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Israeli WMD Institute Used Soldiers as Guinea Pigs in Untested Anthrax Experiment

nes ziona

Nes Ziona institute entrance

A six year struggle by a group of IDF soldiers and officers for justice has ended with the State agreeing to pay them $6-million (Yossi Melman’s Hebrew story and the English version, which has been replaced on the Jerusalem Post site by a far more IDF-friendly story by Yaakov Lapin) for their participation in a medical experiment conducted under false pretenses.  Between 1999-2005, the ministry of defense, IDF, and the Israeli chemical and biological weapons institute at Nes Ziona collaborated with their American counterparts in research to find a suitable anthrax vaccine.  This was the period just after the U.S. “white powder” letter scare in which several Americans were infected with anthrax and died.  There was a huge furor and hysteria in this country over the potential terror threat.

Presumably, U.S. medical authorities either wouldn’t test human subjects with an untested vaccine or couldn’t get approval to do so (remember the notorious Tuskegee experiment?).  But their Israeli colleagues were more than happy to bend medical and ethical rules, especially in return for the hundreds of millions of shekels in research funding that flowed into Nes Ziona as a result.  Because the subject of the experiment (anthrax that might be used as part of a terror attack) was so sensitive, those who conducted the Israeli experiment refused to tell the IDF “volunteers” (some of whom reported being pressured by their superiors to participate) the purpose of the project.  They would not tell them with what they were being injected or why.  They weren’t warned of possible side effects (of which there were many subsequently).  Further, they threatened that if participants spoke of the project they would be punished.

After they were injected, a number of subjects developed serious side effects which included:

…Among others – Crohn’s disease, thyroid inflammation, allergic dermatitis reactions and temporary kidney failure.

When victims demanded explanations about what had been done to them, they were stone-walled.  Eventually, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel took up their case.  But Nes Ziona, the IDF and ministry of defense adamantly denied responsibility and refused compensation for the victims.  Eventually, it reached the Supreme Court, which ordered arbitration resulting in today’s agreement.  92 of the 700 original test subjects participated in the lawsuit.  At $9,000 for each of those who were members of the class that sued, it seems the Dr. Frankensteins who organized this got off too easy.  Nor did the government have to accept fault for its role in sanctioning this experiment.  A $5-million medical fund will be established to provide for any future medical treatment resulting from the experiment.

The Israel Medical Association studied the scientific trial and issued a scathing report saying organizers had ignored basic medical and ethical standards as specified in the Declaration of Helsinki.  Further it found:

The report also questioned the necessity of the experiment and suggested that it served interests other than those of the State of Israel.  According to foreign reports, the Institute for Biological Research shared its findings from the experiment with the United States in exchange for the investment of hundreds of millions of shekels in the institute.

It may not be an accident that the above passage appears in Yossi Melman’s English language article on the Jerusalem Post.  But that version has disappeared from the site to be replaced by the version written by Yaakov Lapin, which I mentioned above.  Lapin’s version contains no reference to the participation of Nes Ziona in the experiment, nor does it mention the troubling reference to U.S. authorities paying to use Israeli subjects as guinea pigs.

Frankly, you would think that a nation, some of whose citizens had been subjected to gruesome medical experiments by the Nazis would be more sensitive to the issue of consent and transparency in medical experimentation.  The Nes Ziona doctor who organized the project has conveniently retired.  The institute has affirmed that all future such trials will be conducted under the Helsinki protocols.  Too late for the 700 unsuspecting subjects of this medical trial.

Let’s not forget Nes Ziona is also the place that develops other far more lethal chemical and biological weapons.  It also develops secret toxins used to assassinate Palestinian militants as happened in the case of Khaled Meshal and Mahmoud al-Mabouh, among others.  A future president of Israel, Ephraim Katzir was the founder of the institute.  To his credit, when Ben Gurion proposed the idea, Chaim Weizmann, a scientist with a stronger ethical compass, wanted nothing to do with it.  Although the institution he founded, the Weizmann Institute, has also participated in Israeli WMD research.

H/t to reader, Oui for bringing this to my attention.

{ 12 comments… add one }
  • Oui January 14, 2014, 2:10 AM

    Excellent coverage! Thank you.

    I will add some posts to the triangle of joint anthrax and CBW research between Israel-South Africa-US (Ft. Detrick).

    • Oui January 14, 2014, 6:38 AM

      Comment grew too big so I wrote a complementary diary – Israel, US and the Anthrax Story that Won’t Go Away. Focus is on Prof. Avigdor Shafferman, his ties to North-American pharmaceuticals and his dismissal last year. Extended reporting by Yossi Melman during his Haaretz years.

  • pabelmont January 14, 2014, 5:03 AM

    Don’t see how governments can easily test new CBWs or the still-in-research antidotes to them OTHER than by exercising the human-rights-trashing people-are-expendable option (people might be soldiers, civilian prisoners, prisoners-for-life, military prisoners, and — in Israel — Palestinians and Palestinian prisoners).

    Since soldiers are supposed to be willing to die at their officers’ commands, use of soldiers seems the fairest option! sort of like, “Go into enemy territory. Don’t come back!”

  • Shoshana January 14, 2014, 7:00 AM


  • Wtf January 14, 2014, 4:10 PM

    @pabelmont – you don’t seem to know what soldiers actually
    do,do you? Specially in the IDF, nobody is doing that

    • David January 15, 2014, 4:47 PM

      @WTF WTF are you talking about?

  • Toivia January 14, 2014, 4:16 PM

    Horrible story, testing without acquiring informed consent. T he Israeli legal systems compensation for torts is minimal compared to the US which at times may be to much.. Nobody has to find a cure for anthrax we have it already. The problem is the distribution of the anti- biotics on a massive scale. If a person was able to a throw half a sandwhich bags worth of anthrax spores off the observation deck of the Empire State Building, depending on prevailing winds they could reach Washinton, DC. That’s why a safe efficacious vaccine would be great especialy in high risk environments.

  • shachalnur January 15, 2014, 7:57 AM

    In case people forgot,this is not the first time very dubious experiments have been performed on Israeli Jews;

    1. The missing Yemeni babies in the fifties,shipped off to the US for nuclear experiments,none came back alive.

    2.The Ringworm affair(50’s),where Marrocan Jewish children had their heads radiated with X-Rays up to 25.000 times safe doses,many died from braintumors and even more have lifelong (brain)damage.

    3. More recently the Depo Provera affair,where Ethyopian Jewish women were injected this very dangerous and prohibited anti-conceptive against their will and knowledge,leavind many women sterile.

    And there’s more,so this new case and consequent cover-up are nothing new in Zionist heaven.

  • Robert Mullen January 15, 2014, 11:32 AM

    Shall we have another round of discussion on why governments do not, as a matter of principal, act in moral ways?

  • David January 15, 2014, 4:53 PM

    Thanks for this story. I would know nothing of it but for this site.

    I note the collusion of, first, US and Israel, payments to Israel, and then the collusion of major Israeli media with IDF etc. It is telling that the very wicked US would outsource this anti-Helsinki undertaking to an even more egregiously wicked state, a state that has it’s own special uses for biological experimentation, and which covets as always American money. Does the cesspool get any deeper?

    Will this story show up in the US media?

  • Fred Plester January 18, 2014, 11:56 AM

    Nearly all of the world’s successful vaccines are for viral
    diseases and Anthrax is a bacteria. There have been anthrax
    vaccines around since the late forties, and the US Military has
    repeatedly sought better ones, but the success rate never gets high
    enough to achieve “herd immunity” where the vaccine works often
    enough to snuff out an outbreak. However, since Anthrax isn’t all
    that communicable, herd immunity is a bit meaningless and the money
    and effort might be better used towards increasing the number of
    licensed antibiotics available to treat the disease when it’s
    spotted. Anthrax as a weapon works only if huge amounts of the
    spores saturate a target. I don’t really see anyone ever producing
    a vaccine that will prevent infection in those sort of
    circumstances, because bacteria ain’t viruses, even a vaccinated
    person’s lungs are going to grow something for a while if they
    inhale enough spores. The upside is that most anthrax strains are
    susceptible to antibiotics, and money spent developing one or two
    new antibiotics just to make sure, would be a tool against a whole
    raft of disease threats and not just anthrax. So, not just an
    unethical experiment, but one aimed in the wrong

  • Angela March 16, 2014, 9:59 AM

    My husband is US military and is in kidney failure, stage 4. By the time we found out he was already stage 3. He’s had the anthrax vaccination several times. Any info for help on this in the states would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

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