In this issue

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review April 26, 2004 / 5 Iyar, 5764

The meaning of Vanunu

By Bret Stephens

Printer Friendly Version

Email this article

It is in this climate of moral inversion and reverse causality that a man like Vanunu can emerge as a hero to right-thinkers everywhere. The rest of us should think hard about what that means before the shock is absorbed without being felt. | Shortly before his release Wednesday from the Shikma prison in Ashkelon, Mordechai Vanunu said one true thing: "I won. I'll be free. The gates and the locks will be opened. They didn't succeed in breaking me or driving me mad all these years in solitary confinement."

Indeed Vanunu has won. It isn't every ex-con who, after 18 years, walks out of prison into the arms of a small army of supporters, including a Nobel Peace Laureate, an Oscar nominee and a couple of British members of parliament. It isn't every ex-con who gets respectful editorial treatment in newspapers from Sydney to London. It isn't every ex-con for whom a luxury seaside flat is arranged.

Ordinarily, this is the sort of treatment given to a serious political dissident, a Wei Jingsheng or Natan Sharansky. That Vanunu should get it as well suggests that, to his admirers, he stands in relation to Israel as Sharansky stood in relation to the USSR.


WISDOM, WRITES essayist and critic Paul Berman, "consists of the ability to be shocked." That's an ability that's been greatly dulled in Israel over the past 42 months of outrage. But let's try again to be shocked, starting with a piece by Ed O'Loughlin of the Sydney Morning Herald, which I am told is a reputable paper.

The gist of his April 17 report is captured by the paper's editorial summary: "Whistleblower's crime was to offend against Israel's unifying creeds." Let's parse that.

Donate to JWR

First, "whistleblower." Last week, Gerald Steinberg noted in the Jerusalem Post that whistleblower "refers to individuals who go public with information on corrupt practices and violations of the law, enabling the constituted authorities to take over and hold the culprits accountable through due process of law." Vanunu did nothing of the sort. Instead, he "imposed his personal views on the elected officials and representatives of the Israeli government," thereby violating "due process of law and the core principles of democracy."

Steinberg's argument strikes me as unassailable. But the important point here isn't verbal accuracy. It's journalistic balance. Given there's a controversy over whether to describe Vanunu as a traitor or whistleblower, why does O'Loughlin choose whistleblower? Great care is taken by the news media to find neutral descriptors for people Israelis call terrorists and Palestinians call martyrs. In Vanunu's case, no such effort is made.

So here's an open-and-shut case of bias in the first word of O'Loughlin's article. Next: "Vanunu's crime was to offend grievously against Israel's unifying creeds - Zionism, Jewish identity and total loyalty to the government on questions of national security." That is, Vanunu became "involved with left-wing and pro-Palestinian causes"; converted to Anglicanism; and leaked information on the Dimona reactor to the Sunday Times. "The fact that he was due to obtain $US100,000 from a related book deal and serialization deal make him doubly odious."

This passage marks O'Loughlin's departure from the realm of bias to flat-out mendacity. Vanunu's crime, in fact, was to violate the terms of his security clearance at Dimona. Terms he signed. This is nothing strange: Every government on earth swears certain people to secrecy and imposes high penalties, including lengthy jail sentences, for any breach. The Jerusalem Post has obtained a copy of Vanunu's clearance, and we reproduce and translate it alongside.

But nowhere is this detail mentioned in O'Loughlin's report. Instead, Vanunu is described as a man who suffered mainly for rejecting the political, religious, and military shibboleths of the Jewish state. Vanunu didn't break Israel's law, you see. He rejected its anti-Palestinian, anti-Christian, militaristic culture, and in Israel what you get for that is long years in solitary.

Credulous Australian readers may be forgiven for believing this, but O'Loughlin cannot be forgiven for reporting it. Pro-Palestinian views forbidden? Please: This newspaper has a Palestinian columnist in Daoud Kuttab and Haaretz regularly publishes the work of avowed anti-Zionists such as Meron Benvenisti and Haim Hanegbi. As for religion, Israelis freely dabble in everything from Buddhism to Baptism. As for militarism, Israel has one of the most active peace movements anywhere.

It goes on. O'Loughlin writes that Vanunu was convicted of treason and espionage "even though he made no attempt to provide his secrets to foreign or hostile powers." How broadcasting those secrets publicly — and so to every foreign or hostile power — differs from this in consequence if not intent to Israel is not explained.

O'Loughlin also writes that Vanunu's years in solitary confinement were "ostensibly on security grounds." Note ostensibly. What O'Loughlin omits is that in his prison writings Vanunu rendered precise sketches of the Dimona plant and, knowing he was being censored, wrote, "Don't worry, I'll fill you in when I am freed."

SO MUCH is contained in O'Loughlin's article. It would have been less egregious if he had bothered to explain the Israeli position or even quote an Israeli spokesperson. But no such effort is made. The floor is Vanunu's alone.

The same goes for much of the rest of the news media. Vanunu, The Guardian editorialized this week, "may be a traitor to the Israeli state... but in exposing a secret which needed to be told he has shown a higher duty to wider humanity." The Financial Times says the remaining restrictions on Vanunu's freedom "border on the sadistic."

A couple of points here. If an Israeli traitor is a hero to "wider humanity" and therefore in a category with Oleg Penkovsky and Claus von Stauffenberg, then Israel has no right to exist. As for sadism, it seems curious that any truly sadistic state would have bothered to release Vanunu at all, instead of arranging an accident in prison or executing him outright. That Vanunu can emerge from prison as he did, despite being detested universally by Israelis, the security establishment most of all, testifies to the scrupulousness of the Israeli justice system, not its cruelty.

The larger point made about Vanunu is that the West cannot demand the wider Middle East to be disarmed of weapons of mass destruction without demanding as much from Israel. But the underlying assumption is that a nuclear-armed Israel is neither more nor less a threat to the peace of the world than, say, a nuclear-armed Syria. Do serious people actually believe this? Well, yes. They also believe that if Israel disarmed unilaterally, Israel's enemies would have no reason to seek WMD.

Even this argument is disingenuous: It isn't so much that Vanunu's admirers want Israel to disarm so that others may follow; it's that they want only Israel to disarm. Thus Vanunu, who in 1981 protested the destruction of the Osirak reactor, now says he wants to see Dimona destroyed just as Osirak was. And The Guardian, which claims in its Vanunu leader to advocate a nuclear-free Middle East, editorialized in September 2003 that "Iran does have one deeply persuasive reason for acquiring nuclear arms: national security." "Iran's fears are real," went the title. Apparently, however, Israel's fears are not real.

ZEH HAFUCH, say Israelis: It's upside down. In the imagination of much of the West today, Palestinian terrorism is a response to Israeli militarism; Yasser Arafat is a democrat and Ariel Sharon is a strongman; and the Arab and Muslim worlds only seek WMD to defend against aggressive Israel.

It is in this climate of moral inversion and reverse causality that a man like Vanunu can emerge as a hero to right-thinkers everywhere. The rest of us should think hard about what that means before the shock is absorbed without being felt.

Every weekday publishes what many in Washington and in the media consider "must reading." Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

JWR contributor Bret Stephens is Editor-in-Chief of the Jerusalem Post. Let him know what you think by clicking here.

© 2004, Jerusalem Post