Issue 88, March 05 - Socialist Alternative
It was impossible not to be moved in April last year as footage of nuclear whistle-blower Mordechai Vanunu emerging triumphantly from an Israeli prison making a peace sign was beamed around the world. The former technician was sentenced to 18 years jail in 1986 after revealing details of secret nuclear weapons being manufactured by Israel at the Dimona nuclear installation where he was employed. His subsequent incarceration, including 11 years in solitary confinement, has been a rallying point for all those opposed to the militarism and racism of the Israeli state. His refusal to be cowed and his determination to keep fighting continue to inspire those struggling for a better world today. Socialist Alternative’s Lizzie O’Shea spoke to him in Jerusalem.
How did you survive nearly 18 years in prison?
Even though I was in prison, I kept thinking my brain was in my head. No one could tell me what to think. I kept my spirit very free. I practised freedom by reading aloud, singing and listening to tapes that people sent me from Australia.
What restrictions has the Israeli government placed on you?
The restrictions now are not to leave the country for one year. Not to meet foreigners, like speaking to you is contrary to the restrictions. If I want to leave my home, I should report to the police each evening … The most important is not to leave this country for one year, but they can give me another year if they want.
You seem happy to quite openly violate the restrictions …
Yes, the police have arrested me once already a month ago. I told them my right to freedom of speech is a basic human right, part of democracy. You cannot take this right away. So these restrictions are unlawful and cannot be respected by anyone. I am just exercising my rights, expressing my political views.
You said: “You didn’t succeed to break me”?
Yes, I try to give encouragement to Palestinians, how to resist Israel and the system by standing firm in your ways.
What do you think about the occupation (of the West Bank and Gaza)?The occupation is very bad. Someone born and raised in the occupation has lived a difficult life for the last 50 years. I don’t know how some Palestinians live under the occupation and the army control and surveillance … No one in the world suffers under an occupation for such a long time. They are prisoners: the situation is very bad for the Palestinians … now the Israelis have built the wall. Have you seen the wall?
Yes. Israel seems almost like an apartheid state.
Yes, you use the right word, I use the same. Israel has become an apartheid state. The whole world watches and Israel hides the apartheid by “fighting terrorism” or “Muslim extremists” but the truth is that Israel is the real extremist.
Yes, the real terrorists.
What is the significance of Yasser Arafat’s death?
Arafat led the Palestinians for a long time though difficult situation. It is very hard to fight Israel … He also made a big mistake signing the Oslo Accords without real agreement on the subject matter.
Arafat’s support for the two states is problematic for me. I believe that people can live together despite religious and cultural differences.
Yes, two states means Israel continues to be an apartheid state [alongside] a very small Palestinian state. It will not solve the problem of the refugees, it will not solve the problem of Palestinians who want their rights inside Israel. So the only solution is one large secular state, where all the people respect the rights of everyone. That could happen if the world demands of Israel the democratic rights of all human beings. Otherwise it is not real democracy, it is apartheid … Then there is the refugee problem. There are two or three million people living in refugee camps for 55 years, raising a new generation of people in poverty. The world cannot let this continue. So it is another problem the world will need to solve, that can be solved if you have one state, where the right of the Jewish people to return is equal to the right of the Palestinians to return.
Were these ideas you held before you were in prison?
My political views were the same before prison. I came to the same conclusions before I left Israel: that it was not a real democracy, that there is no need for a Jewish state and that I did not want to live here. I saw the suffering of the Palestinian people and the refugee problem and I decided I wanted to leave Israel.
Do you think Sharon’s withdrawal of settlements from Gaza is a genuine gesture?
I think it is good when any settlements are withdrawn. There is no justification for any settlements in someone else’s country. So it is good that they are starting to dismantle them. It sets an example that settlements in the West Bank may be removed in the future.
What are the settlements like?They are small villages in the middle of nowhere. New buildings. Artificial buildings for the Jewish people isolating them from the Palestinians. Heavily guarded by the police and the army. Every citizen has a gun. A lot of them are orthodox religious people from the right wing, believing in the biblical Israel. That is what pushes them to do it. It is exactly like any imperial occupation or settlement.
Yes, like colonies … The government spends a lot of money building them and supporting them financially. A lot of the money comes from the US government. Without this money, a lot of settlers would not go. It is part of the plan by the Israeli government to make life worse for the Palestinians.
Not all Israelis are in favour of the aggressive tactics of the government, are they?
They have some peace activists and pacifists, but it is not enough. They can criticise the occupation, but to have real change, you need people who are demanding equal rights for Palestinians. The Jews have a right to return, any Jew in the world, but a Palestinian who lived here 50 years ago and was expelled has no right to return. So those who are really fighting the Israeli government should fight on this subject. The equal rights of the Palestinians and the equal right to return.
Do you think your persecution was worse because you gave up Judaism?
Yes, when I say that I am a Christian, I am a double traitor. Jews who accepted me as a whistle-blower did not accept me as a Christian and did not support me. But it is not my problem. The Jewish people cannot accept people who are not Jewish. It is what Zionism is centred on. But they should decide: do they really want democracy and accept people, or do they want apartheid?
Many people supported you in prison. Were you aware of this?
I used to receive a lot of mail. Cards, letters from all over the world, that let me know that the world was behind my act and many people supported me.
And will you still be a vocal opponent of the Israeli government?
I will continue to express my political views, my ideas, everywhere in the world. It is a right to express my opinions everywhere around the world.
Do you regret anything you’ve done?
No, of course I do not regret anything, why should I regret it? The only regret is that I lost 18 years. That is my regret. But to regret the act I did? I think I did the best thing a human being to do and I hope that many people would do the same.
29 AUGUST 2005
As I am on Sol Salbe's mailing list I received a copy of a letter written by Michael Danby to the Australian Jewish News and probably published on 25 August 2005. I stopped buying the so- called Australian Jewish News at the end of 2004 when I finally realised that it wasn't giving a voice to those of us who didn't "toe the zionist party line!", so I would not have seen whether Danby's "letter" was published or not - but of course it would be - he is a federal member of parliament.
Michael Danby, Federal Member for Melbourne Ports, has written a letter to the Australian Jewish News dated 25 August 2005. The letter is headed "DISGUSTING PROJECT".
Danby is a member of a party which, in 1992, instituted concentration camps for asylum seekers to Australia, was silent in the face of the Tampa issue, the children overboard issue, the war on Iraq issue, and is now caving in on voluntary student unionism.
Danby's disgusting project at which he is railing is about a forthcoming book to be published by Melbourne University Press, and is written by Antony Loewenstein, a Jewish journalist who has criticised Danby about his Israel politics and his railing against Hanan Ashrawi when she was presented with the the Sydney Peace Prize.
Danby has decided that Loewenstein's supporters would fit inside a telephone booth.
Well, the news for Danby is that the telephone booth in Australia happens to be the size of the Melbourne Cricket Ground if not larger, and of the 100,000 Jews in Australia more than just one happen to agree with Loewenstein in his views about the zionists of Australia.
If Danby feels so passionate about Israel, and it is obvious that he does, why doesn't he take his supporters, all those vocal zionists who, together with that publication which should be called the Israeli Zionist Times but is otherwise known as the Australian Jewish News, and move to Israel where Sharon has said that he needs all the Jews in the Diaspora to come and live in Israel to reduce anti-semitism around the world.
That means that the three of us, Louise Adler, Antony Loewenstein and Mannie De Saxe can get on with wearing our own badges of honour.
Let me make one matter clear. The more that people like Danby recommend to people that they not buy Antony Loewenstein's forthcoming book about the Australian Jewish Community, the better the sales will be.
I am waiting for Danby to tell us how he represents the telephone booth numbered Australian Jewry, not how he represents Israeli interests in Australia. The non-telephone booth Australian Jewry appears for the most part to be narrow-minded, reactionary, zionist, and not able to brook any criticisms of their policies and behaviours.
I have yet to see Dan Golderg and the publication of which he is editor, that weekly paper called the Australian Jewish News, actually present and represent the views of the telephone booth Australian Jews other than the presentation and representation of Israeli life and times.
Danby has called on MUP to drop what he calls "this whole disgusting project". He is urging the Australian Jewish community, and particularly the Australian Jewish News, to treat the book with dignified silence.
It would have been better for Danby to have heeded his own advice.
When the book is published without Danby's god forbidding it, I will buy it for as many people as possible as a gift for them to read a little of the truth which is censored from them by the mainstream press in general and the Jewish press in particular.
Loewenstein and MUP will get the dollars, Adler and Loewenstein will get the credit, and Danby will be further discredited. Danby's attack on Adler is mean-spirited and demeaning and diminishes his own standing as a Federal member of parliament.
The more Danby rails against Adler and Loewenstein the better the sales of the book will be!
Mannie De Saxe
This is Danby's letter:
The graduating class of Mount Scopus of 1972 had some interesting people, many of whom made a mark on wider Australian society. One of my fellow graduates of that year is Louise Adler, the current publisher of Melbourne University Press (MUP).
Louise was and is an intellectually engaging person, if a little predictable with her inevitable criticism that Labor is a "sell-out" and that supporting Israel, moderate democratic Israel, as I do, makes me a "Zionist right- winger". It's a badge of honor, Louise.
However, faint praise for Adler is a sidebar to the substance of the issue. I want the entire Jewish community to know that I absolutely dissociate myself from her decision to publish a book edited by Anthony Loewenstein about the Australian Jewish community.
In preparation for writing his book, Loewenstein sent me a number of questions, based on assumptions, which made his views so blatantly obvious that I refused to answer them or participate in his book.
I will have no part in his and Adler's propaganda tract scheduled for publication in 2006, which will be an attack on the mainstream Australian Jewish community.
MUP should drop this whole disgusting project. If they proceed, I urge the Australian Jewish community, and particularly the Australian Jewish News, to treat it with dignified silence. That is our best response. If, God forbid, it is published, don't give them a dollar. Don't buy the book.
MICHAEL DANBY MHR
[Letter to the Editor Australian Jewish News, 25 August.]
Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 1
Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 2
Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 4
Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 5
Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 6
Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 7
Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 8
Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 9a
Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 9b
Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 10
Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 11
Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 12
Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 13
Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 14
Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 15
Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 16
Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 17
Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 18
Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 19
Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 20
Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 21
Mannie's blogs may be accessed by clicking on to the following links:
MannieBlog (from 1 August 2003 to 31 December 2005)
Activist Kicks Backs - Blognow archive re-housed - 2005-2009
RED JOS BLOGSPOT (from January 2009 onwards)
This page updated 23 APRIL 2013 and again on 25 OCTOBER 2016