GENTECH archive


middle east menu -sunday pm

At first reading this london Sunday Times item seems a little nutty to me. 

But that newspaper is not noted for being idiotically/ideologically flak
even tho' it's very establishment-oriente. It published and stood by
Vanunu's info about Israel's nuclear bomb plant, and his subsequent
kidnap, trial and solitary confinement. 

And, as with nuclear production, the technique of genetic manipulation
can't be kept hidden, and it can be practised for any purpose. The hope is
that GM ought to be held back, and its output of new species restricted
as a precaution.

 But on careful reading the story seems both plausible and likely true.
They are NOT saying that the biological weapon exists, just that it's
being worked on. I happen to think the basic premise is flawed - 
targetting persons by ethnic origin is not going to injure  "some Arabs"
carrying distinctive genes without also injuring "some Jews" carrying the
distinctive genes.


   Our hero: Iraqis applaud their leader but yesterday he capitulated to
   allow the weapons inspections to continue
   Photograph: Jockel Finck
   Israel planning 'ethnic' bomb as Saddam caves in
   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 western intelligence 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
   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 days.
   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 trying to
   exploit medical advances by identifying distinctive genes carried by
   some Arabs, then create a genetically modified bacterium or virus.
   The intention is to use the ability of viruses and certain bacteria to
   alter the DNA inside their host's living cells. The scientists are
   trying to engineer deadly micro-organisms that attack 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 he added: "They have,
   however, succeeded in pinpointing a particular 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 in testimony 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
   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 said.
   Some experts said that although the concept of an ethnically targeted
   weapon was feasible, the practical aspects of creating one were
   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 to develop 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 that would 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, especially Iraqis".
   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 in Washington, Hugh McManners
   Next page: Iraq bows to show of force 
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