On January 13, 1953, the official TASS news agency announced the existence of the infamous "Doctor’s Plot," a conspiracy by a band of Jewish physicians, backed by American intelligence, to kill the Soviet leadership “by incorrect use of very powerful medicines and prescription of harmful regimens.” Stalin’s plan was to rally the Russian masses behind a new pogrom by reviving the libel of the "Jewish poisoner," a stock European anti-Semitic motif since the mid-1300s, when Jews were accused of spreading bubonic plague by contaminating wells.
Half a century later, the Arabs are following his lead. On January 31, the state-owned Syrian daily, Al-Thawra, suggested that Israeli scientists at the Institute of Biological Research at Ness Ziona had developed the avian flu virus for use as a biological weapon against the Palestinians, releasing it in South East Asia “to obscure the truth by shifting the world's attention to that distant region...and in order to make its transmission through birds seem like a natural phenomenon.” Two weeks earlier, the chairman of the Palestinian Environment Authority, Dr. Youssef Abu Safiyah, had told a press conference in Gaza that Israel had buried 85,000 infected birds at Beit Furik outside Nablus in an attempt to spread the disease.
This is not the first time that Israel has been accused of waging war in this way. In December 1997, the PA’s Committee for Consumer Protection claimed that Israel was knowingly importing chocolate contaminated with Mad Cow Disease into Palestinian cities while its representative to the UN Human Rights Commission alleged at a meeting in Geneva the previous March that Jerusalem had injected 300 Arab children with AIDS. Over the years Israel was also accused by Arafat or his flunkies of distributing contaminated food in “an organized plan and conspiracy … to poison and harm the Palestinian population;” of attempting to “completely destroy the genetic systems” of Palestinian boys with “hundreds of tons” of toxic chewing gum; and, in May 2001, of “starting a new genocide against the Palestinian people by poisoning them, using poisoned candy bags dropped down from airplanes.” Even his wife Suha was co-opted into the cause; in November 1999, she told an audience which included Hillary Clinton, that Israel was causing “cancer and other horrible diseases” in Palestinian women and children through the “intensive daily use of poison gas” and the poisoning of 80% of the water supply with carcinogenic “chemical materials.”
Arafat ratcheted up his ‘poisoner’ propaganda during the Al-Aqsa terrorist war. In January 2001, he told the World Economic Forum at Davos that Israel was poisoning the Palestinians with depleted uranium (DU), noxious gases and weaponized toxic waste, an allegation he repeated at the Arab Summit in Beirut two months later. His mouthpiece, al-Hayat al-Jadidah, suggested that DU was responsible for congenital deformities in dozens of babies born at Gaza’s Shifaa hospital while he himself claimed, one year before he died, that the IDF’s use of such material was responsible for cancer and sterility rates amongst the Palestinian population equivalent to those caused by the Hiroshima bomb.
The Al-Thawra article also repeated the charge that Israel had carried out “the assassination of Yasser Arafat … by means of biological weapons.” Indeed, al-Najah University in Nablus carried out a poll that found that 80% of Palestinians believe he was poisoned by Israel, unsurprising given the extent to which they are encouraged in this belief by their leaders. To cite just two examples, Nasser al-Kidwa (who as Arafat’s nephew had unrestricted access to his medical records) has frequently intimated that his uncle was poisoned while Ahmed Abdul Rahman actually provided the date of infection – September 25, 2003.
While Arafat was the principal purveyor of Palestinian "poisoner" libels, they have continued in the wake of his death. In April 2005, official PA sources began claiming that the Millimeter Wave Radar screening machine used by the IDF at the Rafah crossing in Gaza was deliberately exposing Palestinians to the risk of diseases such as “thrombocytopenic [purpura], sterility, congenital anomalies, cancer, leukemia, mental retardation and ductless glands disorder” in what Osama Al-Assar, the Palestinian administrative director there, called an Israeli “radioactive war” against them.
Two months later, Dr. Abu Safiyeh told lawmakers in Ramallah that security sources had intercepted stocks of carcinogenic canned fruit juices which Israel had “specifically produced for Palestinian consumers in the Gaza Strip.”
And the Palestinians are not the only reputed victims of "Jewish poisoners." For instance, Al-Manar has attacked “Zionist attempts to transmit dangerous diseases like AIDS through exports to Arab countries” while Israel is routinely reported in the Arab press to have targeted Egypt with HIV-positive prostitutes. And in November 2004, the Tehran Times alleged that Israel was intentionally introducing “carcinogenic” foodstuffs into Arab countries, causing an increase in “leukemia and liver and stomach cancer” there.
The sheer outlandishness of such claims has not prevented their being taken seriously even outside the anti-Semitic Islamic world. Most notoriously, the West weighed in on the side of the Palestinians in March 1983 when they accused Israel of attempting to sterilize hundreds of schoolgirls through mass poisoning. Not only did the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference denounce Jerusalem, but also the U.S. condemned the “crime” in the United Nations.
With Arab allegations about Arafat’s death and the IDF’s use of DU and gases being given creeping credence abroad, Israeli "poison plots" must be exposed for what they are: a modern adaptation of a mediaeval anti-Semitic myth, which seeks to demonize the Jewish people and de-legitimize the Jewish state.