BBC Home
Explore the BBC
BBC News
Launch consoleBBC NEWS CHANNEL
Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 July, 2004, 12:52 GMT 13:52 UK
Should Vanunu be allowed to travel?
The Israeli Supreme Court has refused to lift an order preventing the man who revealed the country's nuclear secrets, Mordechai Vanunu, from leaving the country.

The order was imposed when Mr Vanunu left jail in April after serving eighteen years for disclosing information to the press about the Israeli nuclear plant where he worked as a technician.

The Israeli government says it still regards Mr Vanunu as a security risk.

Mr Vanunu, who maintains he has nothing left to reveal, said the court's decision showed Israel was not a real democracy.

Israel is generally regarded as a nuclear power, although it consistently refuses to comment on whether it has a nuclear weapons capability.

Should Mordechai Vanunu be allowed to travel? Is he still a security risk? After eighteen years in prison are his civil rights now being infringed?

This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.

The following comments reflect the balance of views we have received so far:

I chuckle at some of the comments on this page about the so called human rights of this man. But most people miss the point. In this country people are not allowed to travel to other countries if they commit football violence. So don't start saying that Sharon is a terrible man... what about Blair and his scum government? Vanunu should have been hanged or crucified.
Graham, England

I think the reason why Israel treats Mr Vanunu is such an inhuman way is to teach him a lesson, not only to him but mainly to other Israelis, so that nobody will even think about betraying Israel in any way. To those that compare this treatment with the one he would have received in Saudi Arabia or Pakistan, I say that Israel is proud to be a democracy, the difference between a democracy and a dictatorship should come out in situations like these.
Clara, London, UK

I remember a few years ago of a Russian journalist being tried and jailed because he disclosed a nuclear dump somewhere between Siberia and Japan. I also remember every country but Russia praising him for this job and blaming Russia for trying him. Didn't Mr Vanunu do the same, in a much larger scale? Shouldn't the same standards apply to Russia and Israel? Shouldn't the world be behind Mr Vanunu like it was for that journalist? Or is it something like "some animals are more equal than others"?
GM, Athens, Greece

A man that exposes the nuclear weapons program in N Korea or Iran is a hero. A man that exposes the same thing in Israel is a traitor and deserves no support from the world community? All countries that signed the non-proliferation treaty should act to protect and encourage brave people like Mr Vanunu everywhere.
Ole Holmblad, Göteborg, Sweden

What Vanunu did to receive a prison sentence has no relevance now
Karen, Southampton

What Vanunu did to receive a prison sentence has no relevance now. Neither does our opinions about the rights and wrongs of what he did. The fact is that he has served the sentence meted out by the court that tried him. He is therefore now a free man and should be allowed to travel as he wishes.
Karen, Southampton, UK

I find the comments on this panel very interesting. The majority of the writers say Vanunu is a traitor because he revealed the fact that Israel has violated the nuclear arms proliferation treaty and created a nuclear arsenal. If Vanunu had been the national of any other country, the same people attacking him today would be calling him courageous and kissing his feet for blowing the whistle on a dangerous regime.
Daniela, Berlin, Germany

The man is a traitor to his country. He was been given a life sentence. Unlike other prisoners he is able to serve it in the fresh air. I think he is quite lucky in that sense.
Idan, UK

Many of the comments here seem to be along the lines of "he'd be treated worse elsewhere, so what is being done to him is reasonable." This is similar to arguing "my brother would have murdered you, so you should be grateful I'm just going to beat you up because I don't like your politics" - the fallacy of that argument being obvious.
Mick, UK

Definitely he should be allowed to travel. States do not own their citizens. Human beings are born free and should be able to live free.
Amir, Helsinki, Finland

Of course he is a security risk. Many countries give up the ideals of democracy for the safety of its people and I personally believe that Israel is doing the right thing.
Can, Auburn, United States

No, he shouldn't be allowed to travel. He's lucky he isn't in prison.
Mark, NYC, USA

Since Israel doesn't have any nuclear weapons, (officially), nor indeed chemical weapons (even though some accidentally turned up in Amsterdam in the early 90s), what exactly is Vanunu supposed to be guilty of? He hasn't revealed any secrets because, in the wibbly, wobbly world of international relations, everything he's said is a pack of lies. Or did I miss something and Israel is going to sign the non proliferation treaty?
Dan, UK

Israel is above the law.
Arreej A, Delhi, India

Vanunu should be free to travel. The Israeli nuclear secrets should be uncovered. Israel is not above the law.
Michael Antoun, Tampa, USA

If his wagging tongue led to a major catastrophe, we would all think differently
Alfie Noakes, UK

If his wagging tongue led to a major catastrophe, we would all think differently. Traitors should get life. Claire Short, I hope you take note.
Alfie Noakes, North of England, UK

Forcing Mordechai Vanunu to remain in Israel after he has already served his sentence and has no more to reveal is a purely vindictive exercise. He should be free to apply for residency in another country and to travel wherever he chooses.
Dorothy, Belgium

Vanunu took an oath to protect the state of Israel before they allowed him to work in the Dimona facility. He subsequently took great measures to hide a camera and take photos of Israel's nuclear facility. He is a "boged", pronounced "bo-ged", a traitor to his people, his country, and his religion. However, he should be allowed to leave Israel since he served out his sentence, but then no one should blame Israel if he has an accident and wakes up dead in a foreign land.
William Shara, Fort Lee, NJ, USA

He was a traitor to his country. He should definitely not be allowed to travel abroad.
Emilio Colombani, Montecatini, Italy

If Israel wanted to keep this man for life they should have given him a life sentence. He has served his sentence and should have a new start. Obviously he can't build any kind of normal life in Israel now.
Jan, Whittier, CA, USA

Even though I have little respect for Israel, they have a right to treat this man as they wish... After all be betrayed his country. Other regimes would have had him shot!
Lee, England

In my view, Vanunu is a traitor. He betrayed Israel and if Israel still believes he could be a threat - he must comply with the terms of his release. He put himself in to this situation, and if he doesn't like the restrictions he is free to go back to the prison.
Mike, New York, USA

Of course he should be free to travel. His original sentence for confirming widely known facts was harsh in the extreme. Such petty and vindictive measures demean Israel as a democratic state and confirm the view of Israel as a state lacking in both meaningful democratic debate and transparency. Come on Israel shape up!
Chris, Ottawa, Canada

The man signed a non-disclosure agreement then betrayed his country, how can he be viewed as a hero? And there is no definite proof that Israel has nuclear weapons other than the hearsay of armchair observers.
Robert Sutton, Halifax, England

To Robert Sutton, Halifax, England: If Israel has no nuclear weapons then, surely, Vanunu is a fraud, not a traitor. Prosecuting him as a traitor rather than denouncing him as a fraud is tantamount to admitting he told the truth.
Mick B, UK

Yes, because restriction of movement after Vanunu's release was not part of the original sentence. In addition at the pace of scientific and technological progress, whatever he knew 18 years ago is no longer valid. Please, Mr. Sharon don't turn a traitor into a martyr and a hero.
Meerkat, Alexandria, VA, USA

There seems to be many nuclear weapons experts in this group. If they truly were experts, they would realize that nuclear technology has not changed that much over 20 years. A nuclear bomb is still a nuclear bomb no matter how old the information. If he has the knowledge, any country who doesn't have that information would love to talk to him. He should have to check-in everyday with someone to make sure his knowledge doesn't get spread. The Israelis are correct in not letting him leave the country.
Jon, MN, USA

As a traitor Israel should have imprisoned him for life. However, he has served the sentence imposed by the Israeli courts and should now be a free man to leave the country when and if he chooses. Otherwise he is still a prisoner.
Carole, UK

Whatever secrets he might have known, they are not that important today. 18 years is enough, he must be allowed to travel if he so wishes.
Steve Atrib, Moedling, Austria

Mordechai Vanunu is a hero to the peoples of the world. He risked everything to inform us all of the proliferation of nuclear weapons in the Middle East. I don't know why Israel continues to punish Mr Vanunu. We all know they possess nuclear weapons.
Wallace Ryan, St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada

I think Mr Vanunu should be allowed to travel for two reasons; firstly he doesn't have anything to disclose now and secondly neither he nor Israelis wanted him in Israel. However, a nuclear secret traitors' usually spend their lives being house arrested and watched by intelligence. It's the same with Pakistani nuclear scientist.
Jasvant Singh, Pakistan

Mr. Vanunu was returned to Israel by force rather than extradition. Therefore Israel had no right to try him, let alone restrict his movements now.
Mark Norman, Dundee, Scotland

No one believes a guy who cheated his own country
Prasad, USA
What would have happened to him if he did the same thing in countries such as Saudi Arabia or Iran? He would have never seen the light. He is lucky to be alive and it is better if he shut up. No one believes a guy who cheated his own country.
Prasad, USA

18 years in prison, he served his time for the crime regardless of what view you take. He is now either a free man or if a threat should go back in jail.

Iraqis, Pakistanis, Saudis, North Koreans anyone with a story to tell about the development of nuclear weapons in their homelands would be welcomed as people looking to avert war and tyranny - whereas if it is against the state of Israel or the US then apparently there are alternate views that we should consider. The reality is there is no other view - he spoke out against what he saw and what the world knows is wrong, he should be applauded and protected by the same powers that would welcome any other whistle-blower.
Jamal, London

If the UK, US or any other Western democracy had arrested an individual who was a threat to its national security, I suspect that the individual would have been imprisoned for life so that his betrayal of his countries' secrets would be locked forever behind prison bars. Israel is a humane country and Vanunu's punishment for his actions was only 18 years behind bars.

Denial of international travel for Vanunu to avoid his causing further damage to his nations' national security is a much more humane punishment than a life in prison. Obviously, in the eyes of today's world, Israel can do no right and it is judged by a standard that is not applied to any other country.
David, Miami, Fl., U.S.A.

I don't think that he would have any new information to disclose
Georgine, Vancouver USA
Am I missing something here? Has he not served his time? I don't think that he would have any new information to disclose after being locked up for 18 years. I would think that Israel would want him gone.
Georgine, Vancouver USA

If it is true that the Israelis regard Mr Vanunu as a traitor, then they should let him leave the country. Their treatment of him seems vindictive. What is his crime - to tell the truth against the wishes of his government?
Chris Boyne, Edinburgh UK

Vanunu is a traitor and a menace to the security of Israel. He should have been convicted to a life in jail. Consequently he should not be allowed to travel. He has declared publicly that he hates his former country and hence he will lie and try to hurt Israel in every way through the media and the enemies of this country. Traitors should not be free.
Gilbert, USA

I think that Mr. Vanunu should be allowed to travel, as he hasn't anything more to reveal. He was in prison for 18 years and I can understand that he doesn't wish to stay in Israel any more. He should be free to go.
Angel Jackson, Brighton, UK

Mr Vanunu was employed by the state of Israel and revealed state secrets to the world's press; if this happened in any country he would be deemed a traitor and at risk of never seeing the "light of day" again, in some countries .His restrictions could be deemed a small price to pay for his freedom!
Graham, Beverley, England

Vanunu hasn't worked in the nuclear industry for almost 20 years - what dangerous secrets can he possibly be harbouring given that the world knows a great deal about the Dimona nuclear plant? His continued draconian treatment can only be explained by the Israeli establishment's continued desire to persecute him. A state that calls itself a democracy should not be treating one of its citizens in this fashion.
Nick Fraser, Jordan

Still a risk after 18 years? Come on! More like because he's a vocal opponent of Israel's behaviour. Israel is continually portraying itself as a western-style, liberal democracy. However, this case, the Barghouti trial, and the barrier verdict all strongly suggest that Israel's judiciary are no more independent than those of its neighbours.
Jon E, France

If this man is guilty of gross acts of betrayal then he is a continuing threat to security
Mark H, UK
A nation that faces a security threat such as that in Israel cannot afford to be totally democratic. We all know that terrorist thrive within the safe haven of a democracy. It gives them freedom to murder. If this man is guilty of gross acts of betrayal then he is a continuing threat to security. He made his bed. Now he must lie in it.
Mark H, UK

After 18 years Israelis nuclear capabilities have changed drastically. What Vanunu knew 18 years ago can no longer be considered a threat today. They should let him go so that he can reorganise his life in a free environment.
Ochieng, Entebbe, Uganda

Of course he should be allowed to leave; he has served his sentence.
Alex, London

This man has already spent 18 years in prison, as I understand it predominantly in solitary confinement. He has now been ostensibly released from prison but has none of the rights of a free person and may as well still be serving time. The Israeli government has clearly shown that it has no respect for human rights, even of its own people, and constantly uses self-defence as its excuse for acting in any way it sees fit.
Paul Nolan, London, UK

Of course he should be allowed to leave the country, just another example of Israel's total disregard of Human rights. Guy has done his time let him go now, period!!
Sager Khan, Alexandria, USA

Vanunu is a convicted traitor, and he is complaining about being forced to live as a free citizen after doing his time? Maybe he should have committed treason somewhere like Thailand or Saudi Arabia and see how well they would treat him.
Gil Eliav, London, UK

He's done his time and Israel should let go of him
Topi Lappalainen, Helsinki, Finland
Eighteen years is a very long time in prison. He probably just wants to start afresh in another country. He's done his time and Israel should let go of him. After all this time, his information about the nuclear programme can't be up to date anymore. Let bygones be bygones.
Topi Lappalainen, Helsinki, Finland

Yet another example of arrogance and disregard for human rights by Sharon and his government. But then again, it appears as though Israel is the only country that can get away with serious breaches of international law with the full blessing of the US and to some extent the UK, what a pity.
Jonathan Chibafa, Surrey, England

Why not ask the same question about all other traitors who sell their country for money? In China or Russia he would have got a bullet in the head, we need not bother to mention would happen in say Iran or Syria. In Israel he breaks terms of release and he has not even been put back in to jail, he is doing just fine.
Rae Emmerson, Katoomba, Australia

He was tried and found guilty of breaking the law. If he were an American, I don't think he would be out of jail yet and he certainly would not be allowed to travel overseas. The man is on appropriately on probation as a direct result of his actions. Would you even be asking this question if it were any other country than Israel?
Lisa Starrfield, Gregory, USA

After spending 18 years in solitary confinement, what possible harm could Mr. Vanunu do, except tell the truth! Which after all those years could be very damaging for the Israeli & US governments.
Bob Beadman, Hong Kong

He served his sentence fully and should now be free to do what he pleases. The high court decision to stop his free movement only highlights Israel's undemocratic side.
Kern, Napoli

Vanunu ordered to stay in Israel
26 Jul 04  |  Middle East
Vanunu 'wanted to avert holocaust'
29 May 04  |  Middle East
Defiant Vanunu celebrates freedom
21 Apr 04  |  Middle East
Vanunu speaks: Key quotes
21 Apr 04  |  Middle East
Vanunu: Hero or villain?
26 Apr 04  |  Have Your Say
Vanunu: Israel's nuclear telltale
20 Apr 04  |  Middle East
Israel's nuclear programme
22 Dec 03  |  Middle East

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | World | UK | England | Northern Ireland | Scotland | Wales | Politics
Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health | Education
Have Your Say | Magazine | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific