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Red Rag: Letter to the judges of the Supreme Court after the rejection of Mordechai Vanunu’s appeal
By: Gideon Spiro
21 October 2010

Judicial wickedness and imperviousness

21 October 2010

To the honourable Miriam Naor, Esther Hayut, Hanan Meltzer

Judges of the Supreme Court,

Hakirya, Jerusalem

On 11 October 2010 you ruled on the appeal of Mordechai Vanunu for the lifting of the restrictions that have been imposed on him. As long as they are in effect, he is not a free man. Six years after he was released from the prison where he was incarcerated for 18 years, of which 12 years were in solitary confinement, the ISA (Shabak – Shin Bet) and the head of security at the Defence Ministry are still digging their fangs into Vanunu and sucking his blood like vampires while whispering into his ear: “Express remorse, admit that you made a mistake,” and he has not submitted. He remains at peace with himself, his actions and his conscience: against nuclear arms and for the right of the public to know the scale of the holocaust that the government is cooking up behind the walls of the nuclear reactor at Dimona.

The ritual has been repeated every year since his release from prison in April 2004: an appeal to the High Court of Justice for the lifting of the restrictions according to which he is forbidden to leave Israel, to move freely and to talk to tourists. The ISA and the Defence Ministry security chief feed the judges secret information to the effect that Vanunu is concealing in his brain details that has not yet revealed, and for that reason he represents a danger. The judges adopt the position of the ISA and the Defence Ministry security chief, even though the testimony of nuclear experts from Israel and abroad has proven and still proves that Vanunu cannot possibly be in possession of any secret information, that all he knew on nuclear matters he disclosed to the British weekly Sunday Times in 1986.

This year too the spectacle has been repeated. Vanunu’s lawyers make their case, the State representative replies, then comes the shameful part in which you receive secret information, and after that a closed session is held in the presence of representatives of the ISA and the Defence Ministry security chief, Vanunu and his lawyers being obliged to leave the room. They cannot fulfill their role of examining and challenging the secret information. I believe that if the ISA and the Defence Ministry security chief were questioned by Vanunu’s lawyers, Avigdor Feldman and Michael Sfard, it would emerge that most if not all of that secret information is based on lies, rumours, informers and provocations (for example, an ISA agent dresses up like a tourist and asks Vanunu whether Israel has nuclear weapons, and other such corrupt methods).

You are behaving like attentive employees of the security services, as is the practice in tyrannical regimes. Their representatives sat in the courtroom and made sure that you did not deviate to the right or to the left and that you would play your roles according to their plans, and that is what happened. You were not satisfied until you could publish your ruling on 13 October, Mordechai Vanunu’s birthday. That is no coincidence, but rather a deliberate act that was done at the dictates of the security services. Their thirst for revenge is unquenchable. They fed you every possible detail, and you played your part willingly. That is how simpletons lacking in understanding behave, not judges [1] who consider themselves enlightened. Such wickedness and imperviousness are intended to rub more salt into the wounds.

I assume that you are not stupid – that you know that after 24 years during which Mordechai Vanunu has not been inside the reactor at Dimona, he constitutes absolutely no security threat. Moreover, as one who is in contact with Mordechai Vanunu, and meets with him frequently, I have not learned from him any detail whatsoever, even the most trivial, about Israel’s nuclear activities.

On the contrary, from sources on Internet websites and international newspapers, most of which is reproduced in the Israeli media, I was in possession of information on Israel’s nuclear armament that was concealed from Vanunu during his time in prison. Vanunu learned more from me than I learned from him. Zvi Tal, who was the judge at the Jerusalem District Court who sentenced Vanunu to 18 years in prison, and later became a judge on the Supreme Court, wrote in his book Until the Sunrise that was published not long ago, that “it is hard to understand what this technician could reveal that he has not already revealed.”

It seems that in the “Jewish Republic of Israel” you are acting as if you were in the “Islamic Republic of Iran,” and tremble like leaves in the wind when confronted by the security services. Judicial independence, which you praise to the skies in official publications, is buried as if it had never existed when you sit opposite the representatives of the ISA and the Defence Ministry security chief. The prestige that is enjoyed by Supreme Court judges when they sit as judges in the High Court of Justice is exposed as a fraud when you deliberate on security matters. Justice dissipates and instead of breathing the rarefied air of adherence to the principles of human rights, you sink into the stinking swamp of a base court characterized by submissiveness and squalour.

Recently Vanunu received the news that the International League for Human Rights in Berlin chose him as the recipient of the Carl von Ossietzky human rights medal for 2010. It is one of the most prestigious prizes in the realm of human rights in Europe in general and in Germany in particular. For those of you who do not know who Carl von Ossietzky was, here are some details taken from Wikipedia:

Carl von Ossietzky was a German journalist and pacifist, and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

In the still-democratic Weimar Republic, Carl von Ossietzky was arrested, put on trial and imprisoned for an infraction similar to that of which Vanunu was convicted 60 years later. In 1929 Carl von Ossietzky published information in his newspaper about the fact that Germany was establishing an air force in collaboration with the Soviet Union in contravention of the Versailles Treaty. In 1931 he was put on trial for treason, convicted and sentenced to 18 months in prison (Weimar Germany, which was on the verge of the transition to the Nazi regime, still showed itself to be relatively civilized compared to the State of Israel that sentenced Vanunu to 18 years).

Over the years Ossietzky warned about Adolf Hitler. With the rise of the Nazis to power in January 1933 Ossietzky continued to speak out and expressed opposition to the new regime. After the burning of the Reichstag on 28 February 1933, he was arrested again, and kept at first in the Spandau prison, and afterwards sent to the Esterwegen concentration camp near Oldenburg, and then to other camps.

Carl von Ossietzky was declared the Nobel Peace Prize laureate for 1935. The Nazis could not prevent the giving of the prize, but they did not release Ossietzky, who was hospitalized due to abuses he had experienced in the concentration camp. From his sickbed Ossietzky succeeded in smuggling an announcement that he accepted the prize, despite the threat that such an action would lead to his being removed from the “German national community” (Deutsche Volksgemeinschaft).

In May 1936 he was sent to a police hospital near Berlin due to a serious case of tuberculosis that he had contracted. He spent the last months of his life there. He died on 4 May 1938, while still in the hospital, in detention, from complications of tuberculosis related to the harsh conditions of his incarceration. The university at Oldenburg is named after him.

The Carl von Ossietzky medal has been awarded since 1962.

Among the dozens of recipients of the medal are the writers Günter Grass and Heinrich Böll, recipients of the Nobel Prize for literature; the Reverend Heinrich Gruber, who rescued Jews during the Nazi regime until he was arrested in 1940 and sent to the Dachau concentration camp, and who later continued to help Jews who remained in Germany after the Second World War; Lea Rosh, the moving spirit behind the creation of the Holocaust memorial in Berlin; the writer Günter Wallraff, who exposed the Nazis who were embedded in German political and economic life; the Nobel Peace Prize laureates Betty Williams and Mairead Maguire; Hans Koschnick, a German politician from the Social Democratic Party, who was a member of the Bundestag, the mayor of Bremen and from 1994 to 1996 an emissary of the European Community in Bosnia, and who in 1998 received an honourary doctorate from the University of Haifa for his contribution to society; the Reverend Martin Niemöller, a human rights activist who struggled against Nazism, was arrested by the Gestapo in 1937 and jailed in the Dachau and Sachsenhausen concentration camps until he was freed by the Allies in 1945.

Reverend Niemöller was the author of the well-known quotation: “In Germany the Nazis first came for the Communists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Communist; then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Jew; then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a member of a trade union; then they came for the Catholics, and I did not speak out, because I was Protestant; and then they came for me, and there was nobody left to speak out for me.”

To that illustrious list is now added Mordechai Vanunu.

The award ceremony will take place in December in Berlin. But Mordechai Vanunu will not be able to travel to receive the medal, because of the ban, imposed with your approval, on his leaving the country. You are thereby entering into the company of Nazi Germany, which prevented the departure of Carl von Ossietzky in 1935; the Soviet Union, which prevented the departure of Andrei Sakharov to recieve his Nobel Peace Prize in 1975; Communist China, which has barred the departure of the human rights activist Liu Xiaobo, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for 2010, who is now serving an 11-year sentence for writing a manifesto calling for freedom of expression. I would remind you that Mordechai Vanunu was abducted, tried (a fixed trial behind closed doors) and imprisoned by Israel because he availed himself of the democratic right of freedom of expression, and because he realized the public’s right to know.

You are a link in a chain of judicial travesties that transcends regimes and national borders. You will not be absolved of that.

Gideon Spiro

Translator’s note

1. This sentence contains a pun in Hebrew: “simpletons” is “shotim,” and “judges” is “shoftim.”

Translated from Hebrew for Occupation Magazine by George Malent

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