22/02/2008 Jewish Telegraph

GLASGOW City Council has voted in favour of a motion supporting Israeli scientist Mordechai Vanunu, convicted in 1988 of publishing state secrets on Israel's nuclear industry.

The motion, debated at a Council meeting yesterday (Thursday), was raised by Scottish Green Party councillor Martha Wardrop.

In a one-sided debate, she called for the Council to support ongoing campaigns for the release of Vanunu from detention, thus allowing him to travel to Scotland, where he is Rector of Glasgow University.

She further called for the Council to work closely with cross-party organisations campaigning for his release and to recognise his role as Rector.
Cllr Wardrop stated that she had been asked to raise the motion by several of her Hillhead constituents.

In seconding the motion, Labour councillor Jim Mackechnie said: "Mordechai Vanunu is being shamefully persecuted and prevented from taking up his position as Glasgow University Rector. If you want to find weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East, you need look no further than Israel.

"Vanunu's human rights are being constantly violated, but he has remained steadfast and resilient. His supporters include the majority of the Scottish Cabinet, the immediate past Moderator of the Church of Scotland and Amnesty International."

Speaking in favour of the motion, Liberal Democrat councillor Dr Christopher Mason stated: "There is a terrible irony and cruelty about what Israel has done to Vanunu.

"The irony is that the Israelis took steps themselves to draw Her Majesty's Government's attention to the fact that they had nuclear weapons.
"After all, how can having nuclear weapons be a deterrent if people don't know you have them? The world was a very different world in 1972 and perhaps Israel felt threatened."

Dr Mason likened Israel's actions in not allowing Vanunu to speak to foreigners to that of countries such as North Korea, Burma and China.
He called upon the Council to write to the President of Israel and urge him to release Vanunu, as continuing to hold him further damaged Israel's reputation.

At no stage in the brief debate, did any of the councillors speak out in favour of Israel or present a more balanced case.

There was no mention of the fact that Vanunu was imprisoned for breaking Israel's Secrets Act rather than acting in the interests of peace.

The fact that he spent 11 years in solitary confinement was spoken about, without stating that it was done for his own protection and that his prison conditions were extremely benign.

Cllr Alex Glass raised an amendment proposing that no action be taken because that would allow everyone the chance to have their say on the motion.

Baillie Cathy McMaster, in seconding the amendment, contended that the wording of the motion would do nothing to enhance the course of peace.

After Cllr Wardrop's summary, in which she said that the motion sought to promote peace and understanding with Israel, the vote was taken and the motion carried, with 39 votes for, 23 against and four abstentions.

The Jewish Telegraph understands from a Labour Party source, that both the leader of the Labour group, Cllr Steven Purcell, who left another meeting to be present, and the Lord Provost, Cllr Robert Winter voted against the motion, along with 20 other Labour councillors and that although the Council is now committed to take action it is unlikely that it will be driven by the Council leaders.