Israel’s anti-nuclear whistleblower more deserving of NZ citizenship


No self-respecting country sells its passports to rich people who don’t even live there, which is why it was so bad to grant NZ citizenship to the American multi-billionaire Peter Thiel.

Section 9 of the Citizenship Act 1977 does allow for citizenship to be granted in “exceptional circumstances” of a “humanitarian” nature, but this hardly applies to the super-rich Theil.

I am familiar with the Act’s “humanitarian” clause because, when an MP,  I used it in trying to get NZ citizenship for Israel’s anti-nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu  back in 2005.

Vanunu was keen to get New Zealand citizenship so that he could leave Israel, where he was still being persecuted despite being released from jail after serving an 18 year sentence (11 in solitary confinement) for exposing Israel’s nuclear weapons programme. Vanunu’s post-release conditions included no contact with foreigners and a prohibition on leaving the country.

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On 22 March 2005 I sent a letter to the then Foreign Affairs Minister Phil Goff arguing that “it would be very appropriate for New Zealand as a nuclear-free country to grant Mr Vanunu citizenship and give him a New Zealand passport. This humanitarian act would be applauded around the world by those opposed to the Israeli bomb and nuclear proliferation, and who hold Mr Vanunu in high regard for his sacrifice to the anti-nuclear cause.”

Phil Goff replied to me that an “offer of New Zealand citizenship to Mr Vanunu is a somewhat empty political gesture when he is prevented from leaving Israel.” My opinion was that it would be both an important “political gesture” and a practical one. Once Vanunu had NZ citizenship he could renounce his Israeli citizenship, as he wanted to do, and there would be greater pressure on Israel to allow him to leave.

At the time, my efforts on Vanunu’s behalf received significant coverage internationally, on the BBC and in Israeli papers like Haaretz.

That was in 2005. Twelve years on Vanunu is still subject to restrictions on his movements and associations. One 27 January this year he tweeted that he is returning to the Supreme Court to petition for an end to all restrictions so that he can leave Israel.

There have been efforts in other countries, such as Sweden, Norway and Ireland, to obtain a new citizenship for Vanunu. In Norway he has the strongest case because he is now married to a Norwegian university professor, Kristin Joachimsen.   But all the efforts on Vanunu’s behalf have so far failed. Western governments fear offending Israel.

Over the years Vanunu has won a pile of international peace and human rights awards, and in 2004 the students at the University of Glasgow elected him to a three-year terms as their Rector.

New Zealand would be honoured to have such a brave anti-nuclear campaigner as a citizen. It would be great if a new approach could be made to the New Zealand government on his behalf. Granting Vanunu citizenship would also enhance our international reputation, which has been tarnished by the provision of an NZ passport to Peter Thiel, just because of his wealth. Unlike Peter Thiel, Mordechai Vanunu would actually like to live here.


  1. I find it hard to reconcile granting citizenship to a person wqho has not lived here nor intends to live here. But maybe if we looked into Mr Thiel’s bank accounts, we’d find a billion rea$ons to accomodate him.

    It will be a sad day when NZ becomes the hideaway for the world’s millionaires, billionaires, and assorted despots with ill-gotten gains to be spent lavishly buying citizenship.

    I did not envisage legalisation of prostitution to put the while country up for sale.

  2. That we would grant citizenship to this creepy guy (who, if the media are not telling an alternative truth, has investigated blood transfusions from young people to extend his life) and not to a renowned anti nuclear activist says a lot about what kind of a country we have become.

  3. New Zealand is apparently the fallout centre for the ‘elites’ when the s hits the f:
    Soooo….if you’re one of them all you need is a passport, a chopper, a large boat, half a dozen easey peazy politicians with open wallets who will touch their toes on command, a local dairy and friendly farmer and bob’s your uncle. Come on….New Zealand hasn’t been self-respecting for years – well not since the first ‘elites’ disembarked from the ships and started spreading ‘civilized’ behaviour. And in the elites’ favour, lots of spying technology and extra police to keep them safe in bed.
    (I hear space technology is so advanced that they can just pluck one up out of bed. Wonder what safeguards the ‘elites’ have against this..hmm. Let’s ask Mr Cameron.)

      • New Zealand, by that I mean New Zealanders of European decent have played a major role in creating the migrant crises of an estimated 50 million refugees across the globe and are now moaning and whinging and prophesizing having to deal with a little bit of it. Disgusting

  4. Agree 100% What a pity NZ does not grant people of exceptional ethics citizenship.

    Our government thinks migrants with low skills willing to work long hours at minimum wages in huge numbers is more important and far right billionaires linked to spying.

  5. thanks for writing this Keith.

    We need to rid the world of nuclear weapons before some accident or misunderstanding leads to massive annihilation This cannot be done if we don’t know where nuclear weapons are.
    Vanunu is a hero to peace loving people around the world . He is treated cruelly by the Israelis..hardly surprising.

  6. “No self-respecting country sells its passports to rich people who don’t even live there, which is why it was so bad to grant NZ citizenship to the American multi-billionaire Peter Thiel.”

    Oh, I so agree, Mr Locke, on this one.

    This country though, as I have found out over many years observation now, and self experience, is a sell-out country, sorry to offend those proud of their nation.

    The fact is, New Zealand has been “FOR SALE” since Roger Douglas, Prebble and consorts seized control of the Labour led government, that was voted in in the year 1984.

    The privatisation, outsourcing, selling off and “opening up” agenda started then, billions were made by nasty, selfish dealers, including one John (Not the Baptist) Key, who was then a currency trader, exploiting the free trading of the NZ Dollar.

    Overseas and local opportunists knew how to buy up under priced local, many state owned, operations, to sell them off to the wider world, to overseas interests. Some made billions through this same as some oligarchs did in Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the sell out and privatisation agenda there.

    Here we go awarding special privileges to up themselves self starters or any other ruthless business operators, whose only motivation may be, to buy themselves a safe space on the planet (they ruin), once the shit hits the fan. That is why they all come here, these RICH PRICKS, from all over, and our governments even welcome these self serving “masters” of destruction with open arms.

    Thiel developed services and IT ware used to spy on people. He is one maga rich prick, there as part of the one percent, they say, who were also part of the game that ended in the GFC.

    So Labour gave him PR, sell out Labour that was, and the Nats rewarded him with “citizenship”, for what? What “service” did he do for the nation, I ask? Are we that cheap now, to bend and bow over backwards towards any rich prick, who comes here with a huge cheque book to buy or “donate” stuff?

    We are a nation of prostitutes, that is the truth, for letting this happen, better wake up people, take a stand, repent and take back control of your OWN affairs, independent of such nuts like Trump in the USA and any other people, who have ulterior motives to come here and do things, supposedly to “help” us.

  7. His outdated information is no threat to Israel now .

    he shall not be able to have contacts with foreigners
    his telephone and Internet use shall be monitored
    he shall not enter Internet chat rooms
    he shall not own cellular phones
    he shall not approach or enter embassies and consulates
    he shall not come within 500 meters of any international border crossing
    he shall not visit any port of entry into Israel
    he shall not leave the State of Israel

    This draconian nonsense should be reviled against.

    Why is NZ scared of israel or is it that they effectively control our Govt

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