The Prisoner of Zion and the Secret of Bassam Abu Sharif


He is the Count of Monte Cristo. He is the Man in the Iron Mask. His story is sung in grand opera and viewed daily as a daytime drama. He is as Shakespearean as he is Pinteresque. He is a blockbuster movie waiting in the wings with Tom Hanks or Harrison Ford to be scripted and Spielberged. He is a life waiting for a Book Club discussion and an Oscar presentation. He is a television series ready for prime time.

He is a social protest song waiting to be sung.

He is living testament to the Nobel Prize and the many times he has been nominated.

He is an International Remembrance Day for Peace, 365 days times almost 18 years.

He is mortal man once tempted and betrayed and recreated in his own image as living martyr, prophet and saint….

Dr. Mordechai Vanunu and his fascinating story meet most of the requirements of an internationally successful media campaign. By current trends in the entertainment industry, he has potential to become a cult figure.

He was imprisoned not for what he said, but for saying it. And when he said it.

In the fall of 1986 his disclosures to the London Sunday Times, based upon his nine years as a mid level technician at Dimona nuclear facility, not only provided the world with indisputable evidence of Israel’s Nuclear Weapons Program but gave documented proof that such warheads existed far beyond the estimated number given and guessed at by other authorities in the field. His kidnapping and disappearance caused enough of a distraction to move the public away from the real threat and significance of his testimony: as many as 200 nuclear warheads in Israel threatening most, if not all, of the Middle East.

Ariel Sharon, before he became prime minister was heard to say,
“Arabs may have the oil, but we have the matches”.

In close time line ( ) to Vanunu’s sensational and mostly best kept secret was another well kept secret presented by Yasser Arafat’s press spokesman and close advisor, Bassam Abu Sharif. Bassam Abu Sharif’s secret was written by invitation of the Washington Post’s managing editor, Benjamin Bradlee. This secret was as shocking and had as much potential to reshape history as Vanunu’s declaration of the 200 warheads.

In his article for the Washington Post, Bassam Abu Sharif, clearly speaking as Arafat’s press spokesman, stated and confirmed the moderate thinking and consideration of a long lasting plan for a two state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Washington Post never published it.

In 1988, Anthony Lewis, now emeritus, then outspoken NY Times journalist, who was both Jewish and critical of Israel, said of Sharif’s article and statement, that it was “the most explicit and articulate endorsement of a two-state solution: a Palestinian state living in peace along side Israel”.

That solution clearly echoed what Palestinian intellectuals, such as Edward Said (Columbia University), Hisham Sharabi (Georgetown Universtity) and Walid Khalidi (Harvard University) had been trying to explain to America and Americans:

That there existed Palestinian leadership that reflected moderation and a desire for peace, but that it was thwarted by, not only Palestinian radicals such as Abu Musa, but by Israel with its 200 nuclear warheads and by whatever and whoever influenced and still influences this country and it’s press and it’s media.

Another Hollywood story…involving lies, deceptions and manipulations of critical facts that have profoundly influenced history.

This lesson of media control and influence brings us closer to today’s nuclear technicians and scientists and what makes one scientist’s testimony more credible than another. Imad Khadduri, former Iraqi nuclear scientist and guest columnist for told the world a very different story about Iraq’s nuclear capabilities than what the United States government stated and mainstream media upheld to be as true. Khadduri was interviewed by various news agencies in regards to his knowledge of any Iraqi nuclear program. He repeatedly came forward with his contradicting information prior to and after January 27, 2003 and the Security Council Report.

The selective intelligence game works well with the collaboration of existing mainstream media. One supports the other and neither want contradiction, nor careful corroboration.

It might have once been plausible, given the circumstances and the instantaneous relay of information, to imagine that a 21st century Vanunu could not have been as easily kidnapped from Italy; convicted as a spy and sent languishing to a prison for 18 years. One could further suppose that a free press would have prevailed throughout his capture and trial and mistreatment.

Israel would have faced hard questions: about the theft of hundreds of pounds of enriched uranium from the Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corporation in Pennsylvania circa 1964; the hijacking of a Liberian ship carrying 200 tons of uranium ore in 1968; the breach of a treaty with Norway involving the diversion of “heavy water” from peaceful use to the Dimona nuclear reactor; and the collusions with South Africa in its nuclear testing.

But as the Democratic Ideal slides further down a scale once weighed rich on the side of patriotic trust and power points its way towards disclosures of how an American public can be manipulated by its elected officials and its press, it is with profound realization that given today’s mainstream media controls, such investigative reportage would not exist, except in the tabloids.

Who and what remains?

We do. It is our moral obligation and conscience to find the truth and support the truth as it has …. not been presented to us by governments.

Vanunu wrote from his solitary confinement, this poem:

I am the clerk, the technician, the mechanic, the driver.
They said, Do this, do that, don’t look left or right,
don’t read the text. Don’t look at the whole machine. You
are only responsible for this one bolt. For this one rubber-stamp.
This is your only concern. Don’t bother with what is above you.
Don’t try to think for us. Go on, drive. Keep going. On, on.
So they thought, the big ones, the smart ones, the futurologists.
There is nothing to fear. Not to worry.
Everything’s ticking just fine.
Our little clerk is a diligent worker. He’s a simple mechanic.
He’s a little man.
Little men’s ears don’t hear, their eyes don’t see.
We have heads, they don’t.

Answer them, said he to himself, said the little man,
the man with a head of his own. Who is in charge? Who knows
where this train is going?
Where is their head? I too have a head.
Why do I see the whole engine,
Why do I see the preci! pice–
is there a driver on this train?
The clerk driver technician mechanic looked up.
He stepped back and saw — what a monster.
Can’t believe it. Rubbed his eyes and — yes,
it’s there all right. I’m all right. I do see
the monster. I’m part of the system.
I signed this form. Only now I am reading the rest of it.

This bolt is part of a bomb. This bolt is me. How
did I fail to see, and how do the others go on
fitting bolts. Who else knows?
Who has seen? Who has heard? — The emperor really is naked.
I see him. Why me? It’s not for me. It’s too big.
Rise and cry out. Rise and tell the people. You can.
I, the bolt, the technician, mechanic? — Yes, you.
You are the secret agent of the people. You are the eyes of the nation.
Agent-spy, tell us what you’ve seen. Tell us what the insiders, the clever ones, have hidden from
Without you, there is only the precipice. Only catastrophe.
I have no cho! ice. I’m a little man, a citizen, one of the people,
but ! I’ll do what I have to. I’ve heard the voice of my conscience
and there’s nowhere to hide.
The world is small, small for Big Brother.
I’m on your mission. I’m doing my duty. Take it from me.
Come and see for yourselves. Lighten my burden. Stop the train.
Get off the train. The next stop — nuclear disaster. The next book,
the next machine. No. There is no such thing.

written from Ashkelon Prison, Israel

The fact that a man’s soul is still intact after almost 18 years of cruel confinement, wrongfully enacted, must give one pause to consider the triumph of a man’s spirit and better nature. This, indeed is the cause of the celebration: that such a man exists and exists in comparison to who has put him where he is.

It would seem too much in fitting with these times if a serial killer received more encouragement in correspondence than a prisoner of good conscience.

Therefore, consider sending him a postcard, a note, a reminder that we do not forget him and his good conscience.


The US Campaign to Free Mordechai Vanunu:

Free Vanunu:

Mary La Rosa ( [email protected] ) is an artist and librarian living 20 miles from NYC, where she actively encourages all citizens to vote and participate in better government, by the People and for the People. She contributed above article to Media Monitors Network (MMN) from NY, USA.