The Italian New Weapons Committee accuses Israel of contaminating Gaza land through bombing, and the president of the European Jewish Congress termed the claims "unfounded blood libels reminiscent of tales of Jews poisoning wells."
The Italy-based group of researchers studied Israel's use of ammunition and said the population of the Gaza Strip is "in danger." It based the claim on soil analysis of four bomb craters. "It is essential to intervene at once to limit the effects of the contamination on people, animals and cultivation," the researchers stated. Their findings grabbed headlines in Italian, European and Middle Eastern publications, including Terra, Ambito, the Turkish Weekly and Tehran Times.
"This so-called research is eerily reminiscent of ancient blood libels against the Jewish people, when rumors were spread about Jews poisoning wells," said Dr. Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress. "Today we are seeing a recurrence of all the worst excesses of anti-Semitism and diatribes that we perhaps naively thought had remained in the Dark Ages."
Paola Manduca, the committee's spokesperson, declined to comment when contacted by Haaretz. "Our study indicates an anomalous presence of toxic elements in the soil," she stated. This included metals that "can cause tumors and problems with fertility, and they can have serious effects on newborns, like deformities and genetic pathologies."
The researchers hailed from the universities of Rome and Genoa and elsewhere and listed the dangerous metals: tungsten, mercury, molybdenum, cadmium and cobalt.
Professor Gerald Steinberg, founder of the Jerusalem-based, non-governmental Monitor organization, said the study did not present enough evidence to support its claim. A lecturer at Bar-Ilan University, he said the committee's "accusations are designed to stigmatize Israel and erase the context of mass terror." He said he considers the accusations "a modern form of blood libel," which quotes "many NGO reports that are a mix of false or unverifiable claims." In September, the New Weapons Committee accused Israel of experimenting with new non-conventional weapons on the civilian population in Gaza. Fabio De Ponte from the committee's press office said the group's work "is strictly scientific and its seriousness should be self-evident from the publication itself."
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