Israel’s use of biological weapons in 1948

The recent opening of archive material clearly demonstrates that Israel used biological weapons against the Palestinian population back in 1948. Israel to this day does not abide by internationally recognised agreements on the use of such weapons. The US imperialists turn a blind eye to all this, as they have their own “weapons of mass destruction”.

The Palestinian historian Salman Abu-Sitta, has written a very interesting article under the title: "Israel's Dark History revealed", that deals with an unknown episode of the 1948 war. This article proves that the Israeli ruling elite used biological weapons even before the state of Israel was created, under the nose of the British imperialists in the last days of the mandate. The Zionist ruling class of course denies this. However, the shooting of over 4 million exploding bombs on the civilian population during the recent war in Lebanon has revealed the extent of the barbarism of the rulers of the Israeli state and what they are capable of. The inhuman cruelty that was unleashed back in 1948 against the civilian population was first denied but later on revealed as being true by Zionist historian Benni Morris gives credibility to the latest research. The following is a summary of this article.

Poisoning Acre's water supply

Israel’s use of biological weapons in 1948In the wake of Haifa's occupation on 23 April 1948 by the Zionists, under the nose of the British Mandate forces commended by General Stockwell, Acre was attacked. The Zionists besieged the city from the land side, and started showering the population with a hail of mortar bombs day and night. Famous for its historical walls, Acre could stand the siege for some time. The city water supply came from a nearby village, Kabri, about 10kms to the north, through an aqueduct. The Zionists injected typhoid into the aqueduct at some intermediate point which passed through Zionist settlements. [see map]

The story can now be told, thanks to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) files which have become available, 50 years after the event. A series of reports, under the reference G59/1/GC, G3/82, sent by ICRC delegate de Meuron from 6 May to about 19 May 1948, describe the conditions of the city population, struck by a sudden typhoid epidemic, and the efforts to combat it.

Of particular importance are the minutes of an emergency conference that was held at the Lebanese Red Cross Hospital in Acre on 6 May, to deal with the typhoid epidemic. The meeting was attended by Brigadier Beveridge, Chief of British Medical Services and Colonel Bonnet of the British Army, Dr Maclean of the Medical Services, Mr de Meuron, ICRC delegate in addition to other officials of the city. The minutes stated that there were at least 70 known civilian casualties; others may not have been reported. It was determined that the infection was "water borne", not due to crowded or unhygienic conditions as claimed by the Israelis. It was decided that a substitute water supply should come from artesian wells or from the agricultural station, just north of Acre [see map], not from the aqueduct. Water chlorine solution was applied, inoculation of civil population started, movement of civil population was controlled (lest refugees heading north towards Lebanon might carry the typhoid epidemic with them, as intended by the Zionists).

In his other reports, de Meuron mentioned 55 casualties among British soldiers, who were spirited away to Port Said for hospitalisation. General Stockwell arranged for de Meuron to fly on a military plane to Jerusalem to fetch medicine. The British, who left Palestine in the hands of the Jews, did not want another embarrassing incident to delay their departure.

Brigadier Beveridge told de Meuron that this was "the first time this happened in Palestine". This belies the Israeli story, including that of the Israeli historian Benny Morris, that the epidemic was due to "unhygienic conditions" of the refugees. If that was so, how come there was an almost equal number of casualties among British soldiers? Why did such conditions not cause epidemics in such other concentrations of refugees, under far worse conditions, in Jaffa, Lydda, Nazareth and Gaza?

ICRC delegate, de Meuron admired greatly the heroic efforts of the Arab doctors, Al-Dahhan and Al-Araj from the Lebanese Red Cross hospital in Acre, Dr Dabbas from Haifa and Mrs Bahai from Haifa.

The city of Acre, now burdened by the epidemic, became easy prey to the Zionists. They intensified their bombardment. Trucks carrying loudspeakers proclaimed, "Surrender or commit suicide. We will destroy you to the last man.".

This episode, which started with poisoning Acre's water supply and ended with the collapse of the city, the depopulation of its inhabitants, and its occupation continued in other places.

Gaza poisoning

Two weeks later, after their "success" in Acre, the Zionists struck again. This time in Gaza, where hundreds of thousands of refugees had gathered after their villages in southern Palestine had been occupied. The end however was different.

The following cable was sent from the commander of the Egyptian Forces in Palestine to General Headquarters in Cairo:

"15.20 hrs, 24 May [1948] Our Intelligence forces captured two Jews, David Horeen and David Mizrahi, loitering around army positions. They were interrogated and confessed they had been sent by Officer Moshe to poison the army [and the peoples'] water supply. They carried with them water bottles divided in the middle. The top part has potable water and the bottom part has a liquid contaminated with typhoid and dysentery, equipped with a rear opening from which the liquid can be released. They confessed they were members of a 20-strong team sent from Rehovot for the same purpose. Both have written their confession in Hebrew and signed it. We have taken the necessary medical precautions."

Cholera in Egypt and Syria

The summer of 1947 was hot with diplomatic activity. The United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) was busy touring Palestine and the Arab countries in order to propose the partition of Palestine such that the new Jewish immigrants to Palestine, who controlled only six per cent of Palestine under the British Mandate, be given a big chunk of Palestine (which later turned out to be 54 per cent) in order to establish a foreign state in the midst of Arab land.

The Arabs, still under the tutelage of Britain, were debating how to resist the Western-supported scheme to take away their land. The forces to reckon with were neighbouring countries with common borders with Palestine. Lebanon was weak. Trans-Jordan was still controlled directly by the British and King Abdullah was conciliatory to the Jews. This left Egypt, the stronger Arab country and Syria, recently freed from the clutches of the French Mandate. Syria was the centre of Arab resistance to the foreign occupation of Palestine. Training centres were established in Qatana to prepare Arab volunteers to enter Palestine under the banner of "The Arab Rescue Army". Egypt and Palestine were thus the most important targets.

In his 220-page continually updated report, entitled: Bioterrorism and Biocrimes: The Illicit Use of Biological Agents since 1900, dated February 2001, Dr W Seth Carus of the Center for Counterproliferation Research, National Defence University, Washington, DC, lists the following subtitle, p.87: Case 1947-01: "Zionist" Terrorists 1947-1948.

Under this section, he mentions that the cholera outbreaks in Syria and Egypt received extensive attention in the international press. The first report about the cholera in Egypt was published in The Times of London on 26 September, 1947, p4. By the time the final cases appeared in January 1948, 10,262 people had died.

He also states that the outbreak in Syria was much smaller. It was limited to two towns, about 60 kilometres south of Damascus, i.e. close to the Palestinian border. The first report appeared in the New York Times on 22 December, 1947, p5.

The Syrian army formed a cordon sanitaire and the casualties were limited to 44, including 18 deaths. Soon after, the Beirut French-language newspaper, Orient, reported that several Zionist agents, who employed cholera to disrupt the mobilisation of the volunteers' army, were arrested. Their destiny is unknown.

These incidents, together with the Gaza poisoning, Carus states, were described in the AHC complaint to the UN and quotes the report in saying that: "The Jews plan to use this inhuman weapon against the Arabs in the Middle East in their war of extermination."

Carus adds information from other sources about the Gaza poisoning. Rachel Katzman, Horeen's sister, Carus stated, said: "I met one of [my brother's] commanders in a lecture in Jerusalem. I asked him whether my brother had really attempted to poison wells. 'These were the weapons we had', he said, 'and that's that.'"

Carus also adds another source about the Acre poisoning: This source sates, "This account also claims that the Israelis poisoned the water supply of the Arab town of Acre, causing a major outbreak, and other Arab villages to prevent the villagers from returning, citing military historian Uri Milstein as a source" [Wendy Barnaby, The Plague Makers: The Secret World of Biological Warfare, London, Vision Paperbacks, 1997, pp114-116].

How did Ben Gurion start all this?

On the fourth of March 1948, Ben Gurion wrote a letter to Ehud Avriel, one of the Jewish Agency operatives in Europe, ordering him to recruit East European Jewish scientists who could "either increase [our] capacity to kill masses or to cure masses; both are important". This truncated quotation is given by Avner Cohen who cited an author in Ben Gurion Research Centre at Sdeh Boker.

In the 1940s, Ben Gurion gathered around him Ernst David Bergmann, Avraham Marcus (Marek) Klingberg (from the Red Army) and the brothers Aharon and Ephraim Katachalsky (Katzir) - all experts in microbiology. They formed the nucleus of the Science Corps in the Haganah during the British Mandate. Ephraim Katachalsky was named commander of this new unit, renamed HEMED, in May 1948. A dispute arose between Chaim Weizmann who wished to establish a scientific institute for "clean" science, while Ben Gurion insisted on building a "dirty" centre for biological weapons. Both got their wishes realised. Weizmann Institute for scientific research was built in Rehovot. A new unit within HEMED, devoted to biological weapons and named HEMED BEIT, was formed as a branch of the Israeli Army. Its head was Alexander Keynan, a microbiologist from the medical school at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

With the depopulation of 530 Palestinian towns and villages in Al-Nakba in 1948, many buildings and homes became vacant and over half of the Jewish immigrants in the 1950s were housed in them. The Chief of Staff Yigal Yadin selected a home for the new biological weapons development unit in a mansion located within a large orange grove west of Nes Ziona. This unit, publicly known as Israel Institute for Biological Research (IIBR), is still there today.

Chasing the culprits

Sara Leibovitz-Dar is a persistent investigative journalist. The trauma experienced by her parents in their native Lithuania left an indelible mark on her. She abhorred injustice and, particularly, the meek acceptance of it. She investigated the Gaza and Acre poisoning and shooting down of the civilian Libyan aircraft. The Israeli military historian, Uri Milstein, identified for her the names of the officers responsible for biological crimes.

In 1993, Sara tried to interview the commander who was responsible for the Acre poisoning. He refused to talk. "Why do you look for troubles that took place 45 years ago?" he asked. "I know nothing about this. What would you gain by publishing?"

Again, Sara interviewed the officer responsible for the Gaza poisoning. He refused to respond, "You will not get answers on these questions. Not from me and not from anyone." Sara was persistent. She asked Colonel Shlomo Gur, former HEMED chief, whether he was aware of the secret operations in 1948. "We heard about the typhoid epidemics in Acre and about the Gaza operations. There were many rumours but I did not know whether they were true or not," he responded.

Sara published her findings in Hadashot under the title "Microbes in State Service", on 13 August, 1993, pp6-10. Sara, who now moved to Ha'aretz, concluded with the following comment: "What was done then with deep conviction and zealotry is now concealed with shame."

[For the complete article you can go to:]

A safer world can only be a socialist world

The above documented facts show that the Zionist ruling class has had no qualms in the past about using biological weapons on civilian populations. This did not stop it from pointing the accusing finger at the old Saddam Hussein regime, of spreading panic about the imminent threat of a terrible unleashing of these weapons. And yet it had been responsible for the use of such weapons long before Saddam Hussein used them on unarmed civilians in his own country.

This is the same hypocrisy of the US ruling class. They go around the world telling countries if they can or cannot have nuclear weapons, pointing to the dangers of such weapons. But they conveniently ignore the fact that so far in history the only ruling class to have ever used these weapons on innocent civilians was precisely the US ruling class back in 1945.

It is not a mere detail that Israel has to this day signed but not ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention. It also does not participate in the Biological Weapons Convention. Israel also does not allow the application of the Fourth Geneva Convention in the West Bank and Gaza, as the rest of the world does.

Article 147 of the Geneva Convention states that to "willingly cause [civilians] great suffering or serious injury to body or health" is a "grave breach", and which, according to Article 146, requires all "High Contracting Parties" to "search for persons alleged to have committed or to have ordered to commit such grave breaches" and must also "bring such person regardless of their nationality before their own courts".

Why Israel does not abide by these internationally recognised agreements is obvious. It must have stocks of weapons that are generally considered "illegal" and therefore does not want to sign its own "arrest warrant" so to say. It also does not want any international body meddling in what it considers its own "domestic affairs" in the Palestinian Territories.

As if that were not enough, the major imperialist powers, headed by the US, also pick and choose who can have nuclear weapons. Israel is known to have nuclear capability but nothing is done to stop this. As usual, it isn't based on what weapons you have but whose friend you are. If you are a friend of the US imperialists, and do their bidding, then you can get away with it. If for some reason you enter into a conflict of interest with imperialism, in particular US imperialism, then you are risking bombing and invasion. Thus Israel and other regimes that have nuclear weapons, "weapons of mass destruction", biological weapons and so on are left alone. But Serbia, then Iraq get bombed, and other countries get bullied.

All this goes to show that it is not at all about making the world a safer place to live. No, it is about controlling regions, sources of raw materials, and spheres of influence. The real danger to the people of this planet are not small, relatively weak, powers that may occasionally enter into conflict with the fundamental interests of imperialism. The danger comes from the main imperialist powers, who are prepared to go to any length to defend their interests. The plight of the Palestinian people, the terrible fate that has met the Iraqi people, and so on are sufficient testimony to this.

Anyone who want a world where the poisoning of water supplies with typhoid, or the dropping of massive atom bombs, are relegated to a dim and distant barbaric past, must understand that this can only become reality if the class society we live in is removed. Only when ordinary working people everywhere have real control, have real power in their hands, will the world become really a safe place to live. That is why the patient, painstaking work in all countries on the part of genuine socialists to build a political force that can lead the working class everywhere to power, is not a utopian pipedream. It is the only real, worthwhile activity that we can engage in. The world can be changed and must be changed.

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