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An Open Letter to the People of Israel about Mordechai Vanunu

Mairead Maguire

Dear friends,

I write to ask for your help in gaining the freedom of a good man, a man of peace and a man of conscience.

In the Jewish scriptures there is great emphasis on justice and freedom and it is for such, for one man, that I write to seek your help.

He will not be aware that I am writing this Appeal, but I do so in the hope that, with your help, it will produce his freedom, and not cause more punishment and cruelty to be inflicted upon him.

I feel when I tell you the story, it will touch your hearts and there will be some among you who will be able to help him gain his freedom.

In May,2010, this man was returned to prison to serve three months for allegedly breaking his prison release restrictions and for speaking to Foreign Media. On Sunday July 11th , 2010, he had his first visit in seven weeks. His brother, Meir, was granted a 30 minute visit. There was a glass window between them and they spoke via the phone. He wore a prison uniform. He is held in the maximum security section. It holds the most notorious criminals in the country, for well known murder cases. About a dozen men are in severe isolation conditions.

He is in a cell by himself for 24 hours a day, with no window but with a small wire-covered crack at the top part of one wall. He gets an hour’s walk a day in a tiny yard. He was simply thrown into the cell by the security agents, the door was locked, and he was left there to suffer alone. He has not spoken to anyone in seven weeks and this visit was (apart from a short visit with his lawyer 6 weeks ago) the first conversation he had in seven weeks. His food is strictly limited, and he has only two books with him. Of course his spirits are down as a result of being put in such harsh, inhuman and cruel conditions.

His name is Mordechai Vanunu, and he is in an Israeli prison cell.

Mordechai is no stranger to prison. In l986 Mordechai Vanunu told the world that Israel had a nuclear weapons program and for that, he was sentenced to 18 years in prison. He is the Israeli nuclear whistle blower and 24 years later, he continues to be punished for trying to warn Israelis and protect both Israel and the world from a nuclear weapons disaster.

Mordechai Vanunu served the full 18 years of his sentence. He spent eleven of those years in solitary confinement. Upon release, instead of allowing him to leave Israel, the Israeli government put severe restrictions upon him, including forbidding him to leave Israel and not to speak to foreign media.

Mordechai has now been put back in prison for three months for allegedly breaking these restrictions and speaking to the foreign media. He has 6 weeks left in these harsh prison conditions, and even upon release, he will have to remain in Israel until next April, 2011, when the restrictions will be reviewed and probably renewed yet again, as they have been renewed each year for the past 6 years.

Some people say Mordechai Vanunu will never be allowed to leave Israel, that he will die there, if indeed his spirit is not broken by his ill treatment, if he does not lose his sanity.

The Shabak continues to tell the Israeli Government that he is a security risk and must not be released. The Israeli Judiciary and government obey and keep him imprisoned.

Mordechai Vanunu is no risk to Israel’s national security. He has no nuclear secrets. I have asked some Israelis why they think Israel refuses to allow Mordechai Vanunu to leave Israel. The most frequent answer I get is that they feel that the Israeli government does not trust its citizens. They will hold Mordechai Vanunu forever if necessary to send the signal to all Israeli citizens to behave themselves.

If this is so, the strategy is working. To date only a few courageous Israeli people have raised their voices against the cruelty and injustice perpetrated upon Mordecai, and have called for him to be allowed to leave Israel.

I have met Mordechai many times since he was released from prison on April 21, 2004. He is a good man, a man of peace, with a true Gandhian spirit. Instead of punishing him, Israel should be proud of Mordechai Vanunu. I believe that future generations of Israelis will look back and realize that there lived among them a great visionary and a man of peace, not only for Israel, but for the human family.

It was with great joy that I nominated Mordechai Vanunu several times for the Nobel Peace Prize, as did many other prominent people over the last 24 years. He richly deserves the Nobel prize because he lives and acts in the true spirit of Alfred Nobel, who left his prize for those who would work for peace and disarmament.

However, it is with the deepest sadness that I acknowledge that in spite of many worldwide campaigns, Mordechai Vanunu continues, 24 years later, to be cruelly imprisoned and punished by the Israeli government.

I hope Mordechai Vanunu will be freed very soon. I place my hope in those Jewish and Israeli people who read this story and are moved to right a wrong, that they will demand that the Israeli government give Mordechai his freedom, and allow him to leave Israel.

Mairead Maguire

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Mairead Corrigan Maguire was awarded the 1976 Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts to bring peace to Northern Ireland. Her writings, The Vision of Peace (edited by John Dear) are available from For information, see

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