In order to help contextualize The Guardian’s fixation on Mordechai Vanunu, let’s briefly look at the media group’s reports on another Westerner convicted of revealing classified nuclear secrets.
In February 2001 Robert Philip Hanssen was arrested by the FBI for passing hundreds of classified documents on US nuclear secrets, and other sensitive information, to foreign agents. He pleaded guilty to espionage and was sentenced to life in prison.
In a report at The Guardian (‘FBI’s most damaging spy get’s life sentence‘) on Hanssen’s sentencing in a US Federal Court, he was characterized as “one of the most damaging traitors in US history”.
The article reported, quite matter-of-factly, his life sentence and noted in passing that Hanssen could have received the death penalty under US federal sentencing guidelines. The story quoted Hanssen apologizing for his reckless and traitorous acts during sentencing. Indeed, other brief mentions of Hanssen at The Guardian were mere passing references, none which even hinted that there was anything unjust about his sentence. There certainly weren’t any editorials condemning the U.S. for their harsh treatment of Hanssen, nor anything suggesting he was someone to be admired.
However, when it comes to Israelis convicted of espionage, The Guardian seems to employ an entirely different standard.
Before Mordechai Vanunu left his job as a technician at Israel’s nuclear installation in Dimona in 1985, he stole several rolls of film about the plant, information which he then used to help The Sunday Times publish a story ‘exposing’ Israel’s nuclear weapons program.
Vanunu was convicted of treason and espionage in 1988, and was released after serving 18 years in an Israeli prison. After his release, he exclaimed that he was proud of what he did.
Vanunu is still subject to travel restrictions, as he continues to be considered a serious danger to Israeli security – owing to the fact that he holds additional state secrets he reportedly threatened to reveal. Israeli courts have upheld the legitimacy of the state’s concerns, ruling that Vanunu has “repeatedly violated their injunctions” by maintaining contact with the foreign media.
However, unlike the case of Hanssen, Vanunu’s saga has been the focus of an extraordinary amount of positive coverage at The Guardian.
Indeed, they just published their 78th piece (including reports, op-eds, letters and official editorials) on the Israeli felon, in an April 27th article by their former security editor Richard Norton-Taylor titled ‘Paying a price for blowing the whistle on Israel’s nuclear weapons 30 years on‘.
Tellingly, The Guardian actually comes up third in a Google search of Vanunu.
In a 2004 interview with Amy Goodman, published at the radical anti-Zionist site, CounterPunch, Vanunu accused the Israeli government of “betraying all of humanity and the world, the human beings of all the world.”
So, Vanunu not only lacks any regret for the damage he may have done to the security of his country, but evidenty has accepted extremist narratives suggesting that the Jewish state is some sort of global menace – all of which raises serious questions about The Guardian’s continuing obsession with his cause.