|By: Gideon Spiro|
25 January 2014 (English translation February 2)
Shulamit Aloni, RIP
Shula Aloni passed away and my first feeling was that Israel without Aloni is an Israel that has been maimed. She introduced the discourse of human rights into Israeli politics and was a beacon and an inspiration to many. When I met her a few years ago at some event at Beit Sokolov (the HQ of the Israeli Journalists’ Association in Tel Aviv), she asked me, “do you not despair?” I replied, “I have an excellent teacher whose name is Shulamit Aloni.” And indeed she was example and model of protracted and continuous struggle for a humane, democratic, just and peace-loving Israel that will turn away from Occupation, racism, homophobia, xenophobia and discrimination against women. She acted that way both as a minister and as an opposition MK. And she was a feminist before that word was on everyone’s lips.
Her critique of what was going on in Israeli society was sharp and penetrating. When she observed social or political phenomena that reminded her of fascist regimes she did not hesitate to say the words and to warn us of what lay ahead.
She once told an interviewer that what drove her crazy was Israel’s humiliation of the Palestinians. She could not stand that, for she knew that was the policy of the Third Reich toward the Jews – humiliation before destruction. When it came to the humiliation of the Palestinians, the Israeli occupier proved to be a quick study. We have not yet reached the stage of destruction, but Shulamit Aloni warned over and over that the train was hurtling on a track towards danger and if it did not stop it would end up transporting human beings in cars intended for cattle. Democratic Israel is like a ship in danger of sinking, and Shulamit Aloni was one of those who sat on the hole that had been torn in the hull in an effort to prevent the sinking and maybe give the ship time to reach a safe shore.
With temporal proximity that only the Minister of History could have orchestrated, two members of the State’s founding generation have passed away. Ariel Sharon and Shulamit Aloni. Sharon represents the appetite for war and killing, a perfect embodiment of the cult of force, and Shulamit Aloni represented the democratic peace-loving sector of the public. When the Chief of Staff said in his eulogy for Sharon that he committed the IDF to being true to the legacy of Sharon, I broke out in a cold sweat. On the other hand, when I heard MK Zehava Gal-On, the head of Meretz, declare that under her leadership Meretz would continue to hold to the principles its founder Shulamit Aloni had laid out, I felt I was standing on the summit of a mountain and breathing clear air. Aloni left a rich legacy that will accompany us and light our path for many more years to come.
When she was serving as minister of communications she agreed to my request to meet with an international delegation of supporters of Mordechai Vanunu, including the British actress Susannah York, who were calling for Vanunu’s sentence to be reduced. The meeting was a friendly one and Aloni did not conceal her sympathy for their activism, but she emphasized that her ability to help on the matter was very limited. The impression I and my comrades in the delegation got from the conversation was that if it were up to her, all would have been done differently.
She was possessed of a rare talent for an Israeli politician: the ability to admit a mistake or lapse. When she was asked why she voted in the Rabin government in favour of expelling Hamas activists from Gaza to Lebanon in a process that contradicts her entire approach to human rights, she replied without any effort to at self-justification that her judgement had been eclipsed.
Which Israel will have upper hand in the long run? The drum-beaters, as she called the nationalist and racist Israel that will sail the ship straight into the iceberg, or the Israel of peace and equality according to the vision of Shulamit Aloni, that will set a course towards the Promised Land as it was described in the Declaration of Independence? I will never know the answer – maybe my granddaughters.
Letter to judges of the Supreme Court
25 January 2014
To the Their Honours
Asher Gunis, President of the Supreme Court
Mirian Naor – Deputy President
Yitzhak Amit – judge on the Supreme Court
The subject: the rejection of Mordechai Vanunu’s appeal – High Court of
On 29 December you published your ruling that rejected Mordechai Vanunu’s appeal for the lifting of the restrictions imposed on him and to be permitted to leave Israel and live in a country where he is wanted and appreciated. The ruling is a shameful document that mocks justice and your profession as judges.
This is his seventh appeal since he was released after 18 years in prison, including nearly 12 in solitary confinement and another 10 years in a more open prison known as the State of Israel, and the seventh rejection. Your text is a duplicate of the previous rulings, an expression of judicial bureaucracy on the one hand and abject subjection to the Israel Security Agency and the Defence Ministry security chief on the other. Twenty-eight years have passed since he worked in the Dimona reactor and you repeat those same claims that the clandestine services dictate to you about a letter he wrote in prison under the trauma of isolation, and you cleave to it as if it were Holy Scripture that cannot be changed. Time stands still. And this time too, like the previous times, the old process of hearing representatives of the ISA and Defence Ministry security ex parte, which permits them to weave fairy tales about secret information in Vanunu’s hands, the disclosure of which will harm the security of the State, repeats itself. It is precisely that stubborn insistence of the representatives of the State to meet with you in private which is proof that he has no secret information beyond what he already disclosed, for if Vanunu has such knowledge, why can he and his lawyer not be present to challenge the claims of the State?
The restrictions were formulated such that their violation is built into them. For example, the ban on talking to foreigners: if a tourist says “good morning” to him, and Vanunu replies “good morning to you too,” he violates the restrictions. You ratified that ban and recommended to him that he ask for authorization in advance. How can he do that if he does not know who will approach him and say “how are you” today? According to you he has to answer: “let me call the police to ask for authorization to answer.” I must ask myself if this is stupidity or an attack of dementia on your part? It is clear that this restriction was imposed so that the security services can always claim that he is violating orders. And you are buying this garbage.
Nearly all the judges of the Supreme Court have sat at the seven appeals, and there has not been one who said: enough, 28 years have passed, it’s time to lift the restrictions. The security services are dancing you like puppeteers and you, like obedient marionettes, nod and bow and say “amen”. Nuclear experts have proven that he told everything he knew to the press. Retired Supreme Court Judge Zvi Tal, who was one of his judges at the District Court, wrote in his book that Vanunu presents no security threat, and Uzi Elam, who was Director-General of the Nuclear Energy Commission for 9 years and the chief scientist of the security establishment said the same thing. Your disregard of their opinions strengthens the impression that as judges you work for the clandestine services that are suppressing all independent thought.
With your ruling you turn your backs on the deepening international understanding in the democratic world of the importance of whistleblowers for protecting democracy and reining in regimes and governments whose appetite for control knows no limits. Under cover of the “national security” mantra, you turn away from human rights. The latest whistleblower, Edward Snowden, a former employee of the US National Security Agency, exposed the illegal surveillance of millions of citizens within and outside the US, including heads of friendly states like Chancellor of Germany. He forced the President of the US to apologize and re-examine the issue. This honourable and courageous group includes Dr. Daniel Ellsberg who leaked the Pentagon Papers that revealed the lies and crimes of the US government in the Vietnam War, Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning, a soldier in the US army who leaked hundreds of thousands of documents to Wikileaks, Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks who provided the information to the public, the German journalist and pacifist Carl von Ossietzky, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate who exposed Germany’s violations of the peace treaty during the rearmament and who was murdered in prison by the Nazi regime, and of course also Mordechai Vanunu.
Havka Folman-Raban, a member of Kibbutz Lohamei HaGeta’ot (Ghetto Fighters’ Kibbutz) who was a fighter in the Jewish underground against the Nazis and a prisoner in the Auschwitz extermination camp, died not long ago. In meetings with Israeli youth she said that she belonged to the generation of rebellion and was passing the torch to the young generation and urging them to rebel against evil, racism, hatred of the Other and the Occupation because she knew where an aggressive regime that crushed the values of human rights underfoot could lead.
Mordechai Vanunu learned and understood that lesson. At the basis of his exposure of what was going on behind the walls of the reactor at Dimona lay his conviction that the issue of the construction and use of Israel’s nuclear must not be left in the hands of a small group of five people whose power-drunkenness is liable to lead us to a second Holocaust. And so we need information and the restraining power of public control, with the objective of creating a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction. Instead of valuing and honouring Vanunu you violate his basic rights to freedom of movement and expression. It is but natural that under these circumstances he sees you as judges of a theocratic dictatorship that has nothing to do with democracy.
We will meet again the next time around.
Translated from Hebrew for Occupation Magazine by George Malent