The Prisoner of Zion and the

Secret of Bassam Abu Sharif

by Mary La Rosa

Dissident Voice

June 27, 2003


He is the Count of Monte Cristo. He is the Man in the Iron Mask. His story is sung in grand opera and viewed daily as a daytime drama. He is as Shakespearean as he is Pinteresque. He is a blockbuster movie waiting in the wings with Tom Hanks or Harrison Ford to be scripted and Spielberged. He is a life waiting for a Book Club discussion and an Oscar presentation. He is a television series ready for prime time.


He is a social protest song waiting to be sung.


He is living testament to the Nobel Prize and the many times he has been nominated.


He is an International Remembrance Day for Peace, 365 days times almost 18 years.


He is mortal man once tempted and betrayed and recreated in his own image as living martyr, prophet and saint....


Dr. Mordechai Vanunu and his fascinating story meet most of the requirements of an internationally successful media campaign.  By current trends in the entertainment industry, he has potential to become a cult figure.


He also rather compliments that sharp stab of ironic pain provided by those people who would accuse or ignore him for 18 years, only to find him to be a new cause for celebration on The Big Screen of Life. Times change.


He was imprisoned not for what he said, but for saying it. And when he said it. 


In the fall of 1986 his disclosures to the London Sunday Times, based upon his nine years as a mid level technician at Dimona nuclear facility, not only provided the world with indisputable evidence of Israel's Nuclear Weapons Program but gave documented proof that such warheads existed far beyond the estimated number given and guessed at by other authorities in the field. His kidnapping and disappearance caused enough of a distraction to move the public away from the real threat and significance of his testimony: as many as 200 nuclear warheads in Israel threatening most, if not all, of the Middle East.


Ariel Sharon, before he became prime minister was heard to say, "Arabs may have the oil, but we have the matches".


In close time line (http://www.washington-report.org) to Vanunu's sensational and mostly best kept secret was another well kept secret presented by Yasser Arafat's press spokesman and close advisor, Bassam Abu Sharif. Bassam Abu Sharif's secret was written by invitation of the Washington Post's managing editor, Benjamin Bradlee. This secret was as shocking and had as much potential to reshape history as Vanunu's declaration of the 200 warheads.


In his article for the Washington Post, Bassam Abu Sharif, clearly speaking as Arafat's press spokesman, stated and confirmed the moderate thinking and consideration of a long lasting plan for a two state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 


The Washington Post never published it.


In 1988, Anthony Lewis, now emeritus, then outspoken NY Times journalist, who was both Jewish and critical of Israel, said of Sharif's article and statement, that it was "the most explicit and articulate endorsement of a two-state solution: a Palestinian state living in peace along side Israel". 


That solution clearly echoed what Palestinian intellectuals, such as Edward Said (Columbia University), Hisham Sharabi (Georgetown Universtity) and Walid Khalidi (Harvard University) had been trying to explain to America and Americans:


That there existed Palestinian leadership that reflected moderation and a desire for peace, but that it was thwarted by, not only Palestinian radicals such as Abu Musa, but by Israel with its 200 nuclear warheads and by whatever and whoever influenced and still influences this country and it's press and it's media.


Time magazine once dubbed Sharif, "The Face of Terror".  In truth, his face was nearly blown off by the Mossad in his Beirut office in 1972.


Another Hollywood story...involving lies, deceptions and manipulations of critical facts that have profoundly influenced history.


This lesson of media control and influence brings us closer to today's nuclear technicians and scientists and what makes one scientist's testimony more credible than another. Imad Khadduri, former Iraqi nuclear scientist and guest columnist for www.YellowTimes.org told the world a very different story about Iraq's nuclear capabilities than what the United States government stated and mainstream media upheld to be as true. Khadduri was interviewed by various news agencies in regards to his knowledge of any Iraqi nuclear program. He repeatedly came forward with his contradicting information prior to and after January 27, 2003 and the Security Council Report.


The selective intelligence game works well with the collaboration of the existing mainstream media. The one supports the other. Neither want contradiction or careful corroboration.


Even in 1992, in the wake of the Gulf War and the breakup of the Soviet Union and the further problem of nuclear weapons proliferation, only publications such as the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists continued to speak out about the injustices dealt to the nuclear technician, Vanunu, by a government he rejected and that government's continued inhumane treatment of him.



Human Rights groups, such as Amnesty International had condemned Vanunu's solitary confinement as cruel, degrading and inhuman but it did not change their stance in adopting him as a prisoner of conscience.  He has been a prisoner since 1988. He has had 11 1/2 years of cruel and solitary confinement.


That was then and this is now.


The Age of Democratic Idealism slides further down the scale that was once weighed rich in patriotic trust, power pointing the disclosures of how an American public can be manipulated by its elected officials and its press. It might have been reasonable, given the circumstances and the instantaneous relay of information, to imagine that Dr. Mordechai Vanunu would not, in this century, be convicted as a spy and be languishing in a prison for 18 years.  One could hope and suppose that the free press would have prevailed throughout his capture and trial and mistreatment. 


With technology and an omnipresent free press, perhaps Israel could not have so easily infringed upon Italy's sovereignty in kidnapping Vanunu.


And perhaps, Israel could not have upheld the charges of espionage and aiding an enemy, when such an "enemy" was exposed to be the Israeli public in general and Vanunu's truth and good conscience.


Israel would have also faced questions:  about the theft of hundreds of pounds of enriched uranium from the Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corporation in Pennsylvania circa 1964; the hijacking of a Liberian ship carrying 200 tons of uranium ore in 1968; the breach of a treaty with Norway involving the diversion of "heavy water" from peaceful use to the Dimona nuclear reactor; and the collusions with South Africa in its nuclear testing.


But with profound realization of the now, it is not likely with today's mainstream media controls that such a scene could exist, except in the tabloids.


Who and what remains?


We do. It is our moral obligation and conscience to find the truth and support the truth as it has .... not been presented to us by governments such as Israel and the United States.


Vanunu wrote from his solitary confinement, this poem:


I am the clerk, the technician, the mechanic, the driver.

They said, Do this, do that, don't look left or right,

don't read the text. Don't look at the whole machine. You

are only responsible for this one bolt. For this one rubber-stamp.

This is your only concern. Don't bother with what is above you.

Don't try to think for us. Go on, drive. Keep going. On, on.

So they thought, the big ones, the smart ones, the futurologists.

There is nothing to fear. Not to worry.

Everything's ticking just fine.

Our little clerk is a diligent worker. He's a simple mechanic.

He's a little man.

Little men's ears don't hear, their eyes don't see.

We have heads, they don't.


Answer them, said he to himself, said the little man,

the man with a head of his own. Who is in charge? Who knows

where this train is going?

Where is their head? I too have a head.

Why do I see the whole engine,

Why do I see the precipice--

is there a driver on this train?

The clerk driver technician mechanic looked up.

He stepped back and saw -- what a monster.

Can't believe it. Rubbed his eyes and -- yes,

it's there all right. I'm all right. I do see

the monster. I'm part of the system.

I signed this form. Only now I am reading the rest of it.


This bolt is part of a bomb. This bolt is me. How

did I fail to see, and how do the others go on

fitting bolts. Who else knows?

Who has seen? Who has heard? -- The emperor really is naked.

I see him. Why me? It's not for me. It's too big.

Rise and cry out. Rise and tell the people. You can.

I, the bolt, the technician, mechanic? -- Yes, you.

You are the secret agent of the people. You are the eyes of the nation.

Agent-spy, tell us what you've seen. Tell us what the insiders, the clever ones, have hidden from us.

Without you, there is only the precipice. Only catastrophe.

I have no choice. I'm a little man, a citizen, one of the people,

but I'll do what I have to. I've heard the voice of my conscience

and there's nowhere to hide.

The world is small, small for Big Brother.

I'm on your mission. I'm doing my duty. Take it from me.

Come and see for yourselves. Lighten my burden. Stop the train.

Get off the train. The next stop -- nuclear disaster. The next book,

the next machine. No. There is no such thing.

-- written from Ashkelon Prison, Israel



The fact that a man's soul is still intact after almost 18 years of cruel confinement, wrongfully enacted, must give one pause to consider the triumph of a man's spirit and better nature. This, indeed is the cause of the celebration: that such a man exists and exists in comparison to who has put him where he is.


I would like to address, at some future time, the wonderful people and dedicated groups who have adopted Dr. Mordechai Vanunu; some of their motivations, collective and personal, and their undaunted continuance to vigil and support him in many various ways.


Until that time, please, look at:


The US Campaign to Free Mordechai Vanunu:



Free Vanunu:  http://www.vanunu.freeserve.co.uk/


But most importantly, remember this man, Mordechai Vanunu!







What will he think when he comes out and discovers that this is a country where a serial killer is likely to receive more volume in response than a prisoner of good conscience?


Please send him a postcard, a note, a reminder that we do not forget him and his good conscience.


Mary La Rosa is an artist and librarian living 20 miles from New York City, where she can be seen at various direct actions along with her Free Vanunu sign. She can be contacted at: mddalton@optonline.net




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