Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Let Vanunu Go/Unbearable imports

Let Vanunu Go
Twenty-two years after Mordechai Vanunu told the truth about Israel ’s nuclear weapons, ordinary people must rally to free him

by Mairead Corrigan-Maguire

In 1986, a young Israeli man called Mordechai Vanunu followed his conscience and told the world that Israel had a nuclear weapons programme. He was convicted of espionage and treason and sentenced to 18 years in prison. After serving this (12 years of which were in solitary confinement), Vanunu was released. In April 2004, about 80 people from around the world went to welcome him out of prison. Unbelievably, upon his release Vanunu was made subject to severe restrictions, which forbade him many basic civil liberties (including his right to leave Israel , to speak to foreigners and foreign media) and restricted his travel within Israel .

Each year, around April 21, Vanunu receives a letter from the prime minister renewing these restrictions, and he starts, yet again, the process of appealing against them through the Israeli courts. Most recently, he has been charged with breaking the restrictions by talking to foreign media and sentenced to six months in prison; when he appealed, this was commuted to community service. On July 8, he will appear before an Israeli court regarding this service and his case.

Four years since leaving Ashkelon prison, and 22 years since he told the truth about Israeli nuclear weapons, Mordechai Vanunu lives in modest accommodation in East Jerusalem, unable to earn a living, unaware of what to do to gain his freedom, unable to leave Israel, left wondering if the Israeli security services will ever agree to let him leave the country. They say he is a threat to national security, but everyone knows that it is 22 years since Vanunu worked in the Dimona nuclear plant, and the nuclear industry has moved on. A well-known Israeli nuclear scientist has testified that Vanunu can know nothing about the contemporary industry after such a long period, yet Israeli security insists he is a risk to national security, and the Israeli courts and government refuse to let him go, thereby compounding an injustice, and breaking international laws.

Governments around the world have let Mordechai Vanunu down. They remain silent when they should be demanding that the Israeli government uphold its obligations under the universal declaration of human rights - according to article 13, everyone has the right to leave any country, including their own, and to return.

So will Vanunu remain in Israel until he dies, or can anything be done to secure his freedom? I believe his freedom now rests in the hands of the Israeli people themselves. Some years ago I asked a young Israeli friend why she though Israel was holding him. She replied, “because our government does not trust its own people” and she added “if the Israeli people demanded his release, it might be possible he would be free to leave Israel and get on with his life.”

I don’t know if she is right or wrong: I don’t know the Israeli mind or politics well enough to guess. But what I do know is that in the Jewish faith and tradition, there is a great deal of emphasis put on justice and doing what is right. I can now only hope and pray that some Israeli voices will be raised to call for justice for Mordechai Vanunu, who has paid the high price of 22 years of his life for following his conscience. Whether you hate or love Mordechai Vanunu, you have got to admit that he has suffered enough: it’s time to let him go.

Mairead Corrigan-Maguire founded the Northern Ireland Peace Movement (later renamed the Community of Peace People) and won the 1976 Nobel peace prize.

© Guardian News and Media Limited 2008

Sun Editorial:

Unbearable imports

America should stand firm in protecting polar bears and continue imports ban

Sat, Jul 5, 2008 (2:08 a.m.)

The U.S. government banned the import of polar bear hides in May when it declared polar bears a federally threatened species, but a private hunt club has filed notice that it intends to sue the government to allow American hunters who have legally shot polar bears in Canada to bring the hides into the United States .

Safari Club International is seeking to overturn the Interior Department’s ban on hides from polar bears that have been killed and those that will be killed by hunt club members who have scheduled and paid for hunts that will occur in 2009 and 2010, the Associated Press has reported.

Wildlife advocates say sport hunting further stresses the polar bear population, which already is struggling to survive in the face of increasing global warming and massive reductions in the Arctic sea ice that provides a crucial piece of the bears’ habitat.

Trophy hunts of polar bears have been banned in Alaska since 1972, but Canada allows such hunts during a two-month season that restricts the number of bears killed. American sport hunters had been allowed to import hides from Canadian hunts under a 1994 amendment to the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

But U.S. Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne declared the bears threatened throughout their entire range and said they could become endangered because of decreasing habitat. As a result the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service withdrew the authorization to import hides from bears killed in Canada — including those already dead and awaiting a taxidermist’s work.

Officials from Canada ’s Northwest Territory have told Interior Department officials that the ban would, in effect, kill the region’s sport hunting industry, the AP reports.

The United States has committed to protecting the polar bear, not Canada ’s sport hunting industry, and we support the Bush administration’s position on the import issue. To tarnish the polar bear’s federal protection by allowing Americans to import hides from bears shot for sport on the other side of the U.S. border would send a mixed — and wrong — message.

© Las Vegas Sun, 2008, All Rights Reserved.

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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

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