By Richard Edmondson
Mordechai Vanunu, the whistle blower who exposed Israel’s nuclear weapons program, is regarded as a hero by much of the world. Recently, however, Vanunu was somewhat crudely disparaged in an article published at the Jewish newspaper, The Algemeiner.
In a commentary published October 10, writer Josephine Bacon calls Vanunu “a pathetic little shrimp of a man” and a “traitor” to Israel, in a piece in which she takes the BBC to task for its airing of an interview with Peter Hounam.
Hounam is the Sunday Times reporter who broke Vanunu’s story back in 1986. He was interviewed by the BBC program ‘Witness’ in a segment which aired October 4. Bacon believes the program was unfair to Israel and that the BBC’s motive in airing it was to “tar” the Jewish state and Iran “with the same nuclear brush.” She says she listened to it “with apprehension, having a horrible suspicion as to why they were dragging it up now.”
Bacon in fact was so upset she felt prompted to write a letter to the BBC, which she quotes in full. Here is an excerpt:
“Hounam says he first met Vanunu in Sidney, Australia, but does not explain what either of them were doing there. There was no mention of John Knight, the Australian vicar who befriended Vanunu, delivered him to Hounam and converted him to Christianity. What was Vanunu’s real motive? Nothing to do with ‘Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.’ Vanunu is a pathetic little shrimp of a man who had failed all his exams and whoever hired him for a job in Dimona must have been insane – or bribed by someone, and he, the hirer, is the real villain of the piece.”
Vanunu’s conversion to Christianity is also mentioned earlier in the letter—almost as if Bacon has as much of an ax to grind over his religious faith as with his having made public Israel’s nuclear secrets. Does the thought of Jews converting to Christianity rankle Bacon, and is that perhaps why she detests Vanunu so much?
Bacon also quotes the BBC’s reply, in which the writer, Dejan Calovski, of Audience Relations, informs her that Hounam was interviewed because “Vanunu’s revelations, and the events surrounding them, are a part of contemporary history—and that’s the remit of the programme. Another reason the topic was explored is that people are talking about Iran’s (and Israel’s) nuclear capabilities at the moment and these events seems (sic) to resonate with the present debate.”
Bacon’s displeasure with the BBC is ironic given the severe criticism the British broadcaster has come under recently for its lopsided, pro-Israel coverage of the Palestine-Israeli conflict (see here, here, here, here, and here). Back in August it even censored, from its one of its BBC Proms programs, a comment by Nigel Kennedy in which the famed violinist made a passing reference to Israeli “apartheid.” So it’s perhaps a bit surprising that an ardent Israel supporter would take bilious aim at such a devoted friend of the Jewish state, but I guess some people just like having something to complain about.
Bacon closes her piece by commenting that Vanunu “was released from prison on several conditions, which he constantly breaks,” and bemoaning the “blind eye” turned upon these alleged violations by Israeli authorities. What she fails to mention is that Vanunu in reality is still a prisoner of Israel. After serving 18 years in an Israeli prison, including more than 11 in solitary confinement, the nuclear whistle blower was finally released in 2004. Since then he has repeatedly sought to leave the Jewish state, only to have his requests denied. They refuse to allow him to leave.