Salt marshes at the Kishon River banks 370.
(photo credit: Amit Mendelssohn)
A Haifa District Court judge ruled on Sunday that there is no correlation
between illnesses developed by Haifa Bay fishermen and their alleged exposure to
pollutants stemming from the Kishon River.
“After hearing the evidence
and arguments of the parties, as submitted in detailed summations, I decided to
reject the claims,” wrote Haifa District Court Judge Ron Shapira in his
decision. “I assert that the plaintiffs failed to prove that their illnesses
were caused by exposure to carcinogens discharged by the defendants into the
waters of the Kishon River.”
Part of seven lawsuits that had been grouped
together, the 50 plaintiffs had filed their complaints between the years 2001
and 2005, stating they developed various types of cancer as a result of their
exposure to carcinogens injected into the Kishon River by Haifa Bay
Controversy surrounding the once heavily polluted Kishon
River began after a group of IDF soldiers who had spent time diving in the river
ended up developing cancer. The still disputed results of the Shamgar Commission
investigation that ensued were published in January 2001 – indicating that the
long-term health problems developed by the divers were not, in fact, connected
to their exposure to the pollutants.
Nonetheless, the minority opinion of
the committee chairman, High Court president Meir Shamgar, conveyed that Shamgar
thought there was a causal link between the materials discharged and the
diseases of the soldiers, Shapira’s ruling explained. The government therefore
chose to recognize the suffering of the soldiers and provide them with
compensation, the ruling continued.
As a result of the media explosion
that ensued, many others began to argue that their diseases may also have broken
out due to the same circumstances, according to the Justice Ministry.
his decision, Shapira noted it is possible that media reports hinting at
possible compensation for defendants may have encouraged “the voyage of the
fishermen after the promised treasure.” The judge explained that evidence
showed, however, that their lives and businesses were not really rooted inside
the waters of the Kishon.
“Although the suffering of the plaintiffs and
their families from their illnesses was indisputable and not taken lightly, over
the course of the discussions the plaintiffs’ claims were not proven regarding
the mode of their work and their form of exposure to the Kishon waters,” a
statement from the Justice Ministry said.
Quite the contrary, evidence
proved that most of the fishermen’s work occurred on the open sea and only very
rarely actually involved them making physical contact with the water, Shapira’s
“It is apparent that many of the claimants did not
work in fishing as their principle work, and a portion of them even did not do
business in fishing in the Kishon harbor at all,” the ministry statement