‘Place the Material in the Wells’: Docs Point to Israeli Army’s 1948 Biological Warfare by Ofer Aderet on Haaretz

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On April 1, 1948, David Ben-Gurion wrote in his journal about “the development of science and speeding up its application in warfare.” A month and a half later, he wrote about “biological materials” that were purchased for $2,000. Only now, 74 years later, has a connection between these two entries come to light… Evidently, the excerpts from the diary of the man who would become Israel’s first prime minister are traces of his involvement in a secret operation to poison the drinking water of Arab communities.

… This operation was partially exposed decades ago when rumors and oral testimonies were reported in newspapers and books about an attempt in 1948 by the IDF to poison wells in Acre and Gaza by adding bacteria to the drinking water. However, only now, in Morris and Kedar’s research, has the “smoking gun” been revealed – in the form of official documentation. The newly unearthed documents show that this operation was much broader in scope than earlier believed and that other top military and political figures besides Ben-Gurion were involved.

…Ben-Gurion was at the top of the pyramid. Below him was Yadin, who oversaw the military side of the operation. The operation was commanded by Yohanan Ratner. Initially, the top man in the field for the group was Dayan, who went on to become the IDF chief of staff and defense minister. The documents indicate that Dayan served as the smuggler who conveyed the bacteria from the Science Corps to different points throughout the country. David Shaltiel, commander of the Etzioni Brigade in Jerusalem, was also involved in the operation. Intelligence officer Ezra Helmer (later Omer, head of the Haganah General Staff Intelligence Department) also joined at a later stage.

…On the scientific side, the production of the poison, were people from the IDF Science Corps Bet, a subunit in the Science Corps that dealt with biological warfare. It was headed by Alex Keinan, who went on to found the Israel Institute for Biological Research in Nes Tziona. The scientific work was overseen by the Katchalski (Katzir) brothers: biophysicist Ephraim Katzir, the first commander of the Science Corps and later an Israel Prize laureate and the fourth president of Israel; and his older brother, scientist Aharon Katzir of the Weizmann Institute… A series of assistants who went on to become professors in Israeli academia were also involved in the operation.

Continue reading at https://archive.fo/ZQiOQ#selection-259.0-259.87

State Archive Error Shows Israeli Censorship Guided by Concerns Over National Image by Ofer Aderet

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It turns out that Israel’s first agriculture minister, Aharon Zisling, who was a signatory to the Declaration of Independence, said in 1948… “Let us say that instances of rape occurred in Ramle. I can forgive instances of rape, but I will not forgive other acts.” The next statement, which was not blacked out, now gains additional significance, and explains what the minister considered an act more serious than rape: “When they enter a city and forcibly remove jewelry from women and from their necks – that is a very serious matter.”

…Twenty pages later, in the same discussion… Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion who was speaking. In the censored version he said: “I am against the wholesale demolition of villages.” Now, the full statement is revealed. It turns out that he then added: “But there are places that constituted a great danger and constitute a great danger, and we must wipe them out. But this must be done responsibly, with consideration before the act.”

Continue reading at https://archive.fo/QUbil#selection-683.0-696.0