In September, a highly revealing academic paper was published exposing the details of a previously hidden operation by Zionist militias during the 1948 Nakba (or “Catastrophe”), in which chemical and biological weapons were used to poison Palestinians, intervening Arab armies, and the citizens of neighboring states with typhoid, dysentery, malaria, and other diseases.
Working by stealth, Zionist militants poured vast quantities of infectious bacteria into wells and aqueducts providing villages, towns, and cities with water, in direct violation of the 1925 Geneva Protocol, which strictly prohibits “the use of bacteriological methods of warfare.”
The local epidemics created by this man-made disaster greatly assisted the forcible conquest of Palestinian territory by armed Jewish militias with their capture made permanent, while hindering the progress of advancing Arab armies.
Biological warfare and the founding of Israel
The 1948 War has been well-studied, and its impact, chiefly the permanent displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in the Nakba still reverberates today. Yet, understanding of the conflict has hitherto been incomplete.
Aside from opaque references to the biological warfare campaign in the diaries and autobiographies of Zionist leaders and militants from that era, and a 2003 academic article, the use of these illegal substances has never previously been revealed.
In an ironic twist of fate, the Zionist biological blitzkrieg was suppressed so successfully that numerous highly incriminating documents referring to the operation’s name – “Cast Thy Bread,” a Biblical quote from Ecclesiastes 11:1, in which Jews are directed to “cast thy bread upon the waters, for after many days you will find it again” – slipped past government censors unexpurgated.
Evidently, even they were unaware of this war crime which followed the chemical extermination of millions of Jews, which says a lot.
It turned out that this gap in the historical record was both created and maintained intentionally. As the paper notes, a reference was made in the diaries of Israel’s first prime minister David Ben-Gurion two days before war broke out on 15 May, 1948 to a Zionist militant recently spending several thousand dollars on “biological materials.” However, this was censored by the Defense Ministry Press when the volumes were published in 1982.
‘Serious and potent use’
That cover-up continues to the present day, even in the paper itself. The authors – Benny Morris of Ben-Gurion University and Benjamin Z. Kedar of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem – seem at pains to diminish the significance of “Cast Thy Bread,” pointing to the relatively few casualties produced by the effort as a sign of its “ineffectiveness.”
Such analysis discounts an obvious alternative interpretation, namely, that the relatively low death toll was in fact intended. This was due to the long-held Zionist objective of seizing land reserved for Arabs under the UN’s 1947 partition plan – under which Mandatory Palestine would be split in half between separate Arab and Jewish states – and portions of neighboring Arab countries, without mass slaughter, and thus plausibly denied.
Reinforcing this theory, the paper reveals that the water supplies of several Arab villages, towns, and cities were targeted by Zionist militants even before the war, and that biological warfare was seen by Zionist militants at the time to have been pivotal in the permanent capture of Palestinian land and expulsion of local residents.
Take for instance the Zionist poisoning of a vital aqueduct in Kabri, a primary source of water for nearby Palestinian settlements, which the paper’s authors call “the most serious and potent use” of biological weapons during the 1948 War, despite it taking place before the conflict formally began.
Manufacturing epidemics and displacement
The historic northern city of Acre, which the UN designated part of a future Arab state, depended heavily on the aqueduct for water. The morale of its inhabitants is said by Morris and Kedar to have been “already shaky” when local supplies were poisoned, due to recent Zionist conquest of nearby Haifa, the region’s capital.
That fall of the city led to much of its population fleeing and taking up residence in Acre, which was cut off from other key regional centers and neighboring Lebanon. This, combined with the impending withdrawal of the British – who were supposed to be defending Arabs from Zionist attack – led to “plummeting” spirits among civilians. The outbreak of a typhus epidemic reduced them to “a state of extreme distress,” the city’s mayor was quoted as saying on 3 May that year.
Fast forward to 13 days later, when Zionist forces attacked the city, issuing a brutal ultimatum unless Acre’s inhabitants capitulated without resistance: “we will destroy you to the last man and utterly.” Hours later, local leaders surrendered, leading to three quarters of Acre’s Arab population – 13,510 civilians – being displaced forever.
The following month, a Zionist militant intelligence report concluded that artificially unleashing the epidemic in advance had contributed significantly to Acre’s hasty collapse. The same review found that outbreaks of typhus and “panic induced by rumors of the spread of the disease” alike were similarly “an exacerbating factor in the evacuation” of several Palestinian areas.
On top of ensuring a low death rate then, biological weapons also made the mass purge of Palestinians appear self-initiated.
Targeting other Arabs
On 26 September, Zionist operatives began a wide-ranging campaign of “harassment by all means” against soldiers and civilians across Palestine and on the soil of Arab countries involved in the 1948 War. Expelling the occupants of territory earmarked for Jews by the UN, seizing the West Bank, and ensuring displaced refugees didn’t return home, were all objectives of the Zionist project.
Zionist militants had for some time been targeting Arab soldiers directly with biological weapons. In late May that year, Egypt’s foreign minister sent a cable to the UN secretary general announcing the recent arrest of two “Zionist agents who admitted that they had been instructed to contaminate the springs from which the Egyptian troops at Gaza draw their water supply.”
The pair acknowledged having dropped typhoid and dysentery germs into nearby wells, and were found to be in possession of “several bottles containing a liquid which was discovered to contain the germs of dysentery and typhoid,” as well as a “canteen containing a liquid with a high concentration of typhoid and dysentery germs.”
Such high-level exposure did nothing to deter the execution of “Cast Thy Bread.” In fact, further undermining the whitewashed narrative of Morris and Kedar, the targeting of neighboring Arab states continued until the final stages of the war, when Zionist victory was all but inevitable.
In the case of Lebanon, even before the campaign of “harassment by all means” commenced, Zionist agents in Beirut were scouting possible targets for sabotage operations in Lebanon, including “bridges, railway tracks, water and electricity sources.” They were eager to cast the net further afield of “Cast Thy Bread.”
As late as January 1949, two months before the country signed an armistice with the Zionists, militants were tasked with investigating “water sources [and] central reservoirs” in Beirut, and “supplying maps of water pipelines” in major Lebanese and Syrian towns.
After the 1948 War ended, the informal Zionist biological warfare unit became the Institute for Biological Research in Ness Ziona, central Israel. Its first director was Alexander Keynan, a former militant who was intimately involved in the planning and execution of “Cast Thy Bread.” Clearly, his sterling work made him leading candidate for research into future offensive biological warfare strategies.
Warning from history?
Quite where Keynan’s investigations led, and the scale of modern Israel’s biological and chemical arsenal today, isn’t certain – although the country is one of just 13 out of 184 UN-recognized territories that is not a signatory to the 1975 Biological Weapons Convention, and one of just four states not to be party to the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention.
Ominously, this may suggest that Israel’s research in the field remains ongoing. It may also serve as another rationale for keeping such a tight lid on “Cast Thy Bread” as the notorious operation still has relevance to the present, which Israeli authorities wish to keep secret.
In November 1998, Britain’s Sunday Times citing Israeli military and western intelligence sources reported that Tel Aviv was “working on a biological weapon that would harm Arabs but not Jews,” by “targeting victims by ethnic origin.”
“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 newspaper alleged.
“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 program was said to be based is based at a “biological institute” in Ness Iona, home to the Institute for Biological Research. A scientist at the site was quoted as saying his peers had “succeeded in pinpointing a particular characteristic in the genetic profile of certain Arab communities, particularly the Iraqi people,” and that “the disease could be spread by spraying the organisms into the air or putting them in water supplies.”
Critics denounced the Times report at the time as a “blood libel,” referencing the fabricated, anti-Semitic myth that Jews murder young Christian boys in order to use their blood in religious rituals.
It is fitting then, that when on 27 May, 1948, Syria’s representative to the UN read out the Egyptian cable sent to the body’s secretary general on the capture of “Zionist agents” attempting to poison Egyptian troops in Gaza, his Jewish Agency counterpart charged that Cairo and Damascus had “chosen to associate themselves with the most depraved tradition of medieval anti-Semitic incitement – the charge that Jews had poisoned Christian wells.”
According to The Palestine Chronicle, the recent unearthed documents are one of many historic war crimes committed against the Palestinian people by the then-emerging occupation state, yet much of the Nakba’s history remains classified and is slowly resurfacing.