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Arresting Vanunu While Burying Arafat
by Mary La Rosa
November 16, 2004

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They stormed St Georges early in the morning
just like it was Ramallah
and the Ghost of some other plot the base of their desire
Machine guns poised ready to fire
How many agents do you think it takes
to intimidate Anglican Bishop Riah?

How many agents needed to crash a cathedral gate
How many agents to dash past clergy and Pax Ecclesiae
How many agents to frighten the Christian pilgrims
and seize the unarmed Mordechai?

Mr. Vanunu remained calm. 
They took him away with automatic weapons and hostility
Later they returned him without harm but missing his technology
Without regard for laptop sanctity and inviolability
towards sacred place, circle, temple, mosque or church
how many security agents DOES it take to represent a fascist state?

-- MLR

On November 10 2004, Fredrik Heffermehl, Norwegian author of the book Peace Is Possible and spokesperson for the International Free Vanunu Campaign distributed an online report and analysis concerning the ongoing and active campaign for full human and civil rights for Israeli nuclear whistle blower Mordechai Vanunu. Mr. Vanunu is currently living with the ambiguity of not quite full freedom. While it appears that he was physically released from one Israeli styled prison six months ago, he is seemingly further punished and being held prisoner by being forced to remain under court restrictions that prevent him from leaving the country that does not really want him, but also does not really want him to be free.  The overt theme of Israel's continued restrictions over Mr. Vanunu's civil rights and liberties is one that claims security, not vengeance,  to be at the core paranoia about Mr. Vanunu's twenty-year-old memory of such "secrets," now known and published throughout the free world. 

Fredrik Heffermehl, who is also a lawyer and Vice President of the International Peace Bureau had only just presented the newly proposed legal strategy based upon review of Mordechai's situation and the progress of the campaign thus far. Due to various aspects of Mr. Vanunu's unique case re: its legality, civil rights, environmental concerns, an international awareness and interest in the case have been growing.  Mr. Heffermehl's report welcomed a larger international presence including special interest groups that support Mordechai and umbrella together in support of the abolition of nuclear proliferation.  


Another lawyer and activist, Jennifer Harbury joined Mr. Heffermehl in Lawyers For Full Freedom For Vanunu. She is currently working on a project that exposes the various use and users of torture and she brings to the Vanunu campaign her expertise in championing political prisoners and human rights causes. 


Less than one day after Mr. Heffermehl posted his report to an international community of supporters, Mordechai Vanunu was taken away in a fanfare of commando style mobbing. If indeed this event took place to contrast the event of Yasser Arafat's death and funeral, why did Israeli security still deem it so necessary to utilize such armed force against unarmed Christian clergy and pilgrims? Some witnesses reported as many as thirty security agents arriving in various kinds of vehicles brandishing weapons across the threshold of the sanctity of the Church grounds, and against the much outraged indignation of the Right Reverend Bishop Riah Abu El-Assal.


Bishop Riah is the Christian leader of the Anglican community at the Cathedral of St. George in Jerusalem where Vanunu has been living in sanctuary from those who wish to do him physical harm. This is not the first time Bishop Riah has been rudely approached by security police with regards to Mordechai Vanunu.  Since offering Mordechai Vanunu the hospitality and protection of the Church, Bishop Riah has been stopped and detained at Tel Aviv airport. There he was subjected to a body search and was interrogated by the Shin Bet. 


Bishop Riah, as a Palestinian Christian, has experienced most of his life living under Occupation. Considering his past and present status in the Anglican community this recent incursion is a great disrespect and an affront to all Churches.  Since this inappropriate incident and armed visit that included Mordechai's arrest, the Anglican Church and the Compass Rose Society have featured Bishop Riah's letter and reaction to this latest assault.  He remains Mordechai's loyal friend and spiritual adviser.


The motivation behind making the dramatic kind of arrest at St George's that befitted some dangerous kingpin with some equally armed entourage is unclear at this time, except that it has provided the Vanunu campaign with further vitality in the medias.  Mr. Vanunu remained calm and the other guests and clergy, after expressing their initial shock and dismay, are now expressing their outrage.  It has been alarming to notice how an established religious leader at his center and consecrated ground, is treated by an over active police force thus setting further example for those "unofficial" and self proclaimed police gangs known for acting out racist hatred and violence near illegal settlements.  Other religious leaders, pilgrims and concerned travelers must consider if this incident is part of a current trend by the Israeli government to single out certain types of Jesus followers, especially those involved in human rights issues and/or unpopular causes.


An unpopular cause, besides Mordechai Vanunu's complete freedom, appears to be any overt defense of the Palestinian people's basic human rights and needs.  Christians involved in using their presence in order to protect Palestinians from settler violence have been physically attacked while walking as a protective presence with school children.   The Christian Peacemaker Team in Hebron has reported on such settler violence for some time now.  Israeli and Christian groups report that the rate of incidence has increased but with little or no real policing of the hate crimes.


Recently tensions in Jerusalem involving chronic abuse of Christian clergy by orthodox students culminated when a Jewish orthodox student spat at an archbishop during a procession from Jerusalem's Armenian Quarter to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the site that commemorates the crucifixion and burial of Jesus. The student in this particular incident was arrested, after ripping the cross from the neck of the cleric. The Armenian Christians reported that the spitting is an ongoing and continuous problem and one that comes from adult men and women, as well teens.


The Presbyterian Church has been recently featured in alternative and some mainstream medias for its latest strategy and decision to do something positive on behalf of the existing and continuing suffering of the Palestinian people living under occupation.  Tired of waiting for yet another official UN veto to stop even investigation of human rights violations in the Occupied Territories, the Presbyterian Church has decided to take direct action against illegal settlements and the illegal targeting of human rights activists in the Occupied Territories. 


By making such brave and courageous commitment to peace in the name of values directly associated with the life and teachings of Jesus, the Presbyterians,  have come under attack.  


As a proactive commitment to peace and justice, the Presbyterian Church announced it would target specific companies and businesses that operate on occupied land, and or companies that support illegal settlements, build barriers and make business with organizations that support violence against the Palestinian people. The Church further explained that all Companies can balance their past bad business practices by protesting the occupation, helping victims, contributing to a viable economy for an independent Palestinian state, or employing Israeli Arabs or Palestinians.


"The goal is not to divest but persuade organizations to change their behavior," said Jerry Van Marter, director of the Presbyterian News Service.


This statement and statements like this have inspired bullying and threats from violent Jewish extremist groups operating in the US and abroad.   Tensions have risen with the most recent arson threats that have been directed specifically towards Presbyterian churches all around the United States. Threats of arson were sent to individual Churches and included swastika signs condemning each Church and the Presbyterian organization as a whole, for its human rights efforts against illegal settlements, that either promote or inflict apartheid style racism or that defiantly stand as obstacles to peace.


Mr. Vanunu, who is a Christian and who claims his faith profoundly directed and sustained him during the worse of his imprisonment, gives much credit to the spiritual teachings of Jesus Christ.  Throughout his hardship and the loneliness of solitary confinement, Mordechai held strong to his Christian beliefs. If eighteen and a half years did not break him of those beliefs, thirty men with weapons will not succeed either.  Afterall, the universal message of Christ is one of peace and love and is still held in "some" popular esteem at his birthplace and elsewhere around the world, more than two thousand years later.  


This year Mr. Vanunu was once again nominated for the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize. Had he won he would have had to have made his acceptance speech from inside Israel while under restrictions for doing that which put him in prison eighteen and a half years ago which in turn led him to be nominated.  He was recently honored at the United Nations along with Seymour Hersh as recipient of the Lennon Ono Peace Award and also because of his restrictions he could not attend. Instead, his adoptive parents, Nick and Mary Eoloff accepted for him and gave his speech for him in absentia.


The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament recently made a tribute by naming its national headquarters in London after him. 


In October, Mordechai Vanunu celebrated his 50th birthday. Because of the court restrictions he could not share his cake and toast with all his friends, but supporters from all around the world celebrated his special day. Shortly after, David Frost contacted him and he answered David's questions in interview format.  This interview was considered a defiance of the restrictions placed on him upon his release. However, if David Frost calls Mordechai Vanunu how is it possible to comply with such restrictions and still be a man free to answer the door or pick up the phone? 


Among his last words to David Frost:


"I tried to inform the world and to try to stop this nuclear proliferation"


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Mary La Rosa is an artist and librarian living close to NYC where she worries that her beautiful HereNow is about to be destroyed by someone else's HereAfter. She can be reached at:


Other Articles by Mary La Rosa


* The Aladdin Sisalem True Survivor Show
* The Crats of Hebron
* The Palestinian Political Prisoners Never Hear About (Children), Part III
The Chomskybot Code: Conduct in the Time of Terror

* Conscience or Complicity: The Altered State Solution

* The Quality of Mercy

* The Prisoner of Zion and the Secret of Bassam Abu Sharif

* The War Against Human Rights Groups

* When Is It Ever Enough?

* Tell Them Never Be Silent