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Last Updated: Monday, 26 April, 2004, 15:24 GMT 16:24 UK
Vanunu: Hero or villain?
Mordechai Vanunu waves as he is escorted outside Shikma Prison
The nuclear technician Mordechai Vanunu has been released from prison in Israel.

Vanunu spent nearly 18 years in prison for revealing details of Israel's clandestine nuclear arms programme.

Supporters welcome his impending release and call him a "hero of peace".

However, the Israeli government has described him as a security threat and has barred him from travelling abroad.

What are your views on Mordechai Vanunu's release?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.


The following comments reflect the balance of the opinion we have received:

Vanunu was trusted with national secrets and gave them away to the press. Israel has committed no crime by building nuclear weapons. He deserved what he got and deserves even more because he is a traitor.
Sean, Tennessee, USA

Double standards yet again by the British media and British MP's. How about balance and include in your reporting that there have been traitors throughout British History, Lord Haw Haw, Burgess and Maclean, Antony Blunt etc etc. Vanunu is simply another in a long line - but in another Democratic Country. Not only a traitor to his Country and people, but to himself - he now denies that he is Jewish and has "seen the light" and converted to Christianity and goes on to declare "that there is no need for a Jewish State - there should be a Palestinian State instead. Tell me, in what other Country would such a traitor be allowed to espouse such views? Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran, Britain - I don't think so !! Why not recognise what a bastion of Western style democracy the State of Israel is that they allow a traitor full rights of freedom of speech without any personal risk to his well being.
Jon Cohen, London England

Just because we agree with his principles doesn't make it right
Daniel, Cambridge, England

Even though Mordechai is undoubtedly brave he spread nuclear secrets to states - treason. Even though he was working upon his principles what is the difference between that and other spies working upon their principles? Just because we agree with his principles doesn't make it right.
Daniel, Cambridge, England

Mr. Vanunu is a hero. He'd taken the risk of being captured to tell the world of Israel's nuclear bombs. Why should they show such animosity towards him? He told the truth, right?
Charlotte Raass, Nuku'alofa, Tonga

He is a hero. Yet despite his huge sacrifice, the international community take it upon themselves to ignore the evidence regarding Israel's nuclear arsenal, while at the same time acting in a hypocritical manner demanding other countries disarm.
Andrew Collingwood, York, UK

Such restrictions only prove that the Israeli government has something to hide, something they don't want the world or their own people to know about. If the Israeli govt stands by its convictions, why should it fear this man's voice?
Praba Madhavan, Jakarta,Indonesia

I recall reading the Sunday Times story on Vananu in 1986 - he was a hero then, and remains one now. I hope he remains safe following his release.
Robert Russo, Vancouver, Canada

I think he is a national traitor who exposed part of his national military might to media; that said I think he has paid enough for his crime it is wrong to see his rights curtailed by the government after spending all these years in jail.
Karl Mourfy, Berkeley

Mordechai is undoubtedly a very brave man, but would you all look at him in the same light if he were a British citizen giving away our military secrets? Something tells me no.
John Mayo, Cardiff, UK

This man informed us of the extent of two-faced politics in the Middle East. How can one have a government bleating about weapons of mass destruction while owning and actively developing hundreds of nuclear warheads? He will now be silenced using British pre-1948 emergency legislation; does the UK not have a moral duty to act?
Simon Redding, Chesterfield, UK

He did the right thing in the wrong way
Wyn Williams, Helsinki
If you work for your country in a sensitive area and you then tell the world about it you are a traitor and guilty of treason and you can't complain if the country involved locks you away for a long time. That said, I believe he was also a brave man and did the right thing in the wrong way.
Wyn Williams, Helsinki, Finland

By revealing what he did, he made the world a bit more secure. From that day governments were more alert to the threat of nuclear weapons in the middle east.
Jan Achterdeur, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

The truth has hurt Israel, but it's been nearly 18 years of hurt for Mordechai and his family. They have been part of this gladiator game. Are there any winners and losers in this, let alone heroes?
Khalil, Luton, UK

Although Mordechai betrayed the Israeli Government, from a global perspective he is a hero. I admire his courage and frankness and fear for his quality of life and safety in the years to come.
Ron Wehrens, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Vanunu has been a hero for countless trendy lefties and/or minor 'celebs' for years, but these types are always on the look out for a cause anyway. The man was and is a traitor; it's as simple as that. He betrayed the security, safety and stability of his country - and a very small, much-attacked, much maligned country at that - by revealing details of weapons programmes that countless other countries have, and we all know it. I would say he got away very lightly with only 18 years in jail.
Steve Payne, Leicester, UK

This man has shown real integrity and he has stood up for his principles. In our world, there are many people with principles but very few people who stand up and defend their principles.
Mark Said, Montreal, Canada

Mordechai Vanunu is an absolute traitor, he attempted to damage Israel's nuclear program which without it Israel does not have any other serious deterrent against those who wish to see the Jewish State gone and to defend itself from the daily threat of being attacked by its surrounding neighbours who have proven time and time again that they wish only to see Israel destroyed. What I do not understand is why is there little world condemnation against Hamas and Islmaic Jihad each time they target innocent Israelis as there is when Israel assassinates a obvious terrorist?
Mordi, Manchester UK

The restrictions placed on Mordechai Vanunu, after having served his sentence, remind me of the way Helen Joseph and thousands of others were treated in South Africa in the bad old apartheid days. If you've served your sentence, no matter what the rights and wrongs of the case, you are free to go under the rule of law.
John Aarsen, Schijndel, The Netherlands

There is a great deal of hypocrisy on this issue
John, UK
There is a great deal of hypocrisy on this issue. Because he told the world about Israel's secrets people think he's a hero, if he'd been British and done the same they'd have accused him of treason.
John, UK

He is a traitor to his country, and his people and got a fair sentence for his treachery.
Roger Morgan Freedlan, Whitwick, England

A man who has suffered immeasurably for the simple crime of standing up for his principals. Israel should be ashamed of what it has done.
Mark Taylor, Codicote, Hertfordshire, UK

Even though Mordechai is undoubtedly brave he spread nuclear secrets to states - treason. Even though he was working upon his principles what is the difference between that and other spies working upon their principles? Just because we agree with his principles doesn't make it right.
Daniel, Cambridge, England

Daniel from Cambridge is wrong. Vanunu did not spread nuclear secrets (e.g. how to build a bomb) - he simply made the world aware of the extent of Israel's secret nuclear weapons capability.
Michael Talyor, England

Israel needs more people like Vanunu in order to show the world who the real threat to peace in the Middle East (and the world). is
Frank, UK

OK, so treason is against the law in Israel and elsewhere. Is kidnapping legal in Israel? What about solitary confinement for nearly half of an 18 year sentence? And what of the US turning a blind eye to Israel's nuclear programme? If this whole shows anything, it is that no laws, domestic or international and no principles of freedom of expression or human rights are too lofty to be sacrificed on the expedience of the US-Israeli 'relationship'.
DC, UK

He has completed his sentence and so paid the price for his "crime". Whether the sentence was too much, and the poor treatment he received are other matters. Let him be fully free, to live his life and to go wherever he wants to go.
Sean, Colchester, UK

Definitely a brave man
Marek Bohemus, Aubais, France
Definitely a brave man. Unfortunately it is doubtful that US will call for disarming of Israel to follow their international "principle" of no nuclear proliferation.
Marek Bohemus, Aubais, France

The petulant claims of a robustly healthy and still vigorous and free-speaking traitor belie his allegations of cruel and harsh treatment. Vanunu has got off lightly.
S David Winegarten, UK

If this man had been treated this way by any other civilised country in the world, there would have been major international outcry and repercussions. Once more it is proven that the Israeli government can do as it wishes without fear of reprisal.
Karl, Bolton, UK

His actions have done nothing for peace
Alan, Manchester

This man is full of self-righteousness, not principles. His actions have done nothing for peace and were more likely to accelerate an arms race. He was disloyal to the State of Israel and fully deserved his punishment.
Alan, Manchester

Mr. Vanunu is a true hero. He has suffered for his actions in a way that most people will never be able to comprehend. He has exposed the hypocrisy behind Israel's WMD - something that the US and the West in general prefers to turn a blind eye to. Mr Vanunu deserves the world's thanks.
Peter Halpin, Hengelo, The Netherlands

Too many people seem to think that the law takes precedence over moral and social obligation. Have we really become that totalitarian? If you see something that is very wrong being done, you have an obligation both morally and as a citizen of a democracy to do something about it, if need be that may involve breaking the law. Vanunu did what any good man with courage would do, he told the truth (we assume) and suffered for it.
Stephen Gascoigne, UK

A truly principled and brave man. He should win the Nobel Peace Prize.
John, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

I agree with Daniel from Cambridge. Vanunu was only imprisoned for 18 years. In the US on the other hand, some spies got the death sentence for similar acts. What he did is treason and the punishment was just.
George, Israel

Whether you agree with this man's actions or not, he is simply a traitor. Anyone who signs the official secrets act and sells information for monetary gain (I presume he didn't do it for free) that can jeopardize state security should receive the maximum penalty according to state law. He should have thought about this before he decided upon his whistle-blowing activities.
David, Ra'anana, Israel

Vanunu on one side gave the opportunity for us to learn about Israel's capacity in military power, and let the Muslim neighbour fear them in return. In my own opinion he is part of the people who promote and encourage terrorism. He is not a hero.
Kenneth Sawyerr, Netherlands

I really cannot judge the man nor Israel's actions on him because the issues are very complex and not clear cut as the media would have us believe! I really don't know and feel lost in the argument.
Ruthuku, Göteborg, Sweden

I found that he is a man of principle, his spirit was never broken
Syed Faisal, Karachi

I have heard his press briefing immediately after his release and I found that he is a man of principle, his spirit was never broken by the harsh treatment meted out to him. Now this is the responsibility of UN to act against Israel's government, end its double standards against Arab and Muslim States, because the US and its allies are committed to make Middle East free from Weapons of Mass Destruction, in the meanwhile Israel is free from such conventions and developing stockpiles of WMD.
Syed Faisal, Karachi, Pakistan

He may have leaked the stories of Israel's nuclear programme but this man believed in his principals and he still believes in them. To me, he is neither a hero nor a traitor, but a man with a strong will. A will that has not been broken. He can keep his head held high, he deserves it.
Cliff Babbs, Hong Kong

If ever the word treason has any meaning, this is a perfect example
Njabulo, Prague

The man should thank his Gods, whichever they are; that he is Israeli - otherwise he would be dead by now, either through the machinations of the state or by sheer force of mob anger. If ever the word treason has any meaning, this is a perfect example.
Njabulo, Prague

Vanunu is a traitor, pure and simple. Any person who betrays their country is the lowest of the low unless that country is a dictatorship, which Israel is not.
Steve Adley, UK

Why all the fuss about Vanunu. When the Rosenbergs sold US nuclear secrets to the USSR they were executed. Therefore he is lucky that there is no death penalty in Israel.
Ralph Phillips, Rishon Le Zion, Israel

He betrayed only those who wanted to secretly and illegally produce weapons to place in the hands of a government with an appalling record of human rights.
Guy Reeves, Rome, Italy

Of course he is a traitor especially in a country which is surrounded by natural enemies.
Munga S George, Dar es Salaam

I support the man. Blind obedience is never a good thing, including that to your country. Call it treason if you will, but I do not consider treason to always be the grave offence it is made out to be. Sometimes it is the honourable thing to do.
Anders, Norway

Vanunu listened to his conscience, and was brave enough to act on it. If only more people listened to their conscience, then peace may actually occur in the Middle East.
John, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Mordechai Vanunu is one of the finest heroes the world has seen. I do hope he gets the Nobel Price. He deserves it for being a spirit of the open mind.
Fritz Hartz, Copenhagen, Denmark.

It's clear that this man has exposed the nuclear capabilities of Israel. The question is what has the rest of the world done about it? Israel is still the only country in the Middle East that has access to nuclear weapons - the big bully in the middle of a school yard of helpless children!
Bernard Mc Grath, Belfast, Northern Ireland

Vanunu is a hero, my hero. He deserves a Nobel Peace Prize.
Rashid, Oman

Hero? If someone had done this in the UK we would not be praising him, we would be punishing him for putting the country's defence under threat. So the Israeli government have a reason to limit his movements.
James K, London

Vanunu is not only a traitor but an anti-Semite
Yossi, Jerusalem

Vanunu is not only a traitor but an anti-Semite. In a recent interview, he called Judaism and Islam retarded religions. He also said Israel doesn't have the right to exist. Everyone who thinks he's so principled, what would you think if one of your citizens spilled state secrets, told you your country had no right to exist, and defamed entire religions?
Yossi, Jerusalem

It takes courage to speak out, especially when knowing of the possible consequences of what one says. I think 18 years in prison are a heavy price to be paid for simply saying the truth and revealing that even Israel had (and has) some serious skeletons hidden in the closet.
Clara, Milan, Italy

No matter the subject, if one reveals professional and national security secrets after he pledged not to do so (as all employees agree upon signing a contract) he's a traitor and deserves to be treated as such. Many countries around the world have nuclear power and keep the details secret. Israel is no different from other nuclear powers and Vanunu is no different from other spies that got caught. Don't fool yourself too much; Vanunu sold Israel's nuclear secrets for money and not for a good cause, as many seem to believe today. In my opinion he should stay in jail.
Takan, Negev Desert, Israel

If an Iraqi scientist had done the same, Sharon would call him a hero
Eric Crabé, Lyon

Vanunu is a hero. Like the scientist in former USSR, this man tried to inform us about Weapon of Mass Destruction. If an Iraqi scientist had done the same, Sharon would call him a hero. Shame on Sharon.
Eric Crabé, Lyon, France

Vanunu is a hero as far as I'm concerned. He showed another dangerous and corrupt side to Israel. Long live principled people!
R Ahmed, UK

He hates his country, religion and even his language
Joe Howard, Cambridge

Vanunu is a man who has tried to do as much damage to his country as possible. He hates his country, religion and even his language. He is a traitor who is rightly reviled by virtually all Israelis.
Joe Howard, Cambridge, UK

May be it is time for the world to hear about the danger of this renegade state from an Israeli citizen.
Idah, Manama, Bahrain

I think Vanunu is a hero. He paid a dear price for what he believed is right. The question of double standards comes again. Why doesn't the US treat Israel like Iran or North Korea when it comes to Weapons of Mass Destruction?
Nabil, Dubai, UAE

Hero or villain, the fact that he has kept his sanity through years of isolation is remarkable. Hero or villain, we can only hope that Abdullah Ocalan does the same.
Fredrik Backlund, Stockholm, Sweden

In many other countries, he would have been punished much more severely
M Jamaluddin, Doha

Credit is due to both sides: To Vanunu for daring to do what he did, and to the Israeli government for freeing him eventually. In many other countries, he would have been punished much more severely.
M Jamaluddin, Doha, Qatar

Why don't the Brits hail Kim Philby as a hero? After all, Kim Philby also did what Vanunu did - sold out his country. If Philby is a traitor, Vanunu is one too. Why do you Europeans show such blatant bias? Treason is treason, whether its done by a Brit or an Israeli.
Vijai, Bangalore, India

He made the public aware of what the US and Europe already knew
Mr M Gazdar, Coventry
Vanunu made a brave decision that few would make. He made the public aware of what the US and Europe already knew. His reward... abandonment by the international community, 18 years in prison and now he is still a prisoner in Israel. If it were 'secrets' about Libya, Iran, Syria, North Korea or any other country on the planet we would have done something. Israel seems to be exempt from everything.
Mr M Gazdar, Coventry

If nobody knows you have a nuclear weapon where's the deterrent? Vanunu did Israel a favour. It's strange though that he felt "compelled" to tell the world after he was made redundant.
Peter, Nottingham

He is one of many who betrayed their country for money. Heroes are not paid dozens of pounds from British newspapers for a secret information.
Dan, Jerusalem, Israel

He'll be considered a real hero by all pacifists in the world! Viva a world without nuclear weapons!
Hannah, Tehran, Iran

If the powers that be have the authority to imprison a man like Vanunu under the conditions within which he suffered, then it speaks volumes about the so-called 'peace process' that governments claim to be committed to. This man is clearly a hero for all who appreciate what true freedom of speech entails.
James, London

If Israel is so democratic, how come the voters of Israel didn't know they had nuclear weapons? Only because Vanunu told them. They should be grateful.
Paul Najman, London, UK

Because of his bravery he has been made a scapegoat
Alain Espinosa, Bogota

Mordechai Vanunu is a hero; he released information for the sake of the world. He wanted to let people know what was really going on - and because of his bravery he has been made a scapegoat by Israel. Israel should open up its nuclear facilities to inspectors.
Alain Espinosa, Bogota, Colombia

Vanunu can be a hero to some people and a traitor for some people. In my opinion he is a traitor of Israel, since he has leaked the country's secrets. Any person leaking the country's secrets is simply a traitor.
Ravi Kumar, Stuttgart, Germany

Does anybody remember Jonathan Pollard? On the one hand Israel was betrayed and now seeks perpetual retribution; on the other hand Israel benefited from an American betrayal and continues to seek absolution. We seem to live in a world that excuses, accepts, ignores our own faults yet seeks vengeance on the faults of others.
Michael Gomez, Sanibel, FL, USA

Vanunu is a hero for people who love peace; on the other hand he is considered a villain and traitor by Israel. But he is surely a brave man.
FM, Kuwait

Regardless of whether Vanunu's actions were fully justified or not, his heroism is demonstrated by his triumph over the years of solitary confinement and cruel revenge the Israeli state has inflicted upon him. A courageous man.
Richard Thanki, London, UK

Mordechai is a traitor and shouldn't have been released. I don't understand how people can say otherwise. If it had been from any other country he would have definitely been seen as a traitor by citizens of that country.
Avital, Israel

In my eyes, and the eyes of the many people I have spoke to, he's a hero.
KF, Gaborone, Botswana

Vanunu is undeniably a hero. He blew the whistle on what was, and remains, a morally repugnant and illegal activity. It is nothing short of a disgrace that this man, subjected to torture during his 18-year ordeal, is precluded from living a normal life after his release. To hail Israel as a working model of democracy betrays a complete lack of objectivity.
Will, Glasgow, Scotland

A hero. It a citizen's duty to reveal the wrongdoings of his country. To keep your mouth shut is t accept to be part of the system.
Marc, Quebec, Canada

In my opinion he is a hero but that is beside the point. The important thing is that he exposed a secret nuclear weapons program being operated by a country in the Middle East and we (the West) sit back and do nothing. Bit of a double standard there. And people wonder why the Arab world hates us...
Charlie McCaig, Shrewsbury, UK

Vanunu should have been kept inside
Sona, India

Vanunu should have been kept inside. They cause more harm outside. Every country has a right to defend itself and I think Israel is a responsible country. It will use its nuclear arsenal if at all justly. If the so called anti-nuclear group has concerns then it should rap the US and Pakistan who have left the so called father of the Islamic bomb scot-free even after revelation with Iran and Korea both in Bush's book as the axis of evil. How come I don't see any of these groups there? Because they know they would be kicked out.
Sona, India

If someone gave up the most guarded secrets of Spain I would feel very happy, the government is supposed to be at my service and should never hide anything from me. Nationalism has no place in a modern world. A country that truly wants peace should have nothing to hide. Countries are an archaic and outdated concept that should be deprecated; their secrets can only be a mean to perpetuate their power and oppression over the inhabitants of this planet. A citizen that releases state secrets is not betraying his country but serving it. It's the government who betrays his citizens when it tries to hide his actions from them.
Uriel, Spain

Claiming that he shouldn't have been convicted is a spit in the face of the rule of law
Alon, Haifa, Israel
Vanunu was put on trial because he acted against laws and regulations of which he was fully aware. Whether you consider him a hero or not, whether you think it is immoral for a state to possess nuclear weapons or not, claiming that he shouldn't have been convicted is a spit in the face of the rule of law. While it may be easy, for some people, to dismiss this argument due to their all-around suspicion in regard to Israel, a responsible, impartial view could not escape it.
Alon, Haifa, Israel

Vanunu told the world what they already knew at the time. A human tragedy as he really believed he had secrets to sell. In any other country he would have been dealt with far more severely. Vanunu, an Israeli immigrant of Moroccan descent welcomed by Israel who gave his family a home, a job and a life will continue to live in Israel despite the ultimate betrayal.
Guy, London, UK

This man is definitely a hero. He has stood by his beliefs and convictions (a concept alien to most politicians) despite suffering cruel Israeli justice. He exposed the hypocrisy of the US which supported a country developing WMDs. He did nothing which endangered Israeli security. He just exposed the double standards in the Middle East.
Nick, Cardiff, UK

He simply confirmed what the world already suspected, that Israel has nuclear weapons
Caroline, USA
Neither. He simply confirmed what the world already suspected, that Israel has nuclear weapons (probably thanks to the US), although they have never admitted the fact. To me, this just highlights the schizophrenic policy on who can and cannot have nuclear weapons. You can have them if you are a responsible country (i.e. "friend"), but if you are against us you may not. Israel should be held accountable to the same standards as other nations.
Caroline, USA

Suppose Saddam really had weapons of mass destruction. Suppose some Iraqi who was entrusted with this secret leaked the info to the Western press. I doubt there would ever be a debate on whether he was a hero or a villain. So what's the difference here? This hypocrisy sickens me!
Felix, Malaysia

Long live Vanunu and all like him. He's a credit to humanity. If I disliked the Israeli government before - its treatment of Mordechai only furthered that dislike. Come to Britain Vanunu - we'll have you.
Kathleen Fournier, London, UK

It is a tribute to the rule of law in Israel that he is now free to continue his treachery
David, Auckland, New Zealand
The man was entrusted with secrets of great importance to the security of the Israeli people, and betrayed them. He is merely a traitor. He cannot even be called anti-nuclear, as he opposed the strike against Saddam's Osirak nuclear reactor. This traitor has rejected his homeland, his people, and his family. It is a tribute to the rule of law in Israel - the only democracy in the Middle East - that he is now free to continue his treachery.
David, Auckland, New Zealand

A hero without a shadow of a doubt.
Bob, Cheltenham, UK

Vanunu hero, Sharon villain! Next question please.
Richard, UK

How can a 'democratic' country stop Vanunu - now a free man - from travelling wherever he likes? It seems Sharon's wall is more like an iron curtain. Maybe we should send some arms inspectors to Israel to look for weapons of mass destruction. Or are there too many to count?
Dan, UK

This man betrayed Israel. He is a traitor. I wonder how people in other countries would feel if one of their citizens gave up their most guarded secrets to the whole world?
Roy Kinston, Melbourne, Australia

Vanunu is similar to Mandela, in that he defied the state when the state was doing something wrong
Shimon, London, England
Vanunu is similar to Mandela, in that he defied the state when the state was doing something wrong. If it wasn't for the complicity of the West, Israel would be accountable for its nuclear weapons, just like every other country in the region. Today, Israel does not really need such a huge arsenal. It only exists to act, not as a deterrent, but as a threat to Israel's neighbours.
Shimon, London, England

Mordechai is a very brave and principled man. The Israeli government should be ashamed of the sentence and now the restrictions imposed
Ian Gray, UK

In my opinion he is a hero.
Hassan Ghanem, Tripoli, Lebanon





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