Cancer of Haifa Bay fishermen unconnected to Kishon River pollution, court rules

Controversy surrounding once heavily polluted river began after IDF soldiers, who had spent time diving there, ended up developing cancer.

November 3, 2013 19:50
2 minute read.
Salt marshes at the Kishon River banks

Salt marshes at the Kishon River banks 370. (photo credit: Amit Mendelssohn)


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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 industries.

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.

In 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 decision explained.

“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 concluded.

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