COMMENT by Vic Jones

Mordechai Vanunu’s Ordeal Continues

Throughout the world people have struggled for nuclear disarmament knowing that for the last fifty years or so a pigeon-brained political dimwit had just to press a button and life as we know it would cease. People in all countries, only too aware of this ever-present risk, have fought against it; but no-one in this fight has suffered personally so much as Mordechai Vanunu.

Issam Makhoul, Arab member of the Israeli Parliament, addressed it recently, saying: “Vanunu is a prisoner of conscience who has sacrificed himself on the altar of the struggle for a nuclear-free world. A person who hands over to the free press information about crimes of its government is neither a traitor nor a spy... I call upon the Israeli Government to release him after 13 years in prison, more than 11 of which were spent in cruel solitary confinement. Einstein would have considered him a courageous man who sacrificed his freedom for the noble ideal of eliminating nuclear weapons and preventing a nuclear holocaust.”

Mary Eoloff, Vanunu’s adoptive American mother, recently visited him in prison, and he said: “The State has no right to kill civilians, and that is exactly what nuclear weapons are for — killing civilians.” (He had Israel in mind, but this applies equally to Britain.)

For saying this, Mary adds, “He was silenced and imprisoned.”

Well, he was certainly imprisoned, and if the Israeli Government has its way he still has another five years to serve. But he was certainly never silenced, and his message to all of us rings out louder than ever from his cell in Ashkelon Prison.

His appeals for parole — as are the right of any normal prisoner — have been refused on the grounds that he still has vital secrets which he could divulge about Israel’s defences; though all objective scientists view this as utter nonsense. After all these years, there is nothing he can divulge which is not widely known.

That we all owe him a debt of gratitude is obvious, but the question is what can we do about it?

Above all pressure must be applied to the Israeli Government to change its attitude. You can write to Tony Blair to ask him to use his influence and a little of his well-known Christian compassion. You can write to Robin Cook and suggest that here is once again another opportunity for him to put his ethical policy in motion by appealing for clemency for a man who, after all, has committed no crime beyond trying to help the human race survive.

You can write too to the Israeli Embassy — they usually reply — as well as the Israeli Prime Minister. They count heads — and letters — and can thus be influenced. Whenever I write I suggest that they do Israel itself a good turn by releasing him, which will will help enhance Israel’s reputation as a decent civilised society.

You can write also to Mordechai himself. “Just a card, a message of support, these contacts with the outside world,” says Anthony Grey — who himself has been a long-term prisoner — “become moments of nourishment and sustenance.” And obviously he needs as much of this as he can get. Issam Makhoul, incidentally, the man who made the speech in the Knesset, will be coming to London to speak on Saturday 18 November at a Vanunu Benefit. Diaries out!

Here are the addresses:

You can also drop in at the weekly vigil every Saturday outside the Israeli Embassy at the junction of Kensington High Street and Kensington Court, from noon to 2 pm. (Kensington High Street tube, turn right and walk four minutes).

So support the campaign to free Vanunu, and for a nuclear-free Middle East!

Fundraising Sunday September 24th 3pm

Piano recital by prize-winning pianist Zachary Dunbar at Conway Hall, Red Lion Square. £8/£6
Chopin, Schumann, Beethoven, Rachmaninoff

Special vigil Saturday September 30th


12 hour vigil to mark 14th anniversary of Mordechai’s kidnapping. Mock-up of Mordechai’s cell and celebrities. Volunteers needed for at least ½ hour slots!

Further details from Helen Jones: 020 8661 1060

Fylingdales and NMD

The US ‘Son of Star Wars’ national missile defence scheme has received a torrent of bad publicity in the British press, and the Government must realise that it will not be able to fudge the issue of the use of Fylingdales indefinitely.

A parliamentary motion (EDM 936) on 6th July calling for “an early debate before any decision is made” attracted 48 signatures within a few days of being tabled and most recently a Foreign Affairs Committee report (‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’) expressed “anxiety about the potentially destabilising impact of the USA’s plans to deploy a system of national missile defence”, noting that “a great deal of scepticism about rogue states has been expressed to the Committee by expert witnesses”.

The Government is definitely on the defensive over this issue. A letter to Wimbledon M.P. Roger Casale produced a sympathetic response: “I understand the concerns you raise. I will of course write to the Foreign Secretary to raise your concerns...” but the official Foreign Office line merely “recognises that the possible deployment by the US of a National Missile Defense system raises some complex and difficult issues.... Our views on the subject have been conveyed clearly to the United States on numerous occasions, both in bilateral discussions and in NATO. We have made clear the importance we continue to attach to the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, and our wish to see it preserved. The US have not asked for our agreement... nor would we expect them to do so until and unless they had themselves decided to proceed....”

Most interestingly of all, the American Embassy is obviously aware of the strength of feeling in Britain over this matter and is issuing the following placatory information: “Defense Secretary William Cohen says he will make no recommendation about the future of the NMD program until the Defense Department has completed an assessment of the program and he has analysed its findings.

“‘Recent reports that I have made a decision on this matter preliminary or otherwise, are wrong’ he said in a statement issued August 7.”

It seems generally agreed that decisions on NMD taken in the US will be driven by domestic political considerations — plus the lobbying power of the arms companies. Ultimately the British Government will have to come off the fence and decide whether to face the wrath of the British public or the displeasure of the United States Government.

Please continue to keep up the pressure on Tony Blair.


Please write to your MP and to:

Below are some key points, which you may like to emphasise in your letters:

  1. Express your deep concern about the choice of words by the Defence Secretary, which described the recent NPT as a mere ‘declaration of principles, which realistically, is unlikely to lead to action tomorrow, next week or next month.’
  2. Ask what actions, based on time-bound plans, is this Labour Government going to undertake to demonstrate that they are serious about their “unequivocal undertaking to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals”?
  3. Ask what this Labour Government will do to demonstrate that they are serious about “strengthening the ABM Treaty as a cornerstone of strategic stability and as a basis for further reductions of strategic offensive weapons” as was agreed by all the five nuclear weapons states in New York.
  4. Express your deepening concern about the way this Government keeps on deflecting questions on the issue of National Missile Defence by saying that no request has yet been made by the US for the use of Fylingdales, and that no decision will be taken until such a request is made.
  5. Draw their attention the recent comment by German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder who said that the NMD would lead to further proliferation of nuclear weapons, and ask this Government to come clean and make a similar public statement either against or in support of the NMD.

‘Bombing People’ by Roy Smiles

The destruction of Hiroshima as satire — until Sept 10th at Jermyn Street Theatre SW1. Performances Mon−Sat 8pm. Tickets £12/£10. CND benefit September 10th at 3pm.

“Michael Fitzgerald brings off the rôle of Sherman with aplomb. He is loud, flamboyant-verging-on-high-camp and incredibly funny — yet sinks so convincingly into bitterness and despair you want to cry with him.” [Metro, 29/8/2000]

Tube: Piccadilly. Telephone 020 7287 2875.

Petition and Lobby of Parliament

You will find a copy of the new Abolition 2000 petition enclosed with this Newsletter. This petition continues the theme of our campaigning all summer: at the NPT Review in May the nuclear weapons states made a public commitment to the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals. This was seized on by the TV and press as a major breakthrough but ex-CND chair Janet Bloomfield, who was present in New York, says that all the waiting journalists were saying “Where’s the timetable?” This is the glaring omission from the NPT Final Statement.

It is up to us to put unrelenting pressure on the Government to make its promises a reality, and signatures on a petition are a very small part of that drip, drip process. After all, the Gallup poll commissioned in 1997 showed that 87% of the British public wants nuclear disarmament, so we are pushing at an open door. Please use your petition form. We could easily contribute 1500 signatures to the Abolition 2000 campaign if everyone collected signatures from visitors, colleagues, family and neighbours, but at the very least please sign the petition yourself, and either return the form to 43 Wilton Grove or bring it to the Peace Table or to one of our meetings.

Petitions will be presented at Downing Street on the morning of Wednesday 6th December, the Day of Action for UN Renewal’s lobby of Parliament.

Grandmothers For Peace

This is an American organisation with growing international links. Jean Stead is at present working to set up a branch in the UK, and would be delighted to hear from anybody who would like to join. She promises that extra commitment in terms of time or money will be minimal, but she feels that grassroots co-operation with the US peace movement needs to be more widely developed, and that common concern for the future of the next generation is the most powerful bond that we have. The GFP American Newsletter is very impressive; the image of ‘respectable’ grandmothers taking on authority is very powerfully effective with the US media and general public.

Anyone interested, please contact:

Ms J Stead

32 New End Square

London NW3 1LS

Saturday 11 November 2000
A day for remembrance, reconciliation and a future without war.

This initiative (jointly promoted by the UNA and the National Peace Council) and inspired by the UN International Year for the Culture of Peace, provides us with a rare and valuable opportunity to build bridges with the Royal British Legion. It is always very sad to see ‘red poppy wearers’ and ‘white poppy wearers’ trading insults: no sensible person is in favour of war. The Royal British Legion are this year calling for a day of ‘Reflection and Hope’ to think not only about those who have died in wars of the past, but also about how we can work to avoid wars in the future. We need to make the most of this opportunity to open up dialogue and debate and we shall be brainstorming ideas at our meeting on September 12th. Please get in touch if you have links with schools, churches or environment or community groups with whom we could work.

Lions Club, August Bank Holiday

The weather was thundery and threatening for much of the afternoon, but once again our stall was a financial success, taking £206. Some quick work with the tarpaulin was called for, but in between showers, sales of plants and books were brisk, and many people commented favourably that they remembered us from last year. Thank you John, Jim, George, Joanna, Maisie, Margaret E and Margaret L.

Congratulations to

Jim Lindsay on his success in the Voluntary Organisation Election to Merton and Sutton Community Health Council (Merton Association of Pensioners) and

Helen and Maisie who once again succeeded in organising a Hiroshima Day Commemoration at the Sidmouth Folk Festival — this year given a new dimension by the participation of a number of singers. (Every year people thank and congratulate them for their effort. It just shows what can be done by one or two people with determination and initiative!)

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