Eleanor Hall: Mordechai Vanunu made headlines around the world when he blew the whistle on Israel’s secret nuclear weapons program in the mid-1980s.
The Israeli nuclear technician was arrested soon after in a Mossad operation, was tried in secret, convicted of treason and spent 18 years in prison, 11 of them in solitary confinement.
In April this year he was released from prison, but his freedom has remained restricted, with Israeli authorities forbidding him from speaking to foreigners.
Despite this, Mr Vanunu this morning gave his first interview to an Australian media outlet, speaking to the community radio station, Radio Adelaide’s Jonathan Lucraft.
VANUNU: The restrictions are not working and unreasonable and not according to the human rights and the democratic system and they will finish them in six months – at least the restriction not to speak to foreigners and not to travel really inter-state.
LUCRAFT: Are you taking a chance by talking to us?
VANUNU: I’m not taking a chance, I’m making a very good calculation and according to the human rights and freedom of speech that everyone as a human being should have and I’m exercising it and I believe the Israel Government and Israel organisations are realising that what they decided is not good.
They will not do anything wrong with my speaking to you either.
LUCRAFT: When the restrictions are lifted, what will you do then?
VANUNU: If they will let me go I would leave Israel immediately, I would like to see the world, to exercise my freedom. If they will not let me go, let me speak, then I will speak much more to the media and to the people around the world and here.
LUCRAFT: Now, 18 years in a Mossad prison, 11 of those years in solitary confinement. How did you fight the effect of those years on your mind?
VANUNU: The effect was very hard and strong, but I was firm and strong from the beginning to protect my freedom, my free will, my humanity, that was my struggle from the beginning.
The power organisation of Israel gives what they can to fight me, to cause me some harm, damages in health, mind, and they succeed little bit, but I survived and I am now free, but it was very hard, a very difficult time and I wish no one would suffer what I suffered, and then when I speak to you and try to be human being like everyone.
LUCRAFT: Do you feel though that those years in solitary confinement had an effect on you?
VANUNU: I think no. The only effect is maybe some part of my health has been damaged. We see in the future how my health will react and how my health will survive in the next future.
LUCRAFT: Now, you converted from Judaism to Christianity. Did this help, or did it make it harder for your captors?
VANUNU: My conversion to Christianity was in Sydney, Australia, in 1986, it was before this case. So when I find myself in prison I decided my Christianity is going to be my way to freedom, my boundary, my defence against Israel’s power organisation, brainwash or psychologic warfare. So in some way, in many ways it helped me very much.
LUCRAFT: Do you believe that you’re a traitor to Israel?
VANUNU: Five million Jews are regarding me as a traitor, but six billion people around the world think me as a hero and a good man who bring the message to all the human beings that we should survive and prevent the use of nuclear weapons and to prevent the nuclear preparations and to prevent nuclear war in the future.
LUCRAFT: Now, any knowledge that you had of the Israeli nuclear weapons program is now, it’s nearly 20 years old and it’s well out of date.
Why do you think the Israeli Government is still, apparently, frightened of you?
VANUNU: Maybe the real fear is that my free spirit, my free belief to express my views in politics, in everything, not only nuclear secrets, I have many interesting views and I’m telling them without fear and expressing that to anyone in all the world, in all the media, and that is not good for Israel.
They don’t like it, and also, the Israel Government and state have teached all the world, especially the west, Europe, United States, Australia, Canada, they teach them to fear and now to be under blackmail by Israel propaganda of Holocaust and all this propaganda.
Now come a man and speaking from inside about their crimes, their mistakes, their stupid policy of nuclear weapons and all the world’s watching all this, and that is their real concern.