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Israel's Bio Weapons - MER FlashBack


   "Israeli scientists have used some of the
   South African research in trying to
   develop an "ethnic bullet" against Arabs."

MER - Washington - 15 Nov 1998:

While the U.S./Israeli approach to bombing the Arab Middle East into
submission takes on new dimensions previously unthinkable, the level of
hypocrisy and duplicity continues to rise in tandem.

In recent years credible reports not only about Israel's huge nuclear
weapons program, including neutron people-killer bombs, but also about
major chemical and biological weapons programs, have been coming into
public view.

Now another major development is seeping out. To many it may at first
sound like a hoax, but this shocking story is from today's THE SUNDAY
TIMES, the same newspaper that in the 1980s broke into the open the
details of Israel's nuclear weapons program:


                    by Uzi Mahnaimi and Marie Colvin

ISRAEL is working on a biological weapon that would harm Arabs but not
Jews, according to Israeli military and westernintelligence sources. The
weapon, targeting victims by ethnic origin, is seen as Israel's response to
Iraq's threat of chemical and biological attacks.

Yesterday Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi leader, backed away from the brink
of war and agreed to resume co-operation with the inspection teams
seeking his suspected chemical and biological weapons plants.

Kofi Annan, the United Nation secretary-general, said he believed Iraq had
met UN requirements. As Britain and America stood by to bomb Saddam,
however, Tony Blair's office said compliance must be unconditional.

The White House, which is threatening Iraq with the biggest onslaught
since the Gulf war, said President Bill Clinton's advisers were assessing
whether Iraq's offer was adequate.  The Pentagon is ready to bomb within

Last week Downing Street warned Labour MPs that Saddam could be
only weeks away from completing the construction of offensive biological
weapons mounted on Scud missiles. Israel was hit by Scuds during the
Gulf war and fears it would be the prime target.

In developing their "ethno-bomb", Israeli scientists are tryingto exploit
medical advances by identifying distinctive genescarried by some Arabs,
then create a genetically modifiedbacterium or virus.

The intention is to use the ability of viruses and certainbacteria to alter
the DNA inside their host's living cells. The scientists are trying to
engineer deadly micro-organisms thatattack only those bearing the
distinctive genes.

The programme is based at the biological institute in Nes Tziyona, the
main research facility for Israel's clandestine arsenal of chemical and
biological weapons.

A scientist there said the task was hugely complicated because both
Arabs and Jews are of semitic origin. But headded: "They have, however,
succeeded in pinpointing aparticular characteristic in the genetic profile of
certain Arab communities, particularly the Iraqi people." The disease
could be spread by spraying the organisms into the air or putting them in
water supplies.

The research mirrors biological studies conducted by South African
scientists during the apartheid era and revealed intestimony before the
truth and reconciliation commission.

The idea of a Jewish state conducting such research has already
provoked outrage in some quarters because of parallels with the genetic
experiments of Dr Josef Mengele, the Nazi scientist at Auschwitz.

Dedi Zucker, a member of knesset, the Israeli parliament,denounced the
research yesterday. "Morally, based on our history, and our tradition and
our experience, such a weapon is monstrous and should be denied," he

Some experts said that although the concept of an ethnically targeted
weapon was feasible, the practical aspects of creating one were enormous.

Dr Daan Goosen, head of a South African chemical and biological warfare
plant, said his team was ordered in the 1980s to develop a "pigmentation
weapon" to target only black people. He said the team discussed
spreading a disease in beer, maize or even vaccinations but never
managed tod evelop one.

However, a confidential Pentagon report warned last year that biological
agents could be genetically engineered to produce new lethal weapons.
William Cohen, the American defence secretary, revealed that he had
received reports of countries working to create "certain types of pathogens
thatwould be ethnic-specific". A senior western intelligence source
confirmed last week that Israel was one of the countries Cohen had in mind.

The "ethno-bomb" claims have been given further credence in Foreign
Report, a Jane's publication that closely monitors security and defence
matters. It reports unnamed South African sources as saying Israeli
scientists have used some of the South African research in trying to
develop an "ethnic bullet" against Arabs.

It also says Israelis discovered aspects of the Arab genetic make-up by
researching on "Jews of Arab origin, especiallyIraqis".

The British Medical Association has become so concerned about the
lethal potential of genetically based biological weapons that it has opened
an investigation, which is due to report in January.

Dr Vivienne Nathanson, who organised the research, said: "With an
ethnically targeted weapon, you could even hit groups within a population.
The history of warfare, in which many conflicts have an ethnic factor,
shows us how dangerous this could be."

Porton Down, Britain's biological defence establishment, said last week
that such weapons were theoretically possible. "We have reached a point
now where there is an obvious need for an international convention to
control biological weapons," said a spokesman.

Additional reporting: Matthew Campbell and Hugh McManners

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