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October 10, 2013 2:38 pm

BBC Uses Vanunu Affair to Embarrass Israel and Bolster Iran

avatar by Josephine Bacon

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Israel's Dimona nuclear plant. Photo: Arutz Sheva.

Some time in the late 1980s, in the days when computer users were so few and far between that they formed clubs, I innocently joined the Macintosh User Group club in London.

What I didn’t know, but what I subsequently learned, was that all of the movers and shakers in the Mordecai Vanunu saga (which exposed the truth about Israel’s nuclear program) – John Knight, the Australian Anglican vicar who harbored him, and Peter Hounam, the Sunday Times journalist who broke the story – were also members of the club.

I didn’t say much about being an Israeli, but I didn’t hide it either, and they probably assumed that I was an Israeli spy! The funny part is that I knew very little about the affair at the time, even though my uncle was a lecturer at Ben-Gurion University in the Negev, where Vanunu had studied, and knew Vanunu.

On October 4 of this year, the BBC World Service interviewed Peter Hounam about the Vanunu affair. I listened with apprehension, having a horrible suspicion as to why they were dragging it up now. I wrote to the World Service, and, as you can see, my suspicions were justified. Here are the contents of my letter:

“I do not know the purpose of the interview with Peter Hounam except perhaps to remind the world that Israel has nuclear weapons. Hounam did not point out that Vanunu converted to Christianity (perhaps he has unconverted now) but said that his conviction for treason could have meant the death penalty, an outright lie. Vanunu is not the first traitor Israel has had, and won’t be the last, that is the way of the world.”

“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.”

To my surprise, I received a reply, as follows (I have corrected the spelling mistakes!):

“Dear Ms Bacon,

Thank you for your email.

I’ve forwarded your message to the editors of ‘Witness’, the programme in which the interview you refer to was broadcast, for their consideration. The programme is broadcast as follows: The stories of our times told by the people who were there. In other words the programme interviewed Mr Hounam because Mordechai 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 to resonate with the present debate.

Finally, this weekend we shall be further discussing the impact of Vanunu’s revelations in geopolitical terms with our Diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus. This will be broadcast on Saturday in ‘History Hour’ – on the World Service at 1306 BS and then again at 2206 BST.

I hope the above allays any concerns you may have and thank you for taking the time to write.

Best regards,

Dejan Calovski – Audience Relations – BBC World Service”

As you can see, the BBC is determined to show that Israel and Iran are tarred with the same nuclear brush.

It is also clear from my meetings with those involved at the Macintosh User Group that there had been a concerted plot to “turn” Vanunu, who was obviously an easy target, and lure him away from Israel to Australia. Vanunu was released from prison on several conditions, which he constantly breaks, but the Israeli authorities turn a blind eye. The damage is already done.

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  • Well, Simon, he had left Australia and was living in London. As for that miserable little creep Vanunu, the REAL scandal is that he was allowed to work in Dimona in the first place, it is the person who hired him who ought to be imprisoned. I am so relieved that the Israeli government won’t allow him to travel over to the UK where the massed antisemites of the BDS movement would have showcased him around Britain.

  • I forot to add that when these people (Snowden, Vanunu, etc.) have “delivered the goods” their handlers drop them like a used tissue and the rest of their lives are lived in total obscurity. They are no longer of any use.That is what has happened to Vanunu and it will happen to Snowden.

    • Dear Ms. Bacon,

      Vanunu’s legend will continue to grow the longer Israel denies him the RIGHT to leave “the only democracy in the Middle East” and proof positive is the Cause dedicated to help FREE Vanunu is over 21,000+ members strong despite the fact that Vanunu deactivated his Facebook/Cause account in 2012—and Vanunu Mordechai remains listed as a leader:

      Your thread states “7 Comments” but only 4 show up and mine from October 10, 2013 at 8:13 pm is still “awaiting moderation”—will you post it?

  • Well, John McKnight somehow moved to the UK and was well-established there when I joined the Macintosh club and he is a close friend of Hounam’s. As for Vanunu, if you didn’t know that Israel had the atom bomb long before the Vanunu affair, you don’t know much about Israel. And so do India and Pakistan, by the way, to say nothing of the huge stockpiles of atom and hydrogen bombs possessed by the West. The technology is so widely known now I have heard that a really clever chemistry high school graduate could make one in his back room! Like Snowden et al. these people just want notoriety and will do anything they can to get it and they are supported by supposed libertarians and other misguided people. Without brilliant and secret military intelligence, the Allies would have lost World War II.

  • Miriam

    Agree with Simon’s comment….Vanunu is a hero of our times….Daniel Ellsberg refers to Mordechai as his brother for having been the first to expose the horrific fact that Israel had clandestinely developed WMD in the hundreds at DIMONA –which had been called a “textile” plant upto its exposure. Thermonuclear, neutron and hydrogen bombs hundreds of times more powerful than US Hiroshima/Nagasaki bombs.
    The world THANKS VANUNU for his courage to speak out. Only Israel treats him like a leper.
    VANUNU is respected as a hero worldwide….Everywhere except inside Israel where they have their public bamboozled with lies and constant FEAR.
    However, that 50 year old nuclear plant has never been inspected and is in a fault zone…
    what have they done with their spent fuel rods and other radioactive wastes? Vanunu’s sacrifices and heroism is well appreciated everywhere BUT in Israel which insidiously attributes global ALARM and concern to ….wait for it….what else? anti Semitism. Insanity prevails.

  • Anna O’Leary

    Mordechai Vanunu is a hero. A world class hero and deserves the Nobel Peace Prize. He did the world the biggest favor when he blew the whistle ___but he has paid the ultimate price for it. He was kidnapped by Israel and remained in solitary for 18 years and for almost 10 years since his release from jail he has been prohibited from free movement or free speech, or even prohibited from leaving Israel. Vanunu’s philosophy which gave his political and ideological choices their coherence, colour, and taste was a deep ethical discomfort with Israeli militarism…..that they produced masses of nuclear material. A recent report says the Israeli regime has produced 690-950 kg of plutonium and continued to build from 10 to 15 nuclear bombs of the Nagasaki type each year. (Source:

    Watch his first speech after he left 18 years in prison:{%22729380603744248%22%3A10150277520951110%2C%22728894760459499%22%3A442800390685%2C%22728889053793403%22%3A442800390685%2C%22728841630464812%22%3A10150277520951110}&action_type_map={%22729380603744248%22%3A%22yt-fb-app%3Acomment%22%2C%22728894760459499%22%3A%22yt-fb-app%3Acomment%22%2C%22728889053793403%22%3A%22yt-fb-app%3Acomment%22%2C%22728841630464812%22%3A%22yt-fb-app%3Acomment%22}&action_ref_map

  • This American writer met Vanunu in 2005, during my first of 7 trips to both sides of The Wall.

    I became a reporter after and because Vanunu 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.

    “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.”

    Please catch up on Vanunu’s struggle for the right to leave “the only democracy in the Middle East” at the Cause dedicated to help free him:

  • Simon

    Vanunu is a hero. John Mc Knight was in Sydney: don’t know how he could have been a member of the London Macintosh club.