Biological Weapons Might Not Be Color Blind
Lying behind the nightmare fears of 21st-century germ warfare is the scarcely imaginable prospect of an "ethnic bullet" that could allow a racist aggressor nation to wipe out its ethnic enemy. Such fears underline Clinton's own worries about constructing a defense against new genetic warfare.
Adding to press accounts of Israeli research into an ethnic bomb came a report, "Biotechnology, weapons and humanity," last week from the esteemed British Medical Association, warning that "weapons could theoretically be developed which affect particular versions of genes clustered in specific ethnic or family groups." It adds: "As genetic manipulation becomes a standard laboratory technique, there is a risk that this new information will also become widely available and procedures to monitor against the misuse of this new knowledge are urgently needed."
Israeli scientists are trying to identify distinctive genes carried by some Arabs, with the hope of creating a genetically modified bacterium or virus, according to the London Sunday Times. "The intention is to use the ability of viruses and certain bacteria to alter the DNA inside their host's living cells," the Times reported.
Based in a biological institute at Nes Tziyona, the main research center for Israel's clandestine arsenal of chemical and biological weapons, the research is complicated by the fact that both Jews and Arabs are of Semitic origin. But a scientist at Nes Tzivona told the Times that researchers have succeeded in zeroing in on a particular characteristic of certain Arab communities, particularly the Iraqi people. Such a disease could be put in the water supply or sprayed in the air.
According to the usually reliable Foreign Report, a Jane's publication which provides reports and analysis of international defense issues, Israeli scientists may have employed research conducted by South Africa during the apartheid era. During the 1980s, scientists from that nation were ordered to develop a weapon to target black people— based on pigmentation— that could be spread in beer, maize, or even by vaccination. But they were not successful. The Jane's report on the ethno-bomb comes from South African sources who note that Israeli and South African scientists worked together during the apartheid period on nuclear and other research, and that at the end of apartheid, Israel reportedly took over and elaborated on the research.
In the U.S., Secretary of Defense William Cohen has warned that biological agents could be genetically engineered to produce dangerous new weapons. In Britain, a spokesperson for Porton Down, the biological defense facility, said such weapons were theoretically possible, and that "we have reached a point now where there is an obvious need for an international convention to control biological weapons."