IMAGINE: Media as a Sanctuary for Dissent

"The media should be a sanctuary for dissent. It is our job to go to where the silence is."-Amy Goodman


"As president, I will set a new direction in nuclear weapons policy and show the world that America believes in its existing commitment under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to work to ultimately eliminate all nuclear weapons. I fully support reaffirming this goal, as called for by George Shultz, Henry Kissinger, William Perry, and Sam Nunn, as well as the specific steps they propose to move us in that direction."-Senator Barack Obama’s response to ACT. [1]


ACT/Arms Control Today is a leading journal devoted to nonproliferation and global security issues. ACT asked the presidential candidates questions on arms control and nonproliferation; from Russia to Iran, in regards to U.S. policy on cluster munitions and nuclear-armed India and Pakistan. Senator McCain’s responses have not yet been received, but he is on the record for renewing American commitment [on paper] to nuclear disarmament through strengthening the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.


The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, created in 1968, maintains that nuclear weapons proliferation can only be curtailed if nuclear countries make moves toward disarmament and the rest of the world is allowed to access civilian nuclear technology.


If the media were a sanctuary for dissent the candidates would have been grilled on America’s record regarding the NPT; and why the silence about Israel’s still un-inspected underground WMD facility and refusal to sign onto the NPT in light of the fact that we the people of America who pay taxes provide Israel with $7 million per day:


From Ashkelon prison in 1987, Mordechai Vanunu wrote:


The passive acceptance and complacency with regard to the existence of nuclear weapons anywhere on earth is the disease of society today…


 This struggle is not only a legitimate one – it is a moral, inescapable struggle. What we who are opposed to nuclear arms are saying is this: it is not we who broke the law, who violated human and civil rights, but the governments which chose to create the greatest threat to human life that ever existed. Never in human history was there such a threat to the very existence of mankind and to all life on earth…


And no government, not even the most democratic, can force us to live under this threat. No state in the world can offer any kind of security against this menace of a nuclear holocaust, or guarantee to prevent it…


By returning to the pre-nuclear era…We are the sane civilians, we want to live – and we say to the governments, "no nuclear arms!"


We must arouse people and warn them. Ours is the role of the angry prophet…A person who refuses to accept the existence of this suicidal type of arms is a mentally healthy person, who does not want to be expelled from this earth as Adam was expelled from the Garden of Eden.


Already now there are enough nuclear missiles to destroy the world many times over.


Nuclear weapons are means of extermination, and cannot protect any country, including Israel.


A state that lives in fear of destruction must not threaten the whole world with annihilation. The people who experienced a holocaust must not bring a holocaust upon another people.


Moreover, a nuclear war is worse than the holocaust of World War II. A single bomb can eliminate a whole city, destroy half a million people in one blow, including women, children and old people, and everything that lives in it, and even the very infra-structure of the city.


The effects could last for hundreds of years – and yet it is so easy to do. That is the real holocaust. That is the real enemy, and not as the Israelis imagine.


This issue should unite us all, because that is our real enemy…Any country, which manufactures and stocks nuclear weapons, is first of all endangering its own citizens. This is why the citizens must confront their government and warn it that it has no right to expose them to this danger.


Because, in effect, the citizens are being held hostage by their own government, just as if they have been hijacked and deprived of their freedom and threatened. Therefore, when a man is held hostage by his own government, the least he can do is resist it and its nuclear policy. He must do this in self-defense, which is a basic civil right.


Indeed, when governments develop nuclear weapons without the consent of their citizens – and this is true in most cases – they are violating the basic rights of their citizens, the basic right not to live under constant threat of annihilation…


Is any government qualified and authorized to produce such weapons?


The United States developed its atom bomb during World War II, without giving much thought to the long-term effects and consequences – and the rest of the world has followed it to this day…


Only peace between states can promise real security to each state and to every citizen. No force in the world can provide security or ensure survival…


It was not force which spread the word of Jesus through the world…Children are brought into this world to live in it, not to fight. It is not true that war is an inevitable state of affairs – on the contrary, what is essential is peace.


 It is a question of listening to your conscience, to the voice of Jesus telling you, yes, this is what you must do–sacrifice yourself, your personal freedom: in the nuclear era, and with the nuclear threat hanging over us, the answer to this challenge is obvious, one may not evade such a responsibility, one must accept the mission in order to warn against the danger… [2]


At that point in Vanunu’s 1987 statement words were crossed out by the Israeli censors.


Vanunu was writing the speech in response to being awarded The Right Livelihood Award, better known as the Alternative Nobel Prize.


In 1987, Vanunu had only just begun sacrificing 18 years of his life-most all of it in the silence of solitary confinement- punishment for providing the London Sunday Times two rolls of photos shot in various top secret locales in Israel’s clandestine underground WMD facility.


If the media were a sanctuary of dissent the Dimona would no longer be unexplored territory by IAEA inspectors.


In June 2005, during my first series of interviews with Vanunu, he told me, "Did you know that President Kennedy tried to stop Israel from building atomic weapons?


"In 1963, he forced Prime Minister Ben Guirion to admit the Dimona was not a textile plant, as the sign outside proclaimed, but a nuclear plant. The Prime Minister said, ‘The nuclear reactor is only for peace.’ Kennedy insisted on an open internal inspection. He wrote letters demanding that Ben Guirion open up the Dimona for inspection.


"The French were responsible for the actual building of the Dimona. The Germans gave the money; they were feeling guilty for the Holocaust, and tried to pay their way out. Everything inside was written in French, when I was there, almost twenty years ago. Back then, the Dimona descended seven floors underground.


"In 1955, Perez and Guirion met with the French to agree they would get a nuclear reactor if they fought against Egypt to control the Sinai and Suez Canal. That was the war of 1956. Eisenhower demanded that Israel leave the Sinai, but the reactor plant deal continued on. Kennedy demanded inspections.


"When Johnson became president, he made an agreement with Israel that two senators would come every year to inspect. Before the senators would visit, the Israelis would build a wall to block the underground elevators and stairways. From 1963 to ’69, the senators came, but they never knew about the wall that hid the rest of the Dimona from them.


"Nixon stopped the inspections and agreed to ignore the situation. As a result, Israel increased production. In 1986, there were over two hundred bombs. Today, they may have enough plutonium for ten bombs a year. Who knows?"


What I do know is that annually for the last twenty-three years, Vanunu has been nominated for The Nobel Peace Prize. The year Bishop Tutu nominated him; Vanunu told me that he didn’t want the award if Israel refused him the liberty and freedom to go and accept it.


After 18 years in jail, Vanunu has now suffered 4 ½ years more under severe house arrest denied the right to leave the state and forbidden to speak to anyone unless they are an Israeli citizen.


If the media were a sanctuary of dissent, it would be understood that Israel is not a democracy but an Ethnocracy-full rights to Jews but not for Palestinians or Vanunu, a former Orthodox Jew who was baptized a Christian in 1986; just a few weeks before being kidnapped by the Mossad which coincided with the publication by the London Sunday Times of his vetted photographs.


In 1987, while Vanunu sat in silence in jail his brother Meir read his statement at the ceremony for the Right Livelihood Award. The award was established in 1980 to honor personal courage that inspires social transformation and supports those "offering practical and exemplary answers to the most urgent challenges facing us today."


One of this year’s recipients was journalist Amy Goodman, whose infamous interview with Vanunu in 2004 was used as major testimony against him in his ongoing freedom of speech trial that began in January 2006. [3]


In July 2007, after Vanunu was sentenced to six months in jail Amy Goodman phoned him for a follow up interview. When I last crossed paths with Vanunu in Jerusalem a few weeks after wards he told me he refused to speak to Amy and was not speaking with any media, because "the media has never helped me."


Amy Goodman was awarded the Alternative Nobel for "developing an innovative model of truly independent grassroots political journalism that brings to millions of people the alternative voices that are often excluded by the mainstream media."


In reply, Goodman affirmed, "I strongly believe that media can be a force for peace. It is the responsibility of journalists to give voice to those who have been forgotten, forsaken and beaten down by the powerful.  It is the best reason I know to carry our pens, cameras and microphones out into the world. The media should be a sanctuary for dissent. It is our job to go to where the silence is." [4]


This citizen journalist produced "13 Minutes with Vanunu" taped in 2008 and "30 Minutes with Vanunu" taped in 2007, as my way to do something to help break the silence regarding the Christian Exodus from the Holy Land and Vanunu’s historic and ongoing freedom of speech trial.


This citizen journalist’s next journey to Israel Palestine begins November 12, 2008 as one in a global ecumenical community of justice and peace seeking Christians who are all seeking to do something to help give "voice to those who have been forgotten, forsaken and beaten down by the powerful:"



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