By Barry Chamish August
On August 14, at 9 PM,
Israel's Channel Ten television screened a documentary
film which exposes the ugliest secret of Israel's Labor
party founders: the deliberate mass radiation poisoning
of nearly all Sephardi youths of a generation.
"The Ringworm Children" (translated in Hebrew as
"100,000 Rays"), directed by David Belhassen and Asher
Hemias, recently won the prize for "best documentary" at
the Haifa International film festival, and in the past
year has made the rounds of Jewish and Israeli film
festivals around the world. But it had yet to come to
Israeli television screens. The subject is the mass
irradiation of hundreds of thousands of young Israeli
immigrants from Middle Eastern countries -- Sephardim,
as they are called today. The story goes like this:
In 1951, the director general of the Israeli Health
Ministry, Dr. Chaim Sheba, flew to America and returned
with seven x-ray machines, supplied to him by the
They were to be used in a mass atomic experiment with an
entire generation of Sephardi youths to be used as
guinea pigs. Every Sephardi 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
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 thousands 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.
That is the subject of the documentary in cold terms. It
is another matter to see the victims on the screen.
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."
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?"
The majority of the victims were Moroccan because they
were the most numerous of the Sephardi 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.
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.
David Deri makes the point that only Sephardi children
received the x-rays: "I was in class and the men came to
take us on a tour. They asked our names. The Ashkenazi
children were told to return to their seats. The dark
children were put on the bus."
The film presents a historian who first gives a potted
history of the eugenics movement. In a later sound bite,
he declares that the ringworm operation was a eugenics
program aimed at weeding out the perceived weak strains
of society. The Moroccan lady is back on the screen. "It
was a Holocaust, a Sephardi Holocaust. And what I want
to know is why no one stood up to stop it."
David Deri, on film and then as a panel member, relates
the frustration he encountered when trying to find his
childhood medical records. "All I wanted to know was
what they did to me. I wanted to know who authorized it.
I wanted to trace the chain of command. But the Health
Ministry told me my records were missing." Boaz Lev, the
Health Ministry's spokesman chimes in: "Almost all the
records were burned in a fire."
We are told that a US law in the late '40s put a stop to
the human radiation experiments conducted on prisoners,
the mentally feeble and the like. The American atomic
program needed a new source of human lab rats and the
Israeli government supplied it. Here was the government
cabinet at the time of the ringworm atrocities:
Prime Minister - David Ben Gurion; Finance Minister -
Eliezer Kaplan; Settlement Minister - Levi Eshkol;
Foreign Minister - Moshe Sharrett; Health Minister -
Labor Minister - Golda Meir; Police Minister - Amos Ben
The highest ranking non-cabinet post belonged to the
Director General of the Defence Ministry, Shimon Peres.
That a program involving the equivalent of billions of
dollars of American government funds should be unknown
to the Prime Minister of cash-strapped Israel is
ridiculous. Ben Gurion had to have been in on the
horrors and undoubtedly chose his son to be Police
Minister in case anyone interfered with them.
Finance Minister Eliezer Kaplan was rewarded for
eternity with a hospital named after him near Rehovot.
But he's not alone in this honor. Chaim Sheba, who ran
Ringworm Incorporated, had a whole medical complex named
after him. Needless to say, if there is an ounce of
decency in the local medical profession, those hospital
names will have to change.
After the film ended, there was a panel discussion which
included a Moroccan singer, David Edri, head of the
Compensation Committee for Ringworm X-Ray Victims, and
Boaz Lev, a spokesman for the Ministry Of Health.
TV host Dan Margalit tried to put a better face on what
he'd witnessed. He explained meekly that "the state was
poor. It was a matter of day to day survival." Then he
stopped. He knew there was no excusing the atrocities
which the Sephardi children endured.
But it was the Moroccan singer who summed up the
experience best. "It's going to hurt, but the truth has
to be told. If not, the wounds will never heal."
There is one person alive who knows the truth: Shimon
Peres. The only way to get to the truth and start the
healing is to investigate him for his role in the mass
poisoning of over 100,000 Sephardi children and youth.
But here is why that won't happen. The film was aired at
the same time as the highest-rated TV show of the year,
the finale of Israel's talent-hunt show: "A Star Is
Born." The next day, the newly-born star's photo took up
half the front pages. There was not a word about "The
Ringworm Children" in any paper, nor on the Internet.
Views expressed by the author do
not necessarily reflect those of israelinsider.