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REVIEW of Beyond
Nuclear: Mordechai Vanunu’s Freedom of
Speech Trial and My Life as a Muckraker
By Mark John Maguire
Eileen Fleming’s book Beyond Nuclear: Mordechai
Vanunu’s Freedom of Speech Trial and My
Life as a Muckraker is a fascinating insight into the life and mind of an
activist pursuing a moral crusade against the might of a nation - in this case
It also provides a
journal of such an individual’s experiences in
the complex and protracted struggle of the Middle East. Her journey of faith
and belief in support of the Palestinian cause - and in particular that of
Vanunu Mordechai, the Israeli dissident who served 18 years in prison for
revealing Israel’s illegal nuclear
programme - has been a remarkable one: she clearly believes she has a purpose
and that she is guided by a higher will and perhaps this is the secret to the
huge radical energy she exudes.
Her book is an
expression of that energy and of the uncompromising commitment she shares with
Vanunu in attempting to right the injustices she sees in the daily lives of
which is charted in the book - and to a lesser extent Vanunu’s - has been the wider Palestinian
problem and the human rights abuses of the Israeli State
Her visits to Israel
and her meetings with Vanunu and others in her efforts to publicize the story
the mainstream media largely ignore - especially in the US - is inspiring.
There are few who
would doubt the hardships and injustices suffered by the Palestinian people in
Israel and its adjacent lands, nor the inadequacy of the international
community’s efforts to lessen their plight,
but Beyond Nuclear brings this sharply into focus.
It also puts the Vanunu
Mordechai case in the spotlight - the story of his abduction, his incarceration
and the subsequent restrictions placed upon him are all recorded here.
is the humdrum indignities that are suffered by Vanunu, the petty restrictions,
the heavy handed reactions of the authorities that are most striking: the sense
of isolation which Vanunu endures daily, an outcast from his own people - a man
on the outside - which has become a metaphor for the Palestinian situation: the
Middle East has always been a cauldron of tension and conflict - it is the
story of the Old Testament - but it has never been more complex than it is now;
a web of related issues: nuclear, racial, religious and geo-political are
stirred into an explosive mix. Vanunu’s plight seems to epitomize this concoction: he is a Jew who converted to Christianity, a
stranger amongst Palestinians, a man with whom the international community is
ill at ease.
Nor are the
problems of the Middle East likely to be resolved soon - the international
resolve, as well as that of the immediate combatants is simply not there: in
August 2009 - in the wake of a long catalogue of such wrongs - Fleming recounts
how the eviction of Palestinians from the Sheikh Jarrah area of Jerusalem drew
international censure from the European Union, the UN, Britain and the USA: yet
nothing has been done to this day to address such breaches of international
Indeed, one of the recurring themes in Eileen Fleming’s book and in Mordechai’s many interviews given since his
release from prison in 2004 has been the fact that although the international
community tacitly acknowledges Israel’s nuclear
capability, it has never subjected Israel to a single Atomic Weapons Authority
Inspection. It is the white bear in the corner no-one will speak of.
There is much to
exercise activists like Eileen Fleming. In some ways Beyond Nuclear is a
dispiriting tale of episodic and endemic complaisance by the international
community to serious abuses of international law, an unending cycle of
oppression, resistance and terrorism; but it is also an affirmation of the
ability of human beings to speak out, their willingness to take enormous risks
with their own personal safety and to refuse to be cowed by the might of the
And there are the occasional brighter moments - for instance, the
Israeli soldier playing with Palestinian children and Fleming’s making contact with him from a
Palestinian position and exchanging gestures of goodwill. It is a reminder that
human beings populate such stories, committing kindnesses and atrocities with
seeming equal randomness.
But a state is not the sum of its people, it has its
own personality. Israel, as a State, is determined to defend itself and
believes its prime objective is to protect its security by whatever means it
Archbishop Desmond Tutu saying that after a visit to Israel in 2006: “Israel will never get true security
and safety through oppressing another people.”
Such wisdom and perceptiveness
seems to fall on deaf ears, however - even when it is spoken by respected people
like Tutu and it is hard not to escape the conclusion that until people of good
will on both sides control the argument, progress will not be made.
Eileen Fleming’s book reveals the frustrations of
the truly committed in dealing with the half-committed - and the merely
There is no doubting the strength of her own convictions and sense
of mission - she will always, one suspects, have difficulty in finding people
who can match her relentless energy and conviction.
In the end, Beyond
Nuclear: Mordechai Vanunu’s Freedom of
Speech Trial and My Life as a Muckraker is an extraordinary tale of courage and
conviction and the struggle of the individual’s right to tell the truth and the
State’s determination to obscure it or
subvert it for a perceived greater good: The truth, as Oscar Wilde observed, is rarely simple and never pure.
And by the same token, the lesson Eileen
Fleming would have us draw would be that the perceived good is seldom so good
as to be worth it.
MJ Maguire, Author of The