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April 01, 1988 - Image 33

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-04-01

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

'"IISRAEL UPDATE

I

A Happy and Healthy

Passover

SEYMOUR KAPLAN AND FAMILY
HOWARD NISKAR AND FAMILY
And The Staff

Vanunu Failed To Ignite
Nuclear Debate In Israel

HELEN DAVIS

Israel Correspondent

erusalern — The convic-
tion of Mordechai
Vanunu on charges of
treason and espionage did not
evoke the kind of passionate
anger one might expect of a
passionate people living
under the threat of war.
Nor did the campaign to
secure an open trial manage
to get off the ground, let alone
spark off a debate on the
nuclear issue. Perhaps
because the threat is too real
and the consequences too
awesome, Israelis shied away
from the subject.
Instead, they accepted that
matters of state security were
involved and they trusted
that the three senior judges
appointed to hear the case
would deliver a fair verdict.
Controversy might be the
life-blood of this contentious
nation, but the judiciary is
considered beyond reproach.
Although the Vanunu af-
fair — his flight to Australia
and then to London, his dis-
closure of Israel's alleged
nuclear secrets, his abduction
from Rome, his closed trial,
his subsequent conviction —
did not arouse great passions,
it did arouse intense curiosi-
ty among Israelis.
Such an act of treachery
might have been expected
from a "peacenik," who is
typically middle-class, well-
educated, secular and of
Western — Ashkenazi —
origin, but Mordechai
Vanunu fits none of these
stereotypes.
Who is the man who be-
trayed Israel's most intimate
secrets? What led him to do
what he did? The answers to
these questions — if indeed
there are answers — are like-
ly to remain locked up in an
Israeli prison cell with
Mordechai Vanunu for the
next 18 years, the sentence
handed down by the Jerus-
alem District Court on
Sunday.
It would be easy to say that
Vanunu had been motivated
by pure altruism when he
told the London Sunday
Times what was going on at
Israel's top-secret nuclear
facility in the Negev Desert.
It would be easy to say that
his formal conversion to
Christianity in August 1986
had compelled the former
technician, just one month
later, to share his terrible
knowledge; that he was on a
mission of peace, warning the
world of an impending nu-

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Mordechai Vanunu: Enigmatic.

clear holocaust.
In fact, his conversion from
Judaism to Christianity at
the St. John's Church in the
Sydney parish of Kings Cross
just three months after arriv-
ing in Australia was just the
last station on a long and
tormented journey. Vanunu
appears to have undergone a
series of other profound per-
sonal crises in the months
leading up to his departure
from Israel.
Indeed, his progression
through those fateful months
is a turbulent tale of sharp
contradictions and bizarre
twists.
In some ways, the Vanunu
story is a peculiarly Israeli
story, one of survival against
overwhelming odds.
Ultimately, though, the
Vanunu story ends in
tragedy — in disintegration
under the weight of an une-
qual struggle.
Born 34 years ago to a
devoutly religious Jewish
family in the Moroccan city of
Marrakesh, Vanunu was the
second of eight children. In
1963, when he was nine, his
family arrived in Israel,
among the last of the hun-
dreds of thousands of Jews to
leave the Arab countries
where they had lived for
centuries.
Those few Moroccan Jews
with money made their way
to France or Canada; the rest
landed in Israel, where they
were directed to remote
development towns and vil-
lages that had been designed
to shift the population burden
away from Tel Aviv and to fill
out the rest of the country.
The Vanunus were sent to
Beersheva, on the edge of the
unpopulated Negev Desert,
where they were assigned a
cramped apartment in an
anonymous neighborhood
and where they might have

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THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

33

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