Ha’aretz (Israel), Feb. 21, 2003
By Shlomo Shamir
NEW YORK – Anti-Semitic elements have been using the Internet to spread rumors that the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster was caused by “a secret Jewish-Israeli conspiracy.”
According to the smear campaign, Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon joined the Columbia team as part of a secret attempt to gather intelligence information about Iraq and the shuttle accident was staged by Israel and America to distract attention from events in the Middle East.
In a document released yesterday, the Anti-Defamamtion League writes that “Holocaust deniers on the Net are making much of the fact that Ramon was the son of Holocaust survivors and singled out his presence on the mission as `evidence’ of Jewish or Israeli complicity in the disaster, suggesting his death was an intentional bid to gain sympathy for the Jewish state.”
Shuttle conspiracy theories have surfaced in chat rooms, bulletin boards, e-mail messages and on Web sites frequented by extremists and anti-Semites, the ADL says.
The ADL document brings examples of e-mail and Internet posts on the Columbia accident. It quotes a writer, Gordon Thomas: “Astronaut Ilan Ramon was conducting secret experiments on the Columbia to discover new ways to beat Saddam’s threat to use biological weapons and chemical weapons against Israel. For most of his 16 days on board the Columbia, he had been using cameras linked directly to the Israeli Space Agency to study desert dust and wind drifts emanating from the deserts of Iraq.”
Another e-mail writer is quoted as saying: “A reasonable suspicion is Col. Ramon photographed and measured the dispersion of inert substances over the Middle East as part of a weapons development program for the IDF.”
ADL director Abe Foxman said yesterday that the conspiracy theories are taking on a life of their own on the Internet, just as they did after the events of September 11 in the U.S.
A Hong Kong-based journalist, Yoichi Clark Shimatsu, wrote: “How then can the Bush and Sharon administrations win support for space-based weapons? A cynical solution is to make martyrs of an Israeli-American space shuttle crew.”