrest me. Although I remained in prison for only two days, I was visited by the cruel memories of my 18 years in isolation.

The reason for my arrest this time was that I came very close to the checkpoint near the wall in al-Ram, a small Palestinian neighborhood in East Jerusalem where they have not yet decided where the Apartheid Wall is going to continue.

I took a bus from the station in East Jerusalem and traveled to al-Ram without incident, but as the bus returned to Jerusalem, they inspected it at the checkpoint.

At the checkpoint, they took my ID card and the soldiers received orders to arrest me. They confiscated my camera and mobile phone, and took me to the nearest police station, where I waited for the special police unit to come from Tel Aviv and take me in for questioning.

Meanwhile, the police themselves invited the Israeli television media to come and take as many photos as they wanted and to report my arrest as one against a man who was going to the occupied territories where the “enemies” were “fighting” against them. They did this because they want the Israeli public to regard me as equal to terrorists.

I told the Israeli media: “They arrested me because I went to see the al-Ram checkpoint, the Apartheid Wall and the Palestinian ghettos.”

In Tel Aviv they questioned me about why I wanted to enter the occupied territories. They wanted to know what I was doing there and why I was not following the Army’s general orders. I told them that al-Ram is still part of Palestine East Jerusalem, and that I was not interested in visiting the occupied territories, but that I wanted to see the Apartheid Wall and how it affects this village — it is not yet clear where the borders of Jerusalem are. They wanted to know with whom I was traveling, their names, why I was with foreigners, and they wanted to see the photos I took.

The police decided to release me under court orders. However, there is no court on the Jewish Sabbath day, so they had to wait until Saturday night. They imprisoned me in Tel Aviv, in a cell without any thing but a mattress and a blanket.

On Saturday morning, my lawyers, Feldman and Sfard, came to hear what happened and to represent me in court. In the evening, the police took me back to the court and the judge heard my case at 20:30. Feldman did not agree with the terms of my release. They wanted two weeks of house arrest, and 50,000 shekels. Feldman convinced the judge and the police that this arrest was a big mistake because I did not violate the terms of my release, since it is not yet clear where Israel wants to put its Apartheid Wall. Before the judge made her decision the police capitulated and agreed for immediate release without conditions other than my signature.

This was a small victory for Feldman in defending me, and my friend Gideon took me back to St. George Cathedral in Jerusalem, where we shared a glass of beer.

But the police and the Israeli spies couldn’t go without something. They demanded that I give them my camera and mobile phone so that they could examine them. I am now deprived of a telephone connection until these items are returned.

So that was another incident of harassment in this new series of cruelty since my release. They will not give up and let me go — to leave Israel. If they could put me back in prison they would.

My conclusion: The world continues to ignore my situation and is not doing anything to help me gain freedom in the same way it did during the 18 years of my imprisonment. Nobody will intervene to demand my release. The world stands by and allows Israel to do as it pleases. The world will let them commit more crimes such as kidnapping, injustice and cruelty.”

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