New evidence of old lies

November 12, 2005

In News

Under the heading DIABOLICAL PLOTS, I stated in Beyond Chutzpah –

On page 127 of The Case for Israel, Dershowitz writes:

Terrorists try everything possible to maximize deaths, even sometimes reportedly soaking the
nails they use in their antipersonnel bombs in rat poison to prevent coagulation of blood
. Recently,
Israeli doctors expressed concern that the blood of some of the suicide bombers, which splatters all
over the scene and is touched by medical personnel, as well as their bones, which penetrate the bodies
of the victims, might contain hepatitis
or the AIDS virus, raising the fear that terrorist leaders could be turning suicide bombers into
biological warfare carriers
either by injecting them or selecting carriers as suicide bombers. The
first such case was documented in the July 2002 issue of the Israel Medical Association Journal.
(italics added)

On page 193 of The Case for Israel, Dershowitz writes:

[T]here is still no moral equivalence between exploding an antipersonnel bomb made of
nails soaked in rat poison
whose sole purpose is to maximize civilian deaths and injuries, on the
one hand, and targeting terrorists under circumstances in which it is likely that some innocent
civilians may die, on the other hand. (italics added)

What is Dershowitz’s evidence for the diabolical plots? Dershowitz cites three sources: “Karen Birchard,
‘Hep B case makes suicide bombers an infection risk,’ Medical Post, Maclean Hunter Ltd., September 10,
2002 “; “Michael Ledeen, ‘Hebrew U Survivor: An Interview with Eliad Moreh,’ National Review online,
August 6, 2002 “; “‘Hepatitis Spread
Via Suicide Bombers,’ The Straits Times (Singapore), July 26, 2002″ (p. 25InnI6, I9, 20). Yet these
articles report only that, based on the case of one suicide bomber apparently infected with hepatitis B,
Israeli doctors speculate that the blood and bones of other suicide bombers might be infected with this
and other diseases. Not one of the cited
references mentions fears that the suicide bombers were being deliberately infected by their dispatchers
or even that the bombers or their dispatchers were aware that they were carriers of infectious diseases.
Not one of the cited references mentions anything about anti-personnel weapons being soaked in rat poison.
A journalist investigating the factual basis for the “rat poison” claim, which occasionally crops up
in the U.S. media, discovered an “absence of any forensic proof.” It is “the sort of tale that newsroom
cynics call ‘too good to check,'” he concluded. “We so want to believe that the Palestinians are
stinking up their bombs with rat poison that we won’t eyen ask for evidence.”[23] Even the rightwing
Jerusalem Post cites the director-general of an Israeli hospital to the effect that it’s “ridiculous
to suggest” that a suicide bomber infected
with hepatitis B “was selected for his mission specifically because he was a carrier”: “Hepatitis B
is endemic in the Middle East, and more likely in people from lower socio-economic groups. So it is
not surprising that the virus was found.”[24] The most exhaustive study to date of Palestinian suicide
bombers is Human Rights Watch, Erased in a
Moment: Suicide Bombing Attacks against Israeli Civilians
. It makes no mention of any of these
allegations. On the other hand, Amnesty International did call on Israel to investigate the use
by Israeli settlers of “toxic chemicals” for the purpose of “poisoning” Palestinian fields.[25]

23. Jack Shafer, “The d-Con Bomb,” Slate (11 July 2.002.),
24. Judy Siegel, “Hepatitis in suicide bomber ‘no threat,'” Jerusalem Post (8 June 2001).
25. Human Rights Watch, Erased in a Moment: Suicide Bombing Attacks against Israeli Civilians
(New York, 2002). Amnesty International, “Israeli authorities must put
an immediate end to settler violence” (press release, 25 April 2.005).


In his attacks on Beyond Chutzpah, Professor Dershowitz remains adamant that these claims of his are
valid. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, November/December 2005, Volume 61, Number 6, pp. 8-9,
says otherwise:

Blood Feuds

Infected suicide bombers have put a new spin on biological warfare. But public health experts caution
against panic.

OF ALL HER WOUNDS, THE bone fragments lodged in the body of a 31-year-old woman hurt in a May 2001
suicide attack at an Israeli mall seemed the least serious. While treating the severe blast injuries
to her legs, doctors at the Hillel Yaffe Medical Center in Hadera, Israel, removed the chips and sent
them to the Israel Institute of Forensic Medicine for testing—protocol for all material gathered from
a suicide bombing. The results surprised even the hardened physicians on the front line of terror
medicine: The bone fragments tested positive for the hepatitis B virus. Israel, all too familiar
with gruesome suicide terror tactics, confronted yet another ordeal—the possible transmission of a
blood-borne pathogen via an infected suicide bomber. The Hillel Yaffe doctors surmised that the
force of the explosion was so fierce that the Hamas bomber’s bone fragments became ersatz shrapnel,
unintentionally transforming him into a human bioweapon. (Hepatitis rates are high in the Palestinian
territories owing to poor health and sanitary conditions.) If the contamination had been intentional,
it would have constituted a flawed attempt at bioterrorism because exposure to hepatitis B is easily
treatable. But terrorism is about fear, and the notion that a suicide bomber might infect victims
with hepatitis or even HIV could scare an already jittery public. “Suicide bombers may not just
cause carnage when they blow themselves up—they may also spread diseases from beyond the grave,” a
BBC report cautioned a year after the mall attack. More recently, a retired FBI bomb expert told a
homeland security publication that infected suicide bombers are a new “spin on a biological weapon of
mass destruction.” And even the National Enquirer is spreading rumors of AIDS sufferers offering
their lives to Al Qaeda in Iraq “so they can die as martyrs.” Yet, as with many terrorism scenarios
and public health scares, the grounds for worry have been exaggerated. “It’s a hazmat issue,” says
Robert Bunker, a member of the Los Angeles Terrorism Early Warning Group. “You consider it a potential,
take a few precautions, and move on.” Only two incidents of infected suicide bombers have been
documented; the second attack—a bomber with hepatitis B (again, likely an unplanned factor) blew
himself up at a Tel Aviv nightclub—happened just weeks after the first. Despite press reports about
thwarted Palestinian suicide bombers testing positive for HIV, no such attack has ever been publicly
substantiated. Furthermore, medical experts believe it’s likely impossible to transmit HIV in this
manner. “The heat of the blast would probably destroy [the virus],” says Peter Katona, an infectious
disease specialist at the University of California–Los Angeles. Still, U.S. first responders are
beginning to include the infected suicide bomber potentiality in their literature—mostly as a
precautionary measure. If anything, terrorism experts like RAND’s Bruce Hoffman see it as an
opportunity to highlight hepatitis as a legitimate public health concern and push for a more zealous
national vaccination program. “It’s just like security,” Hoffman says. “Security against terrorism
helps damp down crime because people are watching out. The same bonus comes with being concerned
about this but looking at it judiciously and using it as an opportunity to get more of the
population inoculated.” Israel has done just that. The Ministry of Health now mandates that all
victims of suicide attacks receive hepatitis B immunization, and physicians at Hillel Yaffe treat
the risk as merely another public health precaution. “I’m not scared of this,” says the hospital’s
General-Director Meir Oren. “This is not what I’m losing sleep over.”

Josh Schollmeyer