The Bijlmermeer Disaster
October 5, 2006 12:03 PM   Subscribe

The Bijlmermeer Disaster Yesterday marked the anniversary of the 1992 crash of El Al Flight 1862 into the Amersterdam neighborhood of Bijlmermeer, "whose sordid aftermath opened up a whole can of worms relating to secret weapons trafficking and unaccountable government." Six years after the crash, an investigation revealed that the flight had been carrying three of the four chemicals needed for Sarin.
posted by frecklefaerie (19 comments total)
Tests commissioned by a Dutch citizens' group revealed traces of uranium at the crash site and abnormally high levels of uranium in the bodies of survivors. An independent Dutch nuclear research group revealed that – despite government claims to the contrary – only about half of the depleted uranium that the plane had been carrying as ballast had ever been recovered.

Is this normal? Do most commercial airliners carry depleted uranium as a ballast?

And airport employees testified that since 1973, the Netherlands' authorities had allowed El Al planes to transfer cargo at Schiphol Airport without being inspected by customs or by the Dutch Flight Safety Board; and that every Sunday evening an El Al cargo flight arrived from Schiphol en route from New York to Tel Aviv, whose arrival was never displayed on airport monitors, whose cargo was not checked and whose documentation was processed separately from regular freight traffic...

What the hell? Are the reports of this commission available anywhere?
posted by Pastabagel at 12:24 PM on October 5, 2006

Radiation Exposure from Depleted Uranium Counterweights

It's in the wings and tails, generally. Tungsten is being used in newer aircraft.
posted by dhartung at 12:40 PM on October 5, 2006

And let us not forget what this points to - that Israel not only has chemical weapons forbidden by international law, but nuclear weapons programs as well. All allowed because the US created an 'ambiguity clause' which allows Israel not to be subject to weapons inspections.
Still, Iran's the threat, honest...
posted by opsin at 12:40 PM on October 5, 2006

It's interesting to note that "three of the four chemical precursors for the production of Sarin nerve gas." and that "it only takes a few grams to conduct such tests. Once combined, the chemicals aboard Flight 1862 could have produced 270 kilos of sarin - sufficient to kill the entire population of a major world city"

The flight was carrying the 4th one too?

all of the chemicals listed: Dimethyl methylphosphonate, Hydrogen Flouride, and isopropanol, are pretty common industrial chemicals, and COULD have other uses in mind for them. Also "Specialty Chemicals" is industry jargon for chemicals that have more limited uses than "Commodity Chemicals" like the "King of Chemicals"

Having said that, Why the hell woud you use DU for ballast? yes, it's dense, but yeeesh. Yes Israel probably has chemical/biological weapons, Yes they're probably hiding them ala Diamona.
posted by Dr. Twist at 12:49 PM on October 5, 2006

good to know that they use Tungsten now.
posted by Dr. Twist at 12:55 PM on October 5, 2006

And let us not forget what this points to - that Israel not only has chemical weapons forbidden by international law, but nuclear weapons programs as well. All allowed because the US created an 'ambiguity clause' which allows Israel not to be subject to weapons inspections.
Still, Iran's the threat, honest...
posted by opsin at 3:40 PM EST on October 5 [+] [!]

I don't think Israel actually signed that treaty (but I might be wrong).
posted by Pastabagel at 1:11 PM on October 5, 2006

The bit about sarin precursors sounds a little on the hysterical side to me. One of those precursors is isopropyl alcohol, i think you can get that at the drug store....

Actually i'm not sure what the writer is saying. Everyone knows the Israelis have nuclear and chemical weapons. So um this plane crash tells us what else...?
posted by storybored at 1:24 PM on October 5, 2006

And let us not forget what this points to - that Israel not only has chemical weapons forbidden by international law, but nuclear weapons programs as well.

Not really. The DU would have been installed by Boeing at the factory.
posted by cillit bang at 1:36 PM on October 5, 2006

Crap I've got a bottle of isopropyl alcohol on my desk (to clean my LCD I swear!). I'm too pretty to go to jail.
posted by PenDevil at 1:36 PM on October 5, 2006

Is any one under the impression that Israel does not have nukes? I thought that was a commonly known fact?
posted by Artw at 1:48 PM on October 5, 2006

Israel is not a signatory to that agreement. Addtionally, it was France that gave Israel thetech know-how to develop nuclear bombs, not the US.

The comments strike me as naively outraged. Many countries get involved in all sorts of duplicity as to what they are up to. I am not condoning this sort of thing but simply recognizing that China, Iran, and on and on and on buy, sell, develop, import, export whatever they want, think they want, and sell.
posted by Postroad at 1:50 PM on October 5, 2006

Nukes aside, the acquisition of Chemical Weapons seems a little… odd. Presumably I would want these for roughly the same reason Saddam wanted them during the Iran Iraq war, but in 1992? In that conext does that even make sense? Also Israel has access to lots and lots of cluster bombs, which though more expensive would be far more effective against a massed attack (also arguably it wouldn’t be the Israelis paying for them) . Also Cluster bombs, though just as deadly, don’t seem to have the same stigma as “unconventional” WMDs.

The whole thing is more than a little weird.
posted by Artw at 2:02 PM on October 5, 2006

But Postroad, everyone knows only Anglosaxons should have bombs! Only they can be trusted not to blow other people up.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 2:17 PM on October 5, 2006

The Lawrence of Cyberia site seems to have one singular focus, a dislike for Israel. Meh.
posted by caddis at 2:42 PM on October 5, 2006

According to this site:
The cargo included a number of chemicals including 50 gallons of DMMP and two others used in Sarin synthesis. The quantities involved are too small for the preparation of a militarily useful quantity of Sarin, but would be consistent with making small quantities for testing detection methods and protective clothing.
With regard to skipping customs, the Israeli banking system is founded on a reserve of diamonds, in much the same way that the US Federal Reserve relies on a store of gold in Fort Knox, near Louisville, Kentucky. It is no surprise that El Al flights between Tel Aviv and Schiphol get a customs exemption - diamonds are always moving back and forth between these two cities for reasons of financial liquidity and allowing customs inspectors to meddle in this process would both endanger the financial stability of Israel's central bank and also put the valuable diamonds at risk of interception/theft.
posted by ikkyu2 at 7:21 PM on October 5, 2006

The conclusions were published in a report called "Een beladen vlucht: eindrapport Bijlmer enquete" (Sdu Publishers, 1999)
An dutch online version can be found here:
Maybe with babblefish you can make cheese of it...

Like this, most stuff I was found was in dutch only.. This was in english:
Epidemiological study >

This year again ppz in the Netherlands were suprised to find out that another country had customs exemptions when the cia-prisoner flights to 'black sites' were exposed
posted by borq at 1:54 AM on October 6, 2006

Thanks, frecklefaerie, for posting this. I can't believe I am so late to this thread.

I was eleven years old when this happened, and I remember it very vividly. Sappy as it sounds, it really was a very traumatic event for all of us. Comparisons to 9/11 are so obvious - in imagery if not in scale - that I probably shouldn't draw them, and I think that the then unimaginable image of a wide-body jet actually tearing an apartment block in two left an undelible mark on Dutch retinas. I believe the crash was just before sundown, and it was incredibly eerie to see the smoking heap of rubble dividing the structure against nightfall. I also remember the fog-of-war confusion as reports trickled through: relatives in England phoned us asking if we were okay, saying that British media had reported that there had been a "bomb".

I think it's also significant that it happened in de Bijlmer (properly called Amsterdam Southeast), the closest thing to a ghetto in Holland at the time, and a nationally recognised symbol of the synergy between a minority population, poverty and crime where "life goes on regardless", which is how it's often depicted in popular culture (compare culturally to, say, The Bronx).

However, pleased as I am by the attention for this subject, and despite all the memories it evokes, and in spite of the fact that I usually hate FPP-bashing with a passion, I cannot help being somewhat critical about what I feel is little more than a tenuous discussion-starter post. I mean, the main link is to what I cannot describe in any other way than as an anti-Israel blog, and under slightly different circumstances (say, the topic was more widely recognized (read: Anglo-American or otherwise globally known), or the link was to an anti-Palestine blog) it would surely have been deleted. The link to the otherwise interesting Deltametropool website (which IMO warrants a post in itself) is mostly just inane urban planning jivespeak, and the last one is simply a factsheet about sarin. Again, I apologise if it seems I'm bashing your post, as that is not my intention, frecklefaerie.

But surely no post about the Bijlmer disaster can be complete without mention of the flight recordings (mp3) (transcript), video, the memorial and the "tree that saw it all" (pdf), the flight path (mouseover this link), the cause of the crash, and the relevant wikipedia article?

I'm sorry, but I guess I just feel very strongly about this subject and am disappointed to see a national tragedy, one of my nation this time, spun as a story about Israel's dirty dealings; something which I too am highly critical of, but that is beside the point. If 43 humans die and some chemicals are found it's probably good to write something about the humans, that's all.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 10:05 AM on October 6, 2006 [1 favorite]

I agree gnfti. The picture of the apartment complex is truly horrifying. In addition to the 43 who died I am sure that the suffering extended to a far larger group of people injured by the crash, injured by the chemicals or psychologically scarred from being at the site of yet surviving the accident.

posted by caddis at 10:49 AM on October 6, 2006

Why the hell woud you use DU for ballast?

Why else - you have to pay to obtain tungsten, while you have to pay to get rid of DU, since it's both a toxic and largely useless waste produce - and the energy industry produces so much that it's rather keen to offload it to anyone who will legally take for the lowest fee :)
posted by -harlequin- at 3:19 AM on October 8, 2006

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