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'Waiting for and Remembering Liberty'Eileen Fleming Salem-News.com
Fleming draws a gossamer, tenuous analogy between Vanunu and a certain historical figure—Jesus Christ. It may not be as farfetched as some would think.
Palestine solidarity activist and writer Eileen Fleming has written a new book entitled Vanunu’s Wait for Liberty: Remembering the USS Liberty and My Life as a Candidate of Conscience for US House 2012.
It’s a long title for a short book (only 99 pages), but there is much here that Americans would do well to sit up and take notice of. We get an interesting look at US politics from a rather intriguing perspective—that of a congressional candidate who had no realistic expectations of winning, and who (probably for that very reason) was unafraid to speak a number of hard, cold truths on the campaign trail—and I’ll get to that in a moment.
This is not the first time Fleming has written on Israeli nuclear whistle blower Mordechai Vanunu. She has authored numerous articles on him that have been published on the Internet, as well as covered his case in one of her previous books, Beyond Nuclear: Mordechai Vanunu’s Freedom of Speech Trial and My Life as a Muckraker: 2005-2010.
But here she discusses what led her to become so heavily immersed in, some might even say preoccupied with, his cause, confessing that at one point she began to think of him as suffering an “ongoing crucifixion.”
And yes, perhaps without deliberately doing so, she draws a gossamer, tenuous analogy between Vanunu and a certain historical figure—Jesus Christ. It may not be as farfetched as some would think.
Just as Christ suffered the vindictiveness of the Jerusalem Sanhedrin, so has Vanunu experienced the extreme vindictiveness of the Israeli government.
Just to briefly recap: in 1986 Vanunu leaked details of Israel’s nuclear weapons program, including photos, to a British newspaper. Later that year he was kidnapped in Rome, brought back to Israel, made to stand trial, and sentenced to 18 years in prison, most of it spent in solitary confinement. And even since his release from prison in 2004, the Israeli government has imposed severe restrictions on his freedom, including a refusal to allow him to leave the country or to speak with the international media. So for the past nearly 27 years, Vanunu has, in a manner of speaking, endured an “ongoing crucifixion”—all for divulging the truth to the world about Israel’s nuclear weapons program. And in his public statements, the whistle blower has made it clear that he regards nuclear weapons, and perhaps even more specifically Israel’s possession of them, as the scourge of the world. As he told the Jerusalem court that tried him:
As justification for its refusal, still, to allow Vanunu to leave the country, the Israeli government cites concerns he will reveal more state secrets—this despite the fact that well over a quarter of a century has passed since the whistle blower last set foot in the country’s Dimona Nuclear facility. Vanunu has publicly insisted he has no further secrets, that everything he knew he handed over to the British newspaper in 1986, and that his desire now is to sever his ties to the adorable little Middle East state with which America has such an “unbreakable bond.”
He has even applied for a formal revocation of his Israeli citizenship—but all to no avail. And as I said above, there is a certain amount of petty vindictiveness on display here for anyone who cares to see it.
But it isn’t his nuclear whistle-blowing alone that has aroused ire.
Vanunu also became a convert to Christianity, which doubtless made him into even further an object of contempt within the Jewish state—and this too is addressed in Fleming’s book.
A few weeks before being kidnapped by the Mossad in September 1986, Vanunu was baptized at a social justice Episcopal Church in Sydney, Australia. Within minutes of emerging from his windowless tomb sized cell on April 21, 2004, Vanunu announced, “I am not harming Israel. I am not interested in Israel. I want to tell you something very important. I suffered here 18 years because I am a Christian, because I was baptized into Christianity. If I was a Jew I wouldn’t have all this suffering here in isolation for 18 years. Only because I was a Christian man.”
As its lengthy title would imply, the book’s scope is by no means limited to the topic of Israel’s unrepentant hostage. In fact, its shortness notwithstanding, quite a bit of ground is covered here.
The list includes a meeting Fleming had with career journalist Helen Thomas, as well as the writings of famous Americans like Thomas Paine and Martin Luther King, but for me the most engaging parts are the sections dealing with Fleming’s 2012 run for Congress. For it is here we find, related in the first-person narrative, some quite interesting anecdotes from the campaign trail as the author made a bid for a seat in the US House of Representatives from Florida’s fifth congressional district.
Though she lives in a conservative district, Fleming describes herself as politically liberal, and says that was one reason she decided to make the run.
When the ABC affiliate in Orlando offered three minutes of air time to each candidate, Fleming used hers to announce she would support a House Resolution establishing every June 8th as “USS Liberty Remembrance Day,” and challenged her opponents to endorse the measure. None did.
The Liberty story in fact became one of Fleming’s chief campaign issues (another was legalizing marijuana), and she relates the story of an encounter with Liberty survivor Phillip F. Tourney when the two spoke at a conference in Irvine, California in 2007. It was the first time she had ever met a survivor of the 1967 Israeli attack on the US Naval vessel, and the former Petty Officer, who has also served as president of the USS Liberty Veterans Association, is quoted extensively in the book:
Tourney also said, “Thirty four Americans were brutally slaughtered, 172 wounded (including himself) when Israel deliberately attacked America’s virtually unarmed Liberty in international waters, knowing full well our identity, in an assault that lasted as long as the attack on Pearl Harbor. The government of Israel put a knife in the back of America! The Israelis began the attack with unmarked jet fighters using rockets, cannons, and napalm on our unprotected ship. Three motor torpedo boats fired six torpedoes at us, one hitting its mark—midship’s on the starboard side, instantly blowing to bits 25 of America’s finest young men.
“The American government colluded with Israel in the treasonous cover-up of the attack…and the survivors were ordered to remain silent under threat of court martial, imprisonment or worse. The U.S. government has never challenged the obviously phony Israeli excuse of ‘mistaken identity’ nor have they attempted to expose the dishonorable cover up that continues to date. Truth and America’s honor were ignominiously sacrificed to provide cover for Israel’s transparent lies and despicable act of perfidy.”
For Fleming it was a wakeup call, much as her 2005 trip to Occupied Palestine had been, and she has since gone on to meet other survivors of the attack, including Richard F. Keipfer, who was the ship’s doctor at the time, and who she also quotes in the book:
"Fifteen minutes into the attack, while I was operating on a sailor and trying to control his bleeding, I was hit with eleven pieces of shrapnel into my abdomen. A rocket struck above the ceiling of sick bay and the light over my head and the operating table protected me; both acted as a life saver for me, otherwise I would have gotten hit in my shoulders, side and back. I was knocked against a wall and waves of red and white pain throbbed through me.
"I knew I had to finish with the guy on the table—if I walked away, I wouldn’t have returned. All I could think about was keeping limbs attached to sailors. From the moment the attack began, I felt a greater presence within me that was physically holding me up. I thought it was the spirit of all the navy docs who had gone before me. I felt physically held up by my invisible assistants and with all that adrenalin coursing through me and some carefully titrated morphine that I self-injected, I was able to do what I did."
Another survivor quoted is Warren D. Heaney, who worked in the ship’s kitchen:
"I saw the faces of the men every day as they came through my chow line. Now they are dead and gone, but not forgotten. To this day the United States and Israel wish the Liberty veterans would just go away."
So what would it be like trying to interject all this into a political campaign in a nation with a controlled media such as the US?
Well, not easy, as one might expect, and in what may well be one of the most depressing anecdotes in the book (depressing for what it reveals about the brainwashed state of Americans) Fleming tells of a raucous encounter with Christian Zionists at a candidates’ “Eat and Greet” event in Sanford, Florida.
The event was held in the heat of the campaign, June 11, 2012—coincidentally three days after the 45th anniversary of the USS Liberty attack:
Also discussed is an event at which the author suddenly found herself in the same room with three prominent US Senators, all Republicans—Mike Lee of Utah, Jim DeMint of South Carolina, and Rand Paul of Kentucky—and here again she brought up the subject of the USS Liberty: “Senator Lee maintained silence, Senator Paul gave me what I suppose was his ‘politically correct’ advice that I should not focus on old news, and Senator DeMint admitted he was stumped and couldn’t respond.”
Obviously a fan of John Lennon, Fleming invokes the former Beatle’s song, “Imagine,” a number of times in the book (including on the front cover)—although I’m not sure why. Yes, it’s a nice song, expresses some noble sentiments, etc., although so far as I’m aware, Lennon never in his lifetime said anything publicly about the occupation of Palestine.
Which brings me to a point I’ve made before, and will do so again here, and that is that the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is probably THE most crucial issue facing the world today.
It is a conflict that literally threatens to engulf the entire world in war, but yet is one on which rock stars and personae galore—who usually have no trouble speaking out on the environment, world hunger, animal rights, and a host of other issues—have maintained a deafening silence.
Why? Why is it that artists like Roger Waters are the exception rather than the rule? Could it have something to do with fear and intimidation? Fear of retribution? Intimidation brought on by Jewish power and predominance in the music industry?—not unlike, say, that wielded in Hollywood and the media?
Answering that question would make an interesting book in its own right, one well worth researching and writing, I would guess. This is not the book Fleming gives us here.
But what she does give us is a bit of contemporary Americana, if you will, an accumulation of facts, some of which I was not previously aware of—regarding the USS Liberty, the Vanunu case, and more. All of this is presented with the story of her 2012 congressional campaign as a backdrop, and all of it told from the perspective of one deeply troubled about her country and its current direction—its thrall to a foreign apartheid government and to that government’s domestic lobby operating here at home. As she comments:
Smith explained how America’s Middle East policy has been formulated and thrives due to the dearth of relevant reporting on AIPAC’s activities—essentially because the old Fourth Estate has acted more like Sayanim (VOLUNTEERS) for Zionism than muckrakers—meaning investigative journalists!
You may not agree with everything you read in Fleming’s book, but the term “Israel firster,” as it applies to certain members of Congress, is obviously becoming more and more applicable with each passing year and with each new $3 billion handout (the current annual level of US aid to Israel) from the US Treasury. Why, when the country is $15 trillion in debt—and when Americans are facing cuts in Medicare, Social Security, public education, and other vital programs—do these handouts continue?
The fact that they do is something every American should be angry about.
Fleming ended up garnering 7,837 votes in the general election, held November 6, 2012, and as she comments, she was “surprised and heart warmed” at the response. However, she also remarks, “What I learned on the campaign trail is that I will never be a politician, but I will continue to write with hope to provoke change for the better in the political realm.”
And that is what she does in this book.
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