A friend in Greece asked me to debunk an article he read alleging that Israel covered up an atrocity perpetrated on North African Jews back in the 1950s called the Ringworm Affair by conspiracy theorist and self-loathing Jew Barry Chamish. The Wikipedia article on him listed most of his hair-brained theories including his claim that Yoko Ono was behind the assassination of John Lennon; however the Ringworm Affair hasn't yet been added to the wiki. [Update: Wiki added article Ringworm affair Oct 2007]
So here is my definitive refutation of this outlandish hoax.
Back in September 22, 2004 Barry Chamish sent an email to simshalom.blogspot about alleged horrors from Israel's past which I excerpt here in gray.
The Ringworm Children - A Review by Barry Chamish
On August 14, at 9 PM, Israeli television station, Channel Ten, broke all convention and exposed the ugliest secret of Israel's Labor Zionist founders; the deliberate mass radiation poisoning of nearly all Sephardi Jews.
The expose began with the presentation of a documentary film called, The Ringworm Children, and concluded with a panel discussion moderated by TV host Dan Margalit, surprising because he is infamous for toeing the establishment line.
Subject: In 1951, the director general of the Israeli Health Ministry, Dr. Chaim Sheba flew to America and returned with 7 x-ray machines, supplied to him by the American army. They were to be used in a mass atomic experiment with an entire generation of Sephardic youths to be used as guinea pigs. Every Sephardic child was to be given 35,000 times the maximum dose of x-rays through his head.
For doing so, the American government paid the Israeli government 300 million Israeli liras a year. The entire Health budget was 60 million liras. The money paid by the Americans is equivalent to billions of dollars today. To fool the parents of the victims, the children were taken away on "school trips" and their parents were later told the x-rays were a treatment for the scourge of scalpal ringworm. 6,000 of the children died shortly after their doses were given, while many of the rest developed cancers that killed them over time and are still killing them now. While living, the victims suffered from disorders such as epilepsy, amnesia, Alzheimer's disease, chronic headaches and psychosis.
Looking up the lethal dose (L.D. 50/30) death-rate of X-rays for humans is 250 - 300 rads. That means, if the children were given 500 to 600 times the maximum dose, 50% of the children would have died within 30 days. At 35,000 times the maximum yearly dose, the doctor, technicians and all the children would have been dead before the end of the month. This 6,000 figure is completely bogus or the maximum dose is bogus.
Yes, that is the subject of the documentary in cold terms. It is another matter to see the victims on the screen. ie. To watch the Moroccan lady describe what getting 35,000 times the dose of allowable x-rays in her head feels like. "I screamed make the headache go away. Make the headache go away. Make the headache go away. But it never went away."
That's strange. The effects of x-rays or any other radiation poisoning take a few hours at the speediest and days and weeks later normally. Obviously the documentary crew did not have a radiation expert handy. Someone has watched too many science fiction films. Be aware that the skin does not have receptors that sense radiation exposure. No matter how large a radiation dose a person receives, there is no sensation at the time the dose is delivered. It has been reported that some people who have received extremely large doses have felt a tingling in the skin. However, the tingling is due to static charge at the skin surface rather than the direct sensation of radiation exposure. No one can actually feel pain from X-rays until much, much later; and that pain is not from the X-rays themselves but from the damage to the tissues that occurs much later. All this "Make the headache go away" is a complete fabrication - it cannot have happened.
To watch the bearded man walk hunched down the street. "I'm in my fifties and everyone thinks I'm in my seventies. I have to stoop when I walk so I won't fall over. They took my youth away with those x-rays." To watch the old lady who administered the doses to thousands of children. "They brought them in lines. First their heads were shaved and smeared in burning gel. Then a ball was put between their legs and the children were ordered not to drop it, so they wouldn't move. The children weren't protected over the rest of their bodies. There were no lead vests for them. I was told I was doing good by helping to remove ringworm. If I knew what dangers the children were facing, I would never have cooperated. Never!" Because the whole body was exposed to the rays, the genetic makeup of the children was often altered, affecting the next generation. We watch the woman with the distorted face explain, "All three of my children have the same cancers my family suffered. Are you going to tell me that's a coincidence?"
OK, let us assume Moroccan children can handle large doses of x-rays without dying. According to the medical literature 500 to 600 rem (or 1,000 times max dose) will sterilize you (and kill 35% of the victims after 30 days). That means there could not have been the next generation, and certainly this woman would never have had any children.
Everyone notices that Sephardic women in their fifties today, often have sparse patchy hair, which they try to cover with henna. Most of us assumed it was just a characteristic of Sephardic women. We watch the woman on the screen wearing a baseball-style hat. She places a picture of a lovely young teenager with flowing black hair opposite the lens. "That was me before my treatment. Now look at me." She removes her hat. Even the red henna can't cover the horrifying scarred bald spots.
It is quite disingenuous to take an observable cultural trait, that almost all Sephardic women dye their hair with henna, and give it a sinister purpose. Henna is used in almost all countries from the Atlantic coast of Africa to Malaysia and among Muslims and Non-Muslims (1) not just Jews. There are even henna parties and events. Sephardic women use henna because of tradition, not because they need to hide the effects of radiation poisoning. It is a millennium-old tradition. Saying they do this only in Israel because of X-ray exposure is patently absurd. Anyone familiar with the Middle-East knows about Henna Parties (2).
The majority of the victims were Moroccan because they were the most numerous of the Sephardic immigrants. The generation that was poisoned became the country's perpetual poor and criminal class. It didn't make sense. The Moroccans who fled to France became prosperous and highly educated. The common explanation was that France got the rich, thus smart ones. The real explanation is that every French Moroccan child didn't have his brain cells fried with gamma rays.
Just a technical point: to be accurate, the term gamma ray is used to denote electromagnetic radiation from the nucleus as a part of a radioactive process. Simply stated, gamma rays do not come from x-ray machines. In addition, unlike optical light and X-rays, gamma rays cannot be captured and reflected in mirrors.
Also, Moroccans are the most numerous of the Sephardi immigrants today. But not in 1951. The director/researcher here did not do his research. The assumption that because there are about 700,000 Moroccan Jews in Israel today, representing the largest proportion of Sephardic Jews, that this was so in 1951.
However, Jews were not under duress in Morocco before, during, or after WWII and it took 50 years of emigration starting in 1956 [one year after Morocco's Independence] with special Israeli incentives to send even 400,000 of them over the years to Israel. Indeed the largest Jewish community in the Arab world today is in Morocco. There are between 7,000 and 10,000 Jews left in Morocco—mostly in Casablanca, but also in Marrakesh, Tangiers and Rabat. Charles Dahan, a close friend of the ambassador and president of the World Sephardic Association of Moroccan Jews, said that unlike the case in Algeria, Iraq or Egypt, the Jews of Morocco never suffered discrimination or violence (3).
In 1951 there were at most 20,000 Moroccan Jews in Israel. Yet in this poorly researched and obviously anti-Jewish documentary it states that 100,000 Sephardic children, of which Moroccans were the majority, were exposed to X-rays. Demographically speaking this could not have happened. Someone is guilty of an anachronism. Ascribing present statistics to past events is one of the many mistakes or purposeful lies in this documentary.
The film made it perfectly plain that this operation was no accident. The dangers of x-rays had been known for over forty years.
We read the official guidelines for x-ray treatment in 1952. The maximum dose to be given a child in Israel was.5 rad. There was no mistake made. The children were deliberately poisoned.
Again we have historical revisionism. Back in the 50s radiation from x-ray machines was considered harmless. Shoe stores in America even had X-ray machines used for shoe-fitting that were a common sight in the late 1940s and early 1950s. It wasn't until 1969 that the .5 rad maximum yearly exposure was determined. Nice try Chamish, but no cigar.
There is one person alive who knows the truth and participated in the atrocities. He is Leader Of The Opposition Shimon Peres, the peacemaker. The only way to get to the truth and start the healing is to investigate him for his role in the kidnapping of 4500 Yemenite infants and the mass poisoning of over 100,000 Sephardic children and youths.
OK, OK - I have to stop - I can't take anymore. Chamish goes on and on with other conspiracy theories all of which are just as easy to debunk as this one. Let me answer some arguments I have seen raised about this hoax of a story that Chamish has planted in various anti-Jewish sites.
Yeah sure, as if Michael Moron's Fahrenheit 911 had some connection with reality. See the 59 deceits and lies in Fahrenheit 911.
But wait, Bernie, what about the reference Chamish gives from an Israeli Newspaper documenting the X-ray affair? "A decent background piece on the subject of the Ringworm Holocaust is found at: http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/458044.html".
Chamish knows this is a dead link, the paper didn't archive it. He doesn't want people to read the facts. But I have a copy of it here. The article was published July 30, 2004, a few months before the documentary aired, we read: [Although I respect the integrity of Haaretz, the writer, Aryeh Dayan is known to have an anti-government bias, so please read with a grain of salt.]
Naturally, at the same time there will be a renewal of the bitter debate about the limits of responsibility of the Israeli government for what was defined about 50 years ago as a medical-humanitarian campaign meant to benefit the olim (new immigrants) from the Arab countries, and turned into a terrible humanitarian tragedy. The government radiation campaign began in the late 1940s, when a fear arose in the country of an outbreak of a plague of ringworm, a skin disease that grows in the roots of the hair and quickly spreads among children who live in crowded conditions, with poor hygiene.
The prejudices of the establishment toward the Mizrahi (Jews of North African and Middle Eastern origin) immigrants contributed both to intensifying this fear and to the means used to solve the problem. The top echelons of the Ministry of Health and the Medical Corps of the Israel Defense Forces decided to begin a comprehensive treatment and prevention campaign, which was to include radioactive treatments of the heads of all the children up to age 15 who had immigrated [sic, emigrated] from Arab countries. In all, about 100,000 children underwent these treatments. At a certain stage of the campaign, which lasted until 1960, it was also decided to transfer radiation machines to the Jewish Agency transit camps in Marseilles and other places in Europe and to carry out the treatments there, while the children were still in transit from North Africa to Israel.
The medical world at the time, even outside Israel, was as yet unaware of the future damage involved in these radiation treatments; the connection between such treatments and cancer and other illnesses was discovered only years later.
So that's the real story: X-ray treatments were given to Sephardic youths, which long range problems were not known by the state at the time. Chamish's assertions of treatments with 35,000 times the normal dose, saying everyone knew the max was.5 rad, the stories of screaming pain from the treatments, putting in Moroccans because that would make the largest group in Israel feel injured, inserting the conspiracy with American military, etc., on and on now shows that he took a tragic event and painted it Michael-Moore-style as the Ringworm Holocaust and Moroccan genocide.
Chamish loves conspiracy theories. A year later, he inserted this hoax into the anti-Semitic jew watch and other gullible websites that assumed the story was true.
But like many movies in Hollywood, "based on a true story" does not mean the story, as depicted, is actually true. Here is how the world was back in the 50s:
In 1950 two epidemics of ringworm appeared in French schools. Similar outbreaks occurred all over the world. Americans treated during the 1950's for ringworm by X-ray irradiation were 20 years later found to have an increased incidence of thyroid cancer.
Israel at that time was also plagued with an outbreak of ringworm, a skin disease that grows in the roots of the hair and quickly spreads among children who live in crowded conditions. The State of Israel began a comprehensive treatment and prevention campaign, some of which were X-ray treatments of the heads of all children up to age 15 who had emigrated from Arab countries. About 20,000 children underwent these treatments.
The dose given, in actual fact, was about 130 rads which at that time was considered safe. The medical world in the 50s, even outside Israel, was as yet unaware of the future damage involved in these radiation treatments; the connection between such treatments and cancer and other illnesses was discovered only years later. Xray treatment of the scalp for ringworm in the early 50s was considered by everyone to be safe. It was only years later that medical researchers in the US during the 1970s found an increased incidence of thyroid cancer among people who had been treated early in life with X rays for such conditions as acne, ringworm, and tonsillitis. See encarta.msn. But to allege that Israelis knew about the dangers 20 years before anyone else is absurd.
For the past 26 years there have been hundreds of epidemiological studies on these Israeli immigrant children, now grown up, for mortality, cancer rates, intelligence, visual acuity and other researches. Here are a few:
In the American Journal of Epidemiology of July 1982 (116(1):149-60) published "Mental function following scalp irradiation during childhood" by Ron E, Modan B, Floro S, Harkedar I, and Gurewitz R.:
In 1991 they counted that 80 neoplasms were identified from an extensive search of the pathology logs of all major hospitals in Israel and computer linkage with the national cancer registry. Radiation dose to the scalp was computed for over 10,000 persons irradiated for ringworm (mean 7 Gy), and incidence rates were contrasted with those observed in 16,000 matched comparison subjects.
These studies have continued unto the present day. I could list hundreds of more studies, but the point is that there was no secret that these children were treated, nor was there any covering up of the studies. They were published in International Scientific and Medical publications for all to see for the past 55 years.
In 1994 Israel held hearings in the Knesset on compensation for those so irradiated. As to why it took so long to hold the hearings? It wasn't until the late 80's that a significant number contracted cancer or other illnesses as a result of the radiation campaign.
The Knesset set compensation levels for various levels of injuries but by 2004 many of the victims complained or expressed dissatisfaction with the compensation scheme. It was then that the Israeli paper Haaretz (The Land) published the article referenced above critical of the government on what they began to call the "Ringworm Affair". Haaretz is generally a leftist paper; however it is widely recognized to be some of the most reliable and most regularly updated news sites in Israel. Even the English website gives very accurate information minutes after incidents have taken place, making Haaretz online one of the most used English-language website for Israeli news. But what they reported is not what Chamish alleges.
It's hard for me to tell which looks more fabricated, this hoax or a Reuter's photo.
Here is a clip from the video: The Ringworm Children, released by Dimona Productions Ltd. in 2003. Directed by David Belhassen & Asher Hemias. Those who view this film without knowing the science and details I outlined above may well believe the Israeli government took money from the US to purposely poison its own people.
Henna dye is considered to have magical healing properties, and is quite commonly seen, especially on Iraqi women. For example, it can be used for treatment of migraine headaches, where the hair is dyed. Henna can also be painted on the hands and feet, not just for decoration but for pain relief and also for protection from evil spirits and "evil eye." Tattoos can also serve the same purpose. For example, Islamic holy words can be written on the hand, such as "Allah" on the front, and "Ali" on the back. Circular tattoos over the temples are common for treatment of migraine headaches.
Sadberk Hanım Müzesi, HENNA PARTY
In former times, wedding festivities were drawn-out affairs lasting several days. They began on a Monday with the dispatch of the bridal trousseau to the bridegroom's house. The procession carrying the trousseau was proceeded by large wooden or iron "trees" decorated with cloths, fruits, and flowers. The bridal bath was held the following day (Tuesday) while Wednesday evening was when a henna~party was held in the harem section of the house in which the bride-to-be lived. At the same time, the menfolk would be enjoying themselves in the men's quarters (selamlık) of same house or in that of the groom's.
A henna party was an occasion on which the bride, young girls, and the womenfolk of her future husband dressed up in the sumptuous, heavily embroidered dresses called bindalli. The bride's face would be concealed by a sequined red veil. The henna for the party would be brought to the bride's house on a silver tray with two burning candles by a few of the groom's relatives...
The Washington Diplomat, Moroccan Ambassador Speaks on Nation’s Close Ties to Jews
In Morocco’s case, that Jewish history goes back more than 2,000 years. That’s when, according to Mekouar, the first great wave of immigration took place following the Roman destruction of the Great Temple in Jerusalem. A second wave of immigration took place following the Inquisition, when Jews refusing to convert to Catholicism fled Spain and Portugal, finding safe haven among the relatively tolerant Muslims of Morocco.