Saturday, April 19, 2003
The normally reasonable Aziz Poonawalla retreads an old, absurd, and appallingly heinous rumor of Israel building a "genetic bomb" -- i.e., a genetically coded bacterium or virus that would kill Arabs, but leave Jews unharmed. The idea is imbecilic, a cross between a B-grade action movie, a Baathist opium den fantasy, and a bad Star Trek episode. Nonetheless, seemingly intelligent people seem to be giving it credence, which simply astounds me.

It's a pretty old urban legend amongst Arabs, actually, fueled by the large amount of genetic research that Israeli scientists conduct. (For pure scientific reasons, as well as to retrace the links among Jews worldwide.) In reality, no such weapon is possible, if only because of the large amount of intermixing that has gone on between Arabs and Jews who lived amongst Arabs. (Those Jews often look exactly like ordinary Arabs, which is what allows them to carry out undercover operations in the West Bank or other Middle Eastern countries -- and, conversely, what lets Palestinian suicide bombers blend in among Israelis.) Aside from the monstrous intended effects which the Israeli public would never permit, any such genetic bomb would produce the worst "friendly-fire" problem in history.

And then what? The Muslim anti-Israel world is hardly limited to Middle Eastern Arabs. Would Pakistan just sit around? What about Iran (Persians, of course, but also intermixed with Arabs -- and who would therefore also take heavy casualties)? Northern Africa? The huge Arab population of Europe, and the enclaves in America, North and South? Does Mr. Poonawalla honestly believe that the Israelis are insane and suicidal enough to release something this horrific, that would kill people by the hundreds of millions, including millions of citizens of friendly (and powerful) nations? Hello?!

Furthermore, assuming this were possible, this kind of research would be unprecedented, expensive, and require thousands of people. Operational security on it would be nil, and by necessity it would require cataloguing the genetic commonalities of Jews. Everyone see where I'm going with this? What happens when (not if, when) this information falls into the hands of Israel's plentiful remaining enemies? Israel having done much of the legwork, they could easily re-use that research (and modify isolated organisms of Israel's "genetic bomb") to use this weapon on Jews. This would be a much easier task: the number of Jews is much smaller, and their communities tend to be concentrated in a few specific areas (mostly Israel and large American cities). Developing such a weapon would be a pretty quick way for Israel to commit suicide -- twice! -- and that's assuming that other countries just stood still and didn't destroy it for fear of being next.

Besides, why do this? If Israel wanted to destroy Araby, ordinary nuclear weapons are more than sufficient, and much easier to obtain and store. For populations at closer range (e.g. Ramallah or Gaza), ordinary bombs and/or napalm would do the job quite well, without the danger of unintended side effects, or months upon months of global coverage of Arab hospitals with dying children. To ask the question favored by 9/11 conspiracy nuts everywhere, who would benefit from such a weapon? (Note for the permanently outraged: I'm not trying to be flippant here. Just doing my best to point out that Israel doesn't need this weapon to kill Arabs en masse. The idea is absolutely horrific, but I'm not the one generating stories of DNA-based genocide.)

Even Arab sources were debunking this story, back when it appeared four and a half years ago. (And, might I point out, before the start of the Second Intifada. That seems relevant somehow.)

[Ahmed Mostagir, an Egyptian specialist in genetics] explained that 99.5 per cent of the genes of all the peoples of the world are identical. Genetic differences do not exceed one half per cent. But since many Jews have Arab origins, "they too will be victims of this horrible ethnic bullet," he said...
So apparently the Israelis are so bent on killing Arabs, they are willing to lose a large portion of their own population in the process. Uh-huh. Where have we heard this before? Oh, wait, I know! Can you say projection, boys and girls?

So if the story is so absurd, why is it out there, published by the Times? Moshe Zak of the Ma'ariv has some thoughts:

The joke is old, but the publication by a British paper that Israel is developing a "genetic bomb" gives it new resonance. The story is told of a Jew playing poker at a prestigious London club. In the opening round, one of the players, a distinguished lord, declared a "full house". Before the lord could take the pot, the Jew asked to verify the cards. He was told: We do not check each other, but believe the winner's word. After I became aware of this custom, the Jew noted later, my card playing underwent a marked improvement.

After the Israeli correspondent for the British paper was told that Israel does not bother to argue libelous stories created against it by the psychological warfare departments, he was in an analagous situation. He is certain that the Biological Institute at Nes Ziona, which is a secret facility, cannot be dragged into a confrontation over the accuracy of the baseless story, nor can they deny it. He can publish whatever he wants. He is certain that no-one can prove or disprove the things submitted to him by hostile psychological warfare apparatuses, and he mistakenly swallows their output. The Israeli correspondent cannot be charged with libel against the state in which he was born and raised, but he was an innocent victim of a well-oiled apparatus that wanted, precisely at the moment when Iraq is challenging the United States and the United Nations over the development of chemical and biological weapons, to divert the searchlights towards Israel's apparent dangerous biological weapons program...

During the Cold War, the communist disinformation apparatus tended to plant stories of ethnic-based biological weapons in African newspapers. On the eve of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games, the Soviets tried to scare African athletes with stories of a biological weapon developed by the United States in order to injure Africans coming to the games. The story was spread around the world, and there was no-one in the communist apparatus who would point to the absurdity of the charge. After all, the Black population in the United States numbers in the millions, and they have the same genes as the African athletes.

When this trick failed, the Soviets then tried to plant stories that claimed that AIDS was caused by bacteria with which the Americans infected Africans, and that it affects only blacks. Since then, millions of whites have been infected by this disease, and the Cold War between Washington and Moscow has disappeared from the world. Psychological warfare has moved to our region, and it once more bears the guise of a fake biological weapon, this time directed solely against Arabs. And all this in order to ease Saddam's situation when he is pressured by the United Nations over his amassing of biological weapons.
Again, this story is from 1998 -- a nice refresher on how long our "rush to war" with Saddam took. Was the "genetic bomb" story planted by allies of Saddam Hussein? Who knows. But the story itself is obvious bunk, and its appearance in the Times doesn't make it any more credible than the accusations of poisoned wells and blood libels.

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