COMMENT — Vic and Helen Jones

Nuclear Disarmament’s prisoner of conscience

The news is that Mordechai Vanunu still remains jailed for the crime of — well, I suppose the word is — doing good. He revealed — both to the Israeli people and the world — that Israel was producing and stockpiling those weapons of hell that are now more than ever capable of destroying the entire human race. Why did the dinosaurs die out? A sudden cosmic disaster is suggested. Well, here is our sudden cosmic disaster, waiting to happen: the H-bomb. Vanunu saw this, and did what he personally could to prevent it.

Great hopes were raised when — after nearly twelve years in prison — he became due for parole. His misery had been slightly mitigated when a few weeks ago he was at last released from solitary confinement. But the parole board turned down his application, and, as things stand now, he will still have to sit out the full eighteen-year sentence that his tormentors require of him.

One of the reasons why hearts are hard against him in the Israeli Government and among some of the Israeli people is because he is regarded as an unprincipled spy who sold his country’s secrets to enrich himself. The irony is that if this were true (he obtained and sought nothing) he would now be free. If he had been unprincipled, all that he had to do was what the parole board required of him, recant, say he had been wrong, that he was sorry, and regretted that he’d ever done such a thing.

This he refused to do — the contrary — he holds it is right to struggle against nuclear arms anywhere. But his doing this disproved precisely the reason for his further detention: that he was unprincipled. The Israelis don’t seem to have noticed this yet.

World opinion and protest is putting a continual spotlight on Israel with its obvious intention of letting him rot in his cell for another 6½ years. But there can be little doubt that this opinion and protest has already chalked up one major victory — the ending of his solitary confinement. So it might even be that now only one more heave is needed to free him altogether. Let’s make that heave with overwhelming protests to Israel, our own government, MPs, churches, political parties, etc. etc.

It will be a glad day for the world, for nuclear disarmament, for us all, when that man comes out.

Mordechai Vanunu was released from solitary confinement on 12th March but remains a closely-guarded prisoner in Ashkelon Jail with censorship of his mail, no home leaves or telephone calls, and visits only from his lawyer or his direct family. On May 4th Mordechai had his application for parole for which he became eligible after serving 1/3 of his 18 year sentence turned down.

The parole board decided there was still “a high probability of a real and tangible danger to the security of the state and its foreign relations if the prisoner were to be released”. The board also concluded that he had not exhibited any signs of remorse.

Weekly Vigil in London

The weekly vigil continues until Mordechai Vanunu is free — it has passed its sixth year of regular Saturday witness outside the Israeli Embassy!. Over this period more than 130,000 leaflets have been distributed and thousands of names have been collected on two petitions.

Please give the vigil your support for any part of the two hours you can manage.

Junction of Kensington High Street and Kensington Court from noon to 2·00 pm. Kensington High St. tube, turn right, walk 4 minutes.

Fête of the Earth

Another excellent Fête, with takings on the day once again exceeding £1000. (The final total will be in the region of £1060 as small sums are still coming in). Thanks to everybody who worked so hard and made the day such a success.

It was good to see our M.P. Roger Casale — and to know that WDC/CND plants will be growing on his patio throughout the summer.

Postscript: If you left a pair of sunglasses on the plant stall please claim them from Joanna (543-0362)

Letter-writers wanted!

It was good to see so many of our members at the Fête on Saturday. Can we involve you in some other activities? Would you like to join ‘Press Gang’? We aim to get letters into the local press, to our M.P. and government ministers on a regular basis on issues such as the recent testing of nuclear weapons by India and nuclear waste at Dounreay. We will supply you with the background information and you can either join with others over a glass of wine or cup of coffee for an informal discussion or write directly from home. Please ring Muriel on 946-3270 if you would like to help.

India’s nuclear Test

The news that India had conducted an underground nuclear test produced undisguised nationalistic glee in India itself and shocked horror in the rest of the world. The hypocrisy of the nuclear weapons states in condemning India while clinging onto their own symbols of power and superiority is breathtaking.

The BBC claim that the Indian test came as a total surprise is also pretty disingenuous. Readers of the CND parliamentary briefing document ‘Lobby’ were certainly informed in January this year that the BJP manifesto during the Indian Government elections stated their commitment to maintaining and improving upon Indian nuclear weapons capability. When the BJP Prime Minister was sworn into office an ‘agenda’ was issued which included this statement: “The state of preparedness and combat effectiveness of the armed forces shall receive early attention and appropriate remedial action.... To ensure the security, the territorial integrity and unity of India, we will take all necessary steps and exercise all available options. Towards that end, we will re-evaluate the nuclear policy and exercise the option to induct nuclear weapons.”

Abolition 2000
Steering Group meeting May 19th

This was a fascinating opportunity to hear the latest international news from Abolition 2000 Chair Rob Green who had recently returned from the Non-Proliferation Treaty Prep Com meeting in Geneva.

[The NPT entered into force in 1970. In 1995 it was decided to extend the treaty indefinitely, and to hold additional meetings — Preparatory Committees — in order to strengthen the process. Meetings were scheduled for 1997, 1998 and 1999 and there will be a major 4 week Review Conference in 2000.]

The 1998 Prep Com meeting lasted a fortnight and broke up in deadlock with the nuclear states not prepared to make any substantive concessions — “and India responded with a suitable raspberry” commented Rob Green, drily.

The British government delegation was enormous with 24 people, headed by Ian Souter, Permanent Representative to the Conference on Disarmament and officials from the Foreign Office, Department of Trade and Industry, Ministry of Defence and International Atomic Energy Authority. Rob said that they were all very friendly and “New Labour-ish” — but not at all helpful in the negotiations. The UK Government had apparently decided to play a very passive rôle in the whole proceedings — claiming that their hands were tied because the Strategic Defence Review had not yet been published!

Rebecca Johnson commented in ‘Acronym Briefing 9’ (one of a series of documents issued throughout the conference) “The fact that the Non Aligned Movement came with more coherent and reasoned positions resulted in the real locus of divided opinion being brought into sharper focus; the fundamental incompatibility of the interests of the five nuclear-weapons states and those of the vast majority of non--nuclear-weapon States... Britain was not positively negative, but the absence of new policy (blamed on the delayed publication of the Strategic Defence Review in Britain in 1997) resulted in Britain playing a conservative rôle and appearing curiously disengaged.... In view of the constructive rôle it might have played, Britain’s forced constraint and passiveness was unhelpful and must be assessed as a real lost opportunity.”

Most states send only a couple of people to these conferences and even the US delegation only consisted of 12. One wonders how the Government justifies the expense of hotel bills for 24 officials for 2 weeks in the circumstances. (Perhaps a question for our M.P.?)

However, the news was not all negative. Good contacts were made between NGOs and the Non Aligned Movement delegations, and all delegates were given an ‘Abolition 2000 pack’ and 13 million signatures for Abolition 2000 were presented to the conference from Japan.

The NGOs were allowed to make their presentations at the beginning of the conference and these were well-received. NGO delegates were briefed by the Ambassadors of Canada, South Africa, Indonesia, Poland (this year’s Chair) and Columbia (next year’s Chair), all of whom brought forward useful proposals. It may be that some of these suggestions may be returned to next year, or may help progress elsewhere (e.g. in the Conference on Disarmament). Rob Green feels that the Year 2000 Review Conference will be a “crisis conference” for the Non Proliferation process and that delegates will of necessity be much more receptive of the Abolition 2000 agenda.

To quote Rebecca Johnson again “If it acts as a warning to those who would subordinate this important cornerstone of the non-proliferation régime to their narrow national interests and if lessons can be learned and applied, the problems of the Second Prep Com may prove to have beneficial consequences to the NPT régime as a whole. But only if there is the political will on the part of all the State Parties, especially the Nuclear Weapons States, to make it work for the good of all.”

N.B. How many people remember Rebecca as an inspiring speaker at Wimbledon Community Centre many years ago when she was a member of the Peace Camp at Greenham Common? She spoke passionately and fluently, completely without notes, never once losing the thread of her argument and holding the audience in the palm of her hand. She is now employed full time by the ACRONYM Institute in Geneva.

Joanna Bazley

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