“This American and Israel’s Nuclear Whistle Blower Vanunu” is the TRUE Story of this middle aged American who realized her childhood dream of being a reporter after a serendipitous encounter in Jerusalem with Israel’s nuclear whistle blower who had been freed from 18 years behind bars under draconian restrictions including he not speak to foreigners.
By Eileen Fleming
“Jamal Khashoggi: What the Arab world needs most is free expression” is the title of the final post by Khashoggi published at The Washington Post, which reported:
I was recently online looking at the 2018 “Freedom in the World” report published by Freedom House and came to a grave realization.There is only one country in the Arab world that has been classified as “free.” That nation is Tunisia. Jordan, Morocco and Kuwait come second, with a classification of “partly free.” The rest of the countries in the Arab world are classified as “not free.”
As a result, Arabs living in these countries are either uninformed or misinformed… There was a time when journalists believed the Internet would liberate information from the censorship and control associated with print media…
My Comment at “Jamal Khashoggi: What the Arab world needs most is free expression” posted on Thursday:
As a result of this American’s first [of eight] trips to both sides of Israel’s Wall the screenplay “This American and Israel’s Nuclear Whistle Blower Vanunu” was written by this writer who became a reporter on 21 June 2005. What follows are a few scenes from the screenplay “This American and Israel’s Nuclear Whistle Blower Vanunu” and the 2005 video interviews with Vanunu, which began this American’s career as a reporter who now dedicates her first screenplay to the life and spirit of Jamal Khashoggi.
EXT. BETHLEHEM HOTEL – DAY [EARLY AM on 21 JUNE 2005]
THIS AMERICAN is talking with a sweet-faced woman. Her head is covered with a scarf and she is wearing a long sleeve dress that reaches her ankles.
THIS AMERICAN: Yeah so even though I have not yet met him it sure feels like I know him from reading him –
SWEET FACED WOMAN: What did you say his name is?
THIS AMERICAN: Jerry Levin and back in the 1980’s he was CNN’s Mid East Bureau Chief based in Lebanon. Hezbollah kidnapped him and after nearly a year he miraculously escapes on a Christmas Eve —
They both notice a fast walking late 60-ish looking wiry man sprouting bilateral hearing aids and a red baseball cap imprinted with “CPT” atop a full head of lightly graying hair approaching them. His red t-shirt is imprinted with black letters that read: “CHRISTIAN PEACEMAKERS TEAM”.
THIS AMERICAN (CONT’D): That has got to be Jerry –
JERRY LEVIN: Levin! Yes I am Jerry Levin and you must be that American wanting to see Hebron –
THIS AMERICAN: Yes I am and thanks again for this opportunity.
JERRY LEVIN: See how you feel after your experience.
They bid the WOMAN goodbye and walk hurriedly up the hill to a jumbo sized vintage WW II army jeep filling with people…
JERRY LEVIN: Hop on and make your way to the very back.
LEVIN pays the driver in shekels as she stumbles to the last row and last two seats. Arabic chatter and the noisy engine make it impossible to converse as they drive over the dusty bumpy rocky roads to Hebron. Their jeep stops in the midst of a crowd of other old vehicles with people pouring out and walking in different directions speaking in Arabic.
She and LEVIN head towards a small open market and onto a checkpoint where a cluster of Israeli soldiers are checking ID and they join the long queue.
JERRY LEVIN: Most of the soldiers don’t like the CPTs. Whenever they won’t let us through we just go another way, and eventually we get where we want to go. Her passport is finally inspected and she walks away hearing SOLDIERS say Have a nice day. LEVIN leads her through a convoluted path to a narrow stone street. Ancient stone buildings on both sides are connected overhead by a thick netting heavy with rocks, shovels, electronic equipment, furniture, and other debris.
THIS AMERICAN: What the fuck is this about?
LEVIN chuckles then replies: It gets cleaned out about every year or so. Come back in a few months, and this netting will be much closer to your head. The settlers just throw whatever they want onto the netting. They do what ever they want and get away with everything.
THIS AMERICAN: This stone street has been here for centuries. One side all Israeli, the other Palestinian. Is their only connection to the other this deeply sagging netting above my head? Will I be underneath it when it gives way?
LEVIN laughs. She is nauseous.
JERRY LEVIN: Sometimes the settlers curse and stone us. It keeps it interesting.
They walk through a Palestinian street bazaar where LEVIN encourages her to buy something while Arabic music plays. She searches until she finds a group of women selling scarves and wallet sized bags embroidered “WOMEN CAN DO ANYTHING”. She buys a dozen of the bags and stuffs them in her backpack…
EXT. DESERTED HEBRON NEIGHBORHOOD – DAY
LEVIN leads her in silence past empty Palestinian homes with graffiti. They reach one marked “GAS THE ARABS” and stop.
THIS AMERICAN: I don’t understand it. How can people whose families may have gassed want anyone else to be?
JERRY LEVIN: Here come a couple of settlers, ask them.
Up the road two young Orthodox Jews walk towards them.
THIS AMERICAN: Where do you think they are from?
JERRY LEVIN: Brooklyn.
THIS AMERICAN: This is hell on earth.
JERRY LEVIN: You haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen Gaza.
THIS AMERICAN: I am New York…have got to get out of this place…
JERRY LEVIN: Let’s go. You look sick.
THIS AMERICAN: I am. Sick at heart.
EXT. BETHLEHEM – DAY
LEVIN and THIS AMERICAN walk up the hill to the Checkpoint and TERMINAL that divides Bethlehem from Jerusalem. The thirty foot high wall is filled with colorful graffiti and artwork. As they near the guard checking the ID for the walking traffic who will funnel through the terminal she erupts:
THIS AMERICAN: This feeling of oppression is visceral…this situation is untenable… and so is Vanunu’s. You’re pretty much the only source of information I have read about him….Except for a TV documentary I caught on the History Channel, just before Easter. It was titled “Sexpionage” all about Russian female spies and one from the Mossad. They flashed a photo of a heavily bearded unkempt Vanunu as Shimon Peres claimed Israel will not be the first to introduce nuclear weapons in the Middle East…. If it hadn’t been for your reports, I would not have known Vanunu was released from jail last April.
JERRY LEVIN: He’s been arrested three times since —
THIS AMERICAN: I remember reading your report last November about Vanunu having his morning coffee when thirty armed officers stormed into Saint Georges panicking the pilgrims.
JERRY LEVIN: Mordechai’s confiscated computer and letters have still not been returned. You know I haven’t spoken with Mordechai in a few months but I can give you his cell number. He appreciates being treated to dinner or a beer.
LEVIN scribbles the number on a pad he pulls from his back pocket. She takes it and sticks it down a jean pocket. They say goodbye and she enters the Terminal…
EXT. AMBASSADOR HOTEL GARDEN RESTAURANT – NIGHT
Hundreds of people stand or sit around large round tables, live Arabic music plays, platters of food are being served. At a corner table, VANUNU, DR. DIAB, Fatiha, ARTIE and THIS AMERICAN sit among seven others who softly converse among themselves as bowls of hummus, bobaganoosh, zucchini salad, and baskets of pita bread are passed around the table. THIS AMERICAN receives the food from ARTIE and immediately passes it over to VANUNU who sits on her other side. VANUNU fills his plate and eats appearing oblivious to all conversation.
THIS AMERICAN: No way can I eat a bite after my day in Hebron but I do need to talk about it… And then we walk through what had been a Palestinian neighborhood but the homes were all empty except for the graffiti that read: “GAS THE ARABS- JDL”. Maybe because I am a granddaughter of a German Jew it hit me like a left to the liver… I just cannot get that image out of my head…
Platters of lamb, shish-kebobs and bowls of potatoes arrive at the table.
ARTIE: Look if Vanunu is going to video his message to America we need to get rolling as soon as he is finished eating…
INT. ARTIE’S HOTEL ROOM – NIGHT
The door is held open with packed luggage. The room is cluttered with camera equipment. VANUNU sits in a chair in front of the open balcony. Arabic music from the party below is heard. ARTIE looking through his camera, shuts it off and stands.
THIS AMERICAN: Thank you Vanunu for that information, but I already knew that much from my online research. Artie, please sit down, turn that camera back on and let me ask Vanunu two questions that are not on the Internet.
ARTIE nods, sits and turns his camera on VANUNU who smiles broadly.
THIS AMERICAN: All I want to ask Vanunu is what part did your Christian faith play in your decision to expose Israel’s nuclear weapons?
VANUNU stops smiling, seriously considers the question and replies:
EXT. AMERICAN COLONY GARDEN RESTAURANT – DAY
VANUNU sits in a far corner of the garden that is crowded with diners. He stares at his laptop and a cup of tea and two cookies are also on the table. She scans the room and slowly walks around. She does not see VANUNU and becomes perturbed that many diners are looking directly at her. She reaches VANUNU’s table, sits down and continues to scan the room. He ignores her until she breaks the long silence.
THIS AMERICAN: Everywhere I look, someone is looking back at me–
VANUNU: There are spies everywhere. Israel hires Palestinians to follow me around. We may get arrested.
THIS AMERICAN: OK so let’s get this show going especially as my red eye flies tonight.
VANUNU closes his laptop, folds his hands on the table and exhales with a low groan.
VANUNU: I was born in Marrakesh on 13 October 1954. I was second born of the first of seven when the Zionists came…
EXT. AMERICAN COLONY GARDEN RESTAURANT – NIGHT
THIS AMERICAN and VANUNU sit at the same table in the far corner of the garden now empty of diners. On the table are legal pads she has been writing on and empty cups of coffee.
THIS AMERICAN: That is some story —
VANUNU: Did you know that the French were responsible for the actual building of the Dimona?
THIS AMERICAN: No and —
VANUNU: The Germans gave the money; they were feeling guilty for the Holocaust, and tried to pay their way out. Everything inside was written in French, when I was there and the Dimona descended seven floors underground.
THIS AMERICAN: Interesting but I really have got to get —
VANUNU: In 1955, Perez and Guirion met with the French to agree they would get a nuclear reactor if they fought against Egypt to control the Sinai and Suez Canal. That was the war of 1956. Eisenhower demanded that Israel leave the Sinai, but the reactor plant deal continued on —
THIS AMERICAN: Fascinating, but I have like an hour before my ride to the airport arrives —
VANUNU: Did you know President Kennedy tried to stop Israel from building atomic weapons? In 1963, he forced Prime Minister Ben Guirion to admit the Dimona was not a textile plant, as the sign outside proclaimed, but a nuclear plant. The Prime Minister said, ‘The nuclear reactor is only for peace.’ Kennedy insisted on an open internal inspection. He wrote letters demanding that Ben Guirion open up the Dimona for inspection.
THIS AMERICAN: Good God, no I —
VANUNU: When Johnson became president, he made an agreement with Israel that two senators would come every year to inspect. Before the senators would visit, the Israelis would build a wall to block the underground elevators and stairways. From 1963 to ’69, the senators came, but they never knew about the wall that hid the rest of the Dimona from them. Nixon stopped the inspections and agreed to ignore the situation. As a result, Israel increased production. In 1986, there were over two hundred bombs. Today, they may have enough plutonium for ten bombs a year.
THIS AMERICAN: Talk about burying the lead…
VANUNU: Did I tell you Cindy is really Cheryl?
THIS AMERICAN: Good God no and I really have got to get going —
VANUNU: Cheryl Hanin Bentov used her sister- in-law Cindy’s passport and identity to trap Vanunu. Peter tracked her down because a photographer got a picture of my hand on my way to court telling the world I was hijacked from Rome —
THIS AMERICAN: Really fascinating but I do not want to miss my flight to Orlando so I rea —
VANUNU: Peter told me that she lives in Orlando and maybe continues to work for the Mossad…
INT. MIDSIZE CAR – NIGHT
THIS AMERICAN sits in back of the driver as Bob Marley and the Wailers “Get Up, Stand Up” loudly plays. When the song ends she pulls out a dog eared copy of Thomas Merton’s “Thoughts in Solitude” and quietly reads to herself as music fades into silence.
INSERT – BOOK PAGE, WHICH READS:
Oh God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not necessarily mean that I actually am. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will always lead me by the right road, although I may know nothing about it, and I will not FEAR.
Eileen Fleming writes for TADN:
Eileen Fleming produced the UNCENSORED:
“30 Minutes with Vanunu”
Contact her HERE
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