In The Midst of Bad There is Always Someone Who Wants to Make It Worse

Over at Counterpunch Ramzy Baroud brings an account of Israeli settlers and military deliberately attempting to infect Palestinians with coronavirus. [stderr]

Whenever I remember how American colonists used smallpox-infected blankets to infect the indigenous peoples, as part of their campaign of genocide, I am ashamed. I wonder how long it will be before Israelis confront their actions. It will happen, eventually, if only as a consequence of numbers and time.

Now that we know that the deadly coronavirus can be transmitted through saliva droplets, Israeli soldiers and illegal Jewish settlers are working extra hard to spit at as many Palestinians, their cars, doorknobs, and so on, as possible.

If this sounds to you too surreal and repugnant, then you might not be as familiar with the particular breed of Israeli colonialism as you may think you are.

In all fairness, Israelis have been spitting at Palestinians well before the World Health Organization (WHO) lectured us on the elusive nature of the COVID-19 disease and on the critical need to apply ‘social distancing.’

Of course, it’s just a few bad apples in the military and a few bad apples in the (already) “illegal Jewish settler” community. That’s why every effort is being made by the authorities to stop the behavior.

First, that acts of spitting at Palestinians and their properties, by both occupation soldiers and settlers, have been widely reported in many parts of occupied Palestine.

This means that, within a matter of days, the Israeli army and settlers’ cultures so swiftly adapted their pre-existing racism to employ a deadly virus as the latest tool in subjugating and harming Palestinians, whether physically or symbolically.

I’ve heard various rumbles about weaponizing the coronavirus in other contexts – “liberals” saying maybe someone sick should attend a Trump rally, and protofascists gathering to swap virus that they can then take out into the broader world. No matter how you slice it, it’s reprehensible.

This pandemic is a good example of why bioweapons are a bad idea. They are much too hard to control and it’s too easy to turn them around once they have been deployed. There are various government labs that have messed with the stuff, including the US’ own USAMRIID in Frederick, MD and Russia’s Vector lab in Novosibirisk. [forbes]. The one act of genocide that humans have committed that was good was when humans mostly eradicated smallpox. Except for the government labs that kept it, because, you know, you never know when it’s time to re-release the monster from the liquid nitrogen tank, right? Arguably, it was good and necessary to keep smallpox on ice so that scientists could examine it, but at this point maybe they could sequence its genome and throw the samples in the incinerator. It’s a ridiculous risk keeping that stuff around because humans can’t trust their own good intentions.

The fact that Vector is one of only two places in the world that stockpiles Smallpox – the other being the CDC facility in Atlanta – tells you everything you need to know. Local firefighter and rescue teams responded to the explosion before someone realized the implications and, as reported by Russian media, “the situation was quickly upgraded from an ordinary emergency to a major incident.”

It’s interesting that Forbes only says CDC has it; they forgot American Tissue Culture Collection and USAMRIID. I suspect they were just trying to make America look great again by only mentioning CDC, which is generally seen as “the good guys” and not our biowar agency. Because (cough) defensive biowar something something. I wouldn’t be surprised if, now that the Trumpies have withdrawn from the nuclear mid-range treaty, they’re not heating up torture rooms and bioweapons labs, too. I worry when the US starts floating a conspiracy theory, because it seems often to me that it’s projection – they think the Chinese or whoever are doing the same thing that they’d be doing if they were the Chinese (or whoever). When I started seeing the Trumpies talking about some bioweapons lab maybe cooking up coronavirus, my response was not to think, “do they know something?” but rather “what have they been up to?”

By the way, the folks at This Week In Virology (TWIV) podcast [twiv] have discussed the question of whether coronavirus was manufactured and all the senior virologists involved – some of whom are sequencing and decoding the damn thing – scientists have a damn good idea what the evolutionary pathway was that created this particular strain of virus and everything is consistent with evolving normally in some non-human host and jumping over to humans, just like SARS and Ebola. What’s really going on, it seems to me, is that the governments of the world are embarrassed, as they should be, for standing down efforts to understand zoonotic viruses and develop faster ways of making vaccines against them  – SARS was a “wake up call” and the governments didn’t just roll over and hit “snooze” they disassembled the clock and gave the pieces to the Department of Defense saying “sell these and maybe you can buy a wing nut for your F-35.” Would having spent the time and money on such efforts have paid off? We’ll never know, but trillions are being thrown at dealing with the problem now that it’s thoroughly too late.

Did I mention that I really love the TWIV podcast? It’s a firehose of information and I’ll probably stop following it, simply because it eats a huge amount of time, but it’s a bunch of virologists who really know their stuff, and they make a strong effort to not dumb things down but rather to define their terms and make it mostly comprehensible for a layperson. I think they’re a bit forgiving and over-kind to the political jackasses who are interfering with the experts’ response to the crisis, but doctors are used to having to deconflict when they provide information. I think it’s a professional risk of being placed in the position of moderator too often.


  1. John Morales says

    Good post.

    One inadvertent double negation here, but:
    “I wouldn’t be surprised if, now that the Trumpies have withdrawn from the nuclear mid-range treaty, they’re not heating up torture rooms and bioweapons labs, too.”

  2. kestrel says

    I love the TWIV podcast. They are so anxious to teach, and I do think that knowledge helps at least somewhat. I like that they answer questions too.

    The Palestinian situation is just horrific. It has been for a very, very long time – but wow is it horrific now. I used to wonder how thick the Israelis were to not see it, but then I started taking a look at my own country… Pretty thick, I guess.

  3. voyager says

    I’m not surprised by the situation for the Palestinians. I keep thinking that the world will finally step in and do something, but they won’t. Using Covid 19 as a weapon should be considered an act of warfare.
    Thanks for the recommendation for TWIV. I’ll give it a listen today.

  4. says

    Actually trying to spread the virus is doubly stupid. If you have it you will be infecting family and friends as well if you don’t isolate yourself.
    Now, I might sometime joke about coughing on the shutdown protesters, but that is assuming I don’t have the virus.

  5. says

    In June 2016, during ramadan and in the hottest month of the year, Israel intentionally cut off all water going into Palestine. Every. Single. Drop. You don’t do such things unless your intent it to murder people and then blame them for being there.

    When the history of this time is written, I do not think it will be kind to Israel.

  6. says

    Actually trying to spread the virus is doubly stupid. If you have it you will be infecting family and friends as well if you don’t isolate yourself.

    Yes, you become a sort of “bio-suicide bomber”
    I know two people, so far, who have been dropped by Covid, and from their descriptions of the experience, I don’t think that someone staggering into a rally with sweat puddling down their face, is going to be sufficiently subtle. For it to be effective, you’d want to be at the peak of the infection, which is also the time when you feel the worst.

    This is all reminiscent of the end (or was it the beginning?) of 12 Monkeys.

  7. says

    Bioweapons are an extremely bad idea for multiple reasons. Firstly they cannot be controlled and thus they will spread beyond the intended populace. Secondly, they are inevitably evolving and thus they might evolve to bypass any safeguards the user might have implemented in their design, be it vaccine, treatment or some specific mode of transmission. Thirdly, it is already difficult enough, for example, to make mechanical things to behave correctly with the insufficient testing that is imposed on production by MBA’s with their idiocy. To make a virus that behaves in some precise manner would be several orders of magnitude more difficult and would require probably several (maybe several dozen) in-vivo tests. After I told this to one of my friends, he replied that MERS and SARS were test-runs for SARS-CoV-2. They weren’t – they are clearly different, albeit related – but even if they were, two test runs for bio weapon? Laughable. In my former work, tens of test runs were needed to get a plastic part to barely pass muster.

    In light of this, I wonder how anyone can still think that Israelis are the good guys here.

  8. seachange says

    I’ve not been out much, but I’ve seen two different plague rats in their excessivelyl large pollution generators coughing out their window at pedestrians in West Hollywood.

  9. dangerousbeans says

    it’s important to keep a small amount of viable small pox rather than just the genome as you need to worry about the protein structures too. the genome is just a map, and protein coiling is a very complex, fuzzy process that’s affected by the environment. of course keeping it in bioweapon labs is completely inexcusable.

  10. says

    Charly (#10) –

    And even without direct use of bioweapons (killing populations by thirst or starvation) it can still become a bioweapon through disease and decay.

  11. wereatheist says

    In June 2016, (…) in the hottest month of the year, Israel intentionally cut off all water going into Palestine.

    There’s a blatant lack of reading comprehension. The cited article claimed nothing of this kind. There were, according to the article, severe water supply disruptions to some municipalities in the West Bank.
    This is bad enough, but why exaggerate? Because :(

  12. jrkrideau says

    @ Marcus
    For it to be effective, you’d want to be at the peak of the infection
    I believe the most recent thinking is that one can be highly infectious before symptoms appear. Perhaps a bit like measles?

  13. xohjoh2n says

    @15: The indy is paywalled, however:


    The article itself of course quotes both Israeli and Palestinian sources, and doesn’t *specifically* appear to confirm one way or the other. The former say there are just faults in some supply pipes, the latter that Israel are deliberately cutting their supplies.

    There appears to be a fair amount of backup to the general split – and not all of it appears to be from Al Jazeera. And a general agreement that things were even worse for Palestinians at the time, but not for Israelis. Having to truck in water for general use at inflated prices is a pretty strong sign there, so why play down the case? Because :(


    From a public health point of view you have to consider who *might* be infectious, even if they’re not showing signs, and try and constrain them all. From a biowar point of view you’d want to make sure the “delivery vehicle” was maximally infectious, and avoid blowing your wad until then.

  14. xohjoh2n says

    (Just to clarify: indy paywalled, but I bypassed it, so actually read the article, hence the first main paragraph in referenct to the article itself. wikilink given for reference, other references googlable for a general gist but not specifically stated.)

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