by Eric Margolis
Israel is developing a biological `ethnic bomb' that kills Arabs, but leaves Jews unharmed. So claimed the respected London Sunday Times on 15 November, citing Israeli military and western intelligence sources.
In 1986, the Times broke the story of Israel's covert nuclear weapons arsenal, based on evidence supplied by an Israeli nuclear technician, Mordechai Vanunu, who was subsequently kidnapped from Rome by Israeli agents. Vanunu is currently serving 18 years solitary confinement in Israel.
Numerous reliable sources assert Israeli scientists at super-secret Nes Ziona bio-warfare laboratory near Tel Aviv are attempting to engineer deadly micro-organisms that only attack DNA within the cells of victims with distinctive Arab genes. Some leftwing Israeli parliamentarians have accused the government of `carrying on the work of Dr Mengele,' the notorious Nazi geneticist.
At least one of Israel's world-renowned scientific institutes is also said to be deeply involved in the biowarfare project. Nes Ziona roduces a wide range of chemical and biological weapons: it is reportedly larger than all Arab and Iranian biowarfare laboratories - combined.
Embarrassingly for Israel and the US, Dutch authorities recently revealed an Israeli cargo plane that crashed in Amsterdam in 1992 was secretly carrying precursor chemicals for the deadly nerve gas, Sarin. The chemicals, supplied by a US company, with full US government export approval, were consigned to Nes Ziona.
A 1993 report by Russian intelligence said Israel began producing chemical weapons in the mid-1960's, had a very large stockpile, and was conducting advanced research into `physiologically active substances.'
Israel's government strongly denies accusations it is making a `gene bomb,' insisting they are disinformation planted by Arab sources to justify Iraq's biowarfare program. Many scientists say such a weapon is impossible - a fiction right out of Fu Manchu. However, Porton Down, Britain's biowarfare centre, admits genetic-specific weapons are theoretically possible.
South Africa's Truth Commission revealed the apartheid government conducted extensive efforts in mid 1980 to produce a `pigmentation' bio-weapon that would kill blacks, but not whites. South Africa's director of biowarfare stated his team had been unable to develop a weapon.
I learned of this project while in South Africa in 1988.It was referred to as a `Kafir buster,' and designed for use in urban warfare, primarily against mobs of uncontrollable rioters. My sources say South Africa was much closer than admitted to developing an `ethnic bullet.' This technology, claim a number of sources, was passed on or sold to Israel. Former allies South Africa and Israel also extensively shared nuclear technology.
Why would Israel need bioweapons? Israelis say to counter Iraq's small, but still worrying, biowar capability. But Israel's huge nuclear arsenal adequately deters any potential Iraqi attack. It's very hard for me to believe little Dr Mengele's at Nes Ziona are developing fiendish weapon to `cleanse' the region of Arabs. Besides, Arabs are a genetic hodgepodge, lacking uniform DNA. Many Sephardic Jews and Arabs are genetically similar.
A selective `ethnic bomb' would only be useful at close quarters. Israel cannot employ its tactical nuclear weapons - nor advanced neutron bombs - near its own borders. Even nuclear strikes on Damascus, Golan, Beirut, or Cairo would carry clouds of radioactive dust over Israel. Short of mass extermination, targeted genetic weapons would only make sense used against the West Bank and Gaza, in Jordan, or to open gaps in echeloned Syrian fortified lines before Damascus.
US intelligence says Russia is also working on targeted bioweapons, likely aimed at Chinese, as well as newly engineered germs resistant to all known drugs. Many Russian scientists have emigrated to Israel, already a world leader in biology, bringing a cornucopia of biowarfare secrets with them.
Let's hope these reports are false. Ethnically targeted bioweapons are truly terrifying - and, if they spread, a excellent way to speed the human race to extinction. In fact, these `smart germs' make nuclear weapons look downright medieval.
[Eric Margolis is a syndicated foreign affairs columnist and broadcaster based in Toronto, Canada.]
Copyright © 1998 Eric Margolis - All Rights Reserved