Aziz Poonawalla has earned a certain amount of respect in these circles, and we've been glad to link his works before. Recently, however, he stepped way, way off the deep end in a manner that recalls Armed Liberal's unsettling dinner conversation.
In an April 17th post about Israel's WMDs, Aziz asserted that Israel is trying to build "a bioweapon targeted at Arabs which would leave Jews unaffected." Um, Aziz... a significant proportion of the Jews in Israel ARE ethnic Arabs. They fled there from Iraq, Egypt, Yemen, Syria, and other countries where their families had lived for many hundreds of years.
In case you hadn't noticed, Aziz, "Jew" is not an identifiable race. There are Caucasian and Negro Jews, Indian, Arab and Hispanic Jews. Some are born into the religion. Some covert. It's like any other religion, really. Including yours.
<sarcasm>In related news, Pakistan is building a bioweapon that targets people of Indian anscestry, but leaves Muslims unaffected. It's expected to be an even bigger success than their Super Boomerang Bomb.</sarcasm>It's bad enough to post such transparently false and hateful tripe. It's worse to defend it, which is exactly what Aziz proceeds to do in his comments section. Nor has he retracted this statement when confronted with the obvious. Indeed, a week later he's still promoting that post.
E. Nough has a fine Fisking that builds on his remarks in Aziz's comments section (April 19, 2003: Blogger's archiving is broken) - but that's no longer the issue. The issue is now Aziz Poonawalla's credibility, in the face of a piece that can best be described as an updated "blood libel" for the 21st century.
Aziz? Your window to do the right thing here is closing fast....
ROUND 2: Aziz responds...
"Do I fear a Israeli WMG? no. even if they had one, I doubt it woudl be much of a threat to the world (i dont lose much sleep over the US nuclear arsenal either). But given the unique history of teh Jewish people, mere consideration of the idea is monstrous and I am disappointed that amongst all the critiques I have earned for my post, a denunciation of the concept has not been consistently put forth. "I appreciate his response at Unmedia, which goes beyond just this quote and is quite gracious in places.
Re: this specific charge:
Yes, Aziz, the concept of genetic bioweapons is morally monstrous in a way that goes beyond any other kind of weapon I can imagine. Regardless of one's history or lack thereof. Then again, a nova bomb powered by an overloaded warp-drive core and meant to wipe out the entire planet is also monstrous. Neither is a plausible research subject right now for the Israelis. The similar ethnicities, family intertwinings (which you'd have to have fully mapped to understand, and no one does), tendency of genes to operate as combinations as well as distinct entitites (so, what mind-boggling number are we dealing with now?) and potential side-effects in untargeted but similar genetic populations... no, I'm pretty confident this is still a complete technicolour fantasy. It certainly makes no logical sense in this case - aside from Israeli Jews being about 40% Arab, E. Nough has noted that even unimaginable success would be a suicide key of its own. Like I said, utterly illogical on any level. Part of my irritation here is that Aziz should know better.
My other problem is the logical consequences of this particular lie if believed.
Let's take the recent Iraq debate, and the argument that even the potential threat of WMD in the hands of an enemy who might be tempted to use it covertly is too much. It doesn't matter if he's threatening us directly now, we aren't safe until he's gone. Now remove all issues around the silliness of the "Jew-safe genetic bioweapons" meme, and note what this lie legitimizes: That peace with Israel is a dangerous illusion for any Arab, because as long as it exists every Arab is ly in danger from covert, deniable acts that attract no international consequences.
The only logical protection is to wipe out the imaginary program's sponsors, and in the Middle East that doesn't just mean the Israeli state - that means Israeli JEWS. Just as it did in the Middle Ages, when thousands and thousands of Jews died thanks to a similar meme that their witchcraft (update to genetic engineering) caused the Black Plague (update to disease that targets Arabs, or even starts in Arab countries). You may not like the "blood libel" charge - but the allegations you're making fit an ugly pattern.
What you published, Aziz, is not so much a cry against genocide as a legitimation of it in "self-defense." You didn't mean to do it - but that's the practical effect.
For the record, I do not believe Aziz hates Jews. Those who originated and propagated this nasty little meme do, however, and Aziz is still helping it spread. Allegations that a black man raped a white woman were possible in the pre-Civil war U.S. South - after all, they might be true. But the consequences of making and spreading such an allegation (lynchings) force good and sensible people not to make such allegations casually lest they promote something monstrous.
The same dynamic applies here.
CONTINUES WITH ROUND 3+, A SCIENCE BREAK, AND OTHER BLOGS' RESPONSES...
ROUNDS 3+: See the Comments section for subsequent debates - Aziz and I have largely had it out there, rather than in duelling blogposts.
SCIENCE & ENGINEERING BREAK: The good folks at GeneXP think this might be possible someday as a matter of theoretical genetics, though the comments on our blog note that there are a host of "don't even think about it" issues before even a possible angle could be non-insane as a deployed weapon.
The folks at Trash Talk are less optimisitic; the moderator also refers to "the last time we discussed this myth".
Reader Jeff points us at an article indicating that describing both Jews and Arabs as "children of Abraham" is genetically true, even at the Y chromosone level and even for European Jews.
OTHER BLOGS: Judith Weiss' ultimate summary of this entire discussion, with link to all players.
"Conspiracy and Truth Week" pretty much sums up our bottom line response here at Winds of Change.NET. Celeste Bilby also has an interesting post about "The Difficulty In Combatting Big Lies" - this incident reminded her of a similar tinfoil-hat conspiracy theory that the CIA was responsible for the spread of crack cocaine in Watts, L.A.