[News] Israeli Organ Harvesting
news at freedomarchives.org
Fri Aug 28 16:50:01 EDT 2009
August 28-30, 2009
The New "Blood Libel"?
Israeli Organ Harvesting
By ALISON WEIR
Last week Swedens largest daily newspaper
published an article containing shocking
material: testimony and circumstantial evidence
indicating that Israelis may have been harvesting
internal organs from Palestinian prisoners without consent for many years.
Worse yet, some of the information reported in
the article suggests that in some instances
Palestinians may have been captured with this macabre purpose in mind.
In the article, Our sons plundered for their
organs, veteran journalist Donald Bostrom writes
that Palestinians harbor strong suspicions
against Israel for seizing young men and having
them serve as the countrys organ reserve a
very serious accusation, with enough question
marks to motivate the International Court of
Justice (ICJ) to start an investigation about possible war crimes.1/
An army of Israeli officials and apologists
immediately went into high gear, calling both
Bostrom and the newspapers editors
anti-Semitic. The Israeli foreign minister was
reportedly aghast and termed it a demonizing
piece of blood libel. An Israeli official called it hate porn.
Commentary magazine wrote that the story was
merely the tip of the iceberg in terms of
European funded and promoted anti-Israel hate.
Numerous people likened the article to the
medieval blood libel, (widely refuted stories
that Jews killed people to use their blood in
religious rituals). Even some pro-Palestinian
writers joined in the criticism, expressing skepticism.
The fact is, however, that substantiated evidence
of public and private organ trafficking and
theft, and allegations of worse, have been widely
reported for many years. Given such context, the
Swedish charges become far more plausible than
might otherwise be the case and suggest that an
investigation could well turn up significant information.
Below are a few examples of previous reports on this topic.
Israels first heart transplant
Israels very first, historic heart transplant
used a heart removed from a living patient
without consent or consulting his family.
In December 1968 a man named Avraham Sadegat (the
New York Times seems to give his name as A
Savgat) (2) died two days after a stroke, even
though his family had been told he was doing well.
After initially refusing to release his body, the
Israeli hospital where he was being treated
finally turned the mans body over to his family.
They discovered that his upper body was wrapped
in bandages; an odd situation, they felt, for
someone who had suffered a stroke.
When they removed the bandages, they discovered
that the chest cavity was stuffed with bandages, and the heart was missing.
During this time, the headline-making Israeli
heart transplant had occurred. After their
initial shock, the mans wife and brother began
to put the two events together and demanded answers.
The hospital at first denied that Sadegats heart
had been used in the headline-making transplant,
but the family raised a media storm and
eventually applied to three cabinet ministers.
Finally, weeks later and after the family had
signed a document promising not to sue, the
hospital admitted that Sadagats heart had been used.
The hospital explained that it had abided by
Israeli law, which allowed organs to be harvested
without the family's consent. (3) (The United
Nations Convention against Transnational
Organized Crime includes the extraction of organs
in its definition of human exploitation.)
Indications that the removal of Sadagats heart
was the actual cause of death went unaddressed.
Director of forensic medicine on missing organs
A 1990 article in the Washington Report on Middle
East Affairs entitled Autopsies and Executions
by Mary Barrett reports on the grotesque killings
of young Palestinians. It includes an interview
with Dr. Hatem Abu Ghazalch, the former chief
health official for the West Bank under Jordanian
administration and director of forensic medicine and autopsies.
Barrett asks him about the widespread anxiety
over organ thefts which has gripped Gaza and the
West Bank since the intifada began in December of 1987.
"There are indications that for one reason or
another, organs, especially eyes and kidneys,
were removed from the bodies during the first
year or year and a half. There were just too many
reports by credible people for there to be
nothing happening. If someone is shot in the head
and comes home in a plastic bag without internal
organs, what will people assume? (4)
Mysterious Scottish death
In 1998 a Scot named Alisdair Sinclair died under
questionable circumstances while in Israeli custody at Ben Gurion airport.
His family was informed of the death and,
according to a report in J Weekly,
had three weeks to come up with about $4,900 to
fly Sinclair's corpse home. [Alisdairs brother]
says the Israelis seemed to be pushing a
different option: burying Sinclair in a Christian
cemetery in Israel, at a cost of about $1,300.
The family scraped up the money, brought the body
home, and had an autopsy performed at the
University of Glasgow. It turned out that
Alisdairs heart and a tiny throat bone were
missing. At this point the British Embassy filed a complaint with Israel.
The J report states:
A heart said to be Sinclair's was subsequently
repatriated to Britain, free of charge. James
wanted the [Israeli] Forensic Institute to pay
for a DNA test to confirm that this heart was
indeed their brother's, but the Institute's
director, Professor Jehuda Hiss refused, citing
the prohibitive cost, estimated by some sources at $1,500.
Despite repeated requests from the British
Embassy for the Israeli pathologist's and police
reports, Israeli officials refused to release either. (5,6,7)
Israeli government officials raise questions
Palestinian journalist Khalid Amayreh reports in an article in CCUN:
In January, 2002, an Israeli cabinet minister
tacitly admitted that organs taken from the
bodies of Palestinian victims might have been
used for transplants in Jewish patients without
the knowledge of the Palestinian victims families.
The minister, Nessim Dahan, said in response to
a question by an Arab Knesset member that he
couldnt deny or confirm that organs of
Palestinian youths and children killed by the
Israeli army were taken out for transplants or scientific research.
I couldnt say for sure that something like that didnt happen.
Amayreh writes that the Knesset member who posed
the question said that he had received credible
evidence proving that Israeli doctors at the
forensic institute of Abu Kabir extracted such
vital organs as the heart, kidneys, and liver
from the bodies of Palestinian youth and children
killed by the Israeli army in Gaza and the West Bank. (8)
Israels chief pathologist removed from post for stealing body parts
For a number of years there were allegations that
Israels leading pathologist was stealing body
parts. In 2001 the Israeli national news service reported:
the parents of soldier Zeev Buzgallo who was
killed in a Golan Heights military training
accident, are filing a petition with the High
Court of Justice calling for the immediate
suspension of Dr. Yehuda Hiss and that criminal
charges be filed against him. Hiss serves as the
director of the Abu Kabir Forensic
.According to the parents, the body of
their son was used for medical experimentation
without their consent, experiments authorized by Hiss. (9)
In 2002 the service reported:
The revelation of illegally stored body parts in
the Abu Kabir Forensic Institute has prompted MK
Anat Maor, chairman of the Knesset Science
Committee, to demand the immediate suspension of
the director, Prof. Yehuda Hiss."
Alisdair Sinclairs death had first alerted
authorities to Hisss malfeasance in 1998, though
nothing was done for years. The Forward reported:
In 2001, an Israeli Health Ministry
investigation found that Hiss had been involved
for years in taking body parts, such as legs,
ovaries and testicles, without family permission
during autopsies, and selling them to medical
schools for use in research and training. He was
appointed chief pathologist in 1988. Hiss was
never charged with any crime, but in 2004 he was
forced to step down from running the state
morgue, following years of complaints. (10)
Harvesting kidneys from impoverished communities
According to the Economist, a kidney racket
flourished in South Africa between 2001 and
2003. Donors were recruited in Brazil, Israel
and Romania with offers of $5,000-20,000 to visit
Durban and forfeit a kidney. The 109 recipients,
mainly Israelis, each paid up to $120,000 for a
transplant holiday; they pretended they were
relatives of the donors and that no cash changed hands. (11)
In 2004 a legislative commission in Brazil
reported, At least 30 Brazilians have sold their
kidneys to an international human organ
trafficking ring for transplants performed in
South Africa, with Israel providing most of the funding.
According to an IPS report: The recipients were
mostly Israelis, who receive health insurance
reimbursements of 70,000 to 80,000 dollars for
life-saving medical procedures performed abroad.
The Brazilians were recruited in Brazils most
impoverished neighbourhoods and were paid $10,000
per kidney, but as supply increased, the
payments fell as low as 3,000 dollars. The
trafficking had been organized by a retired
Israeli police officer, who said he did not
think he was committing a crime, given that the
transaction is considered legal by his country's government.
The Israeli embassy issued a statement denying
any participation by the Israeli government in
the illegal trade of human organs but said it did
recognize that its citizens, in emergency cases,
could undergo organ transplants in other
countries, "in a legal manner, complying with
international norms," and with the financial
support of their medical insurance.
However, IPS reports that the commission chair
termed the Israeli stance at the very least
anti-ethical, adding that trafficking can only
take place on a major scale if there is a major
source of financing, such as the Israeli health
system. He went on to state that the resources
provided by the Israeli health system "were a
determining factor" that allowed the network to function. (12)
Tel Aviv hospital head promotes organ trafficking
IPS goes on to report:
Nancy Scheper-Hughes, who heads the Organs Watch
project at the U.S. University of California,
Berkeley, testified to the Pernambuco legislative
commission that international trafficking of
human organs began some 12 years ago, promoted by
Zacki Shapira, former director of a hospital in Tel Aviv.
Shapira performed more than 300 kidney
transplants, sometimes accompanying his patients
to other countries, such as Turkey. The
recipients are very wealthy or have very good
health insurance, and the donors are very poor
people from Eastern Europe, Philippines and other
developing countries, said Scheper-Hughes, who
specialises in medical anthropology.
Israel prosecutes organ traffickers
In 2007 Israels Haaretz newspaper reported that
two men confessed to persuading Arabs from the
Galilee and central Israel who were
developmentally challenged or mentally ill to
agree to have a kidney removed for payment. They
then would refuse to pay them.
The paper reported that the two were part of a
criminal ring that included an Israeli surgeon.
According to the indictment, the surgeon sold the
kidneys he harvested for between $125,000 and $135,000. (13)
Earlier that year another Israeli newspaper, the
Jerusalem Post, reported that ten members of an
Israeli organ smuggling ring targeting Ukrainians had been arrested. (14)
In still another 2007 story, the Jerusalem Post
reported that Professor Zaki Shapira, one of
Israel's leading transplant surgeons, was
arrested in Turkey on Thursday on suspicion of
involvement in an organ trafficking ring.
According to the report, the transplants were
arranged in Turkey and took place at private hospitals in Istanbul.
Israeli organ trafficking comes to the U.S.?
In July of this year even US media reported on
the arrest of Levy Izhak Rosenbaum, from
Brooklyn, recently arrested by federal officials
in a massive corruption sweep in New Jersey that
netted mayors, government officials and a number
of prominent rabbis. Bostrom opens his article with this incident.
According to the federal complaint, Rosenbaum,
who has close ties to Israel, said that he had
been involved in the illegal sale of kidneys for
10 years. A US Attorney explained: "His business
was to entice vulnerable people to give up a
kidney for $10,000 which he would turn around and sell for $160,000." (15)
This is reportedly the first case of
international organ trafficking in the U.S.
University of California anthropologist and organ
trade expert Nancy Scheper-Hughes, who informed
the FBI about Rosenbaum seven years ago, says she
heard reports that he had held donors at gunpoint
to ensure they followed through on agreements to donate their organs. (16)
Israels organ donor problems
Israel has an extraordinarily small number of
willing organ donors. According to the Israeli
news service Ynet, the percentage of organs
donated among Jews is the lowest of all the
In western countries, some 30 per
cent of the population have organ donor cards. In
Israel, in contrast, four percent of the population holds such cards. (17)
According to statistics from the Health
Ministrys website, in 2001, 88 Israelis died
waiting for a transplant because of a lack of
donor organs. In the same year, 180 Israelis were
brain dead, and their organs could have been used
for transplant, but only 80 of their relatives agreed to donate their organs.
According to Ynet, the low incidence of donors is
related to religious reasons. In 2006 there was
an uproar when an Israeli hospital known for its
compliance with Jewish law performed a transplant
operation using an Israeli donor. The week
before, a similar incident occurred, but since
the patient was not Jewish it passed silently. (18, 19)
The Swedish article reports that Israel has
repeatedly been under fire for its unethical ways
of dealing with organs and transplants. France
was among the countries that ceased organ
collaboration with Israel in the 1990s. Jerusalem
Post wrote that the rest of the European
countries are expected to follow Frances example shortly.
Half of the kidneys transplanted to Israelis
since the beginning of the 2000s have been bought
illegally from Turkey, Eastern Europe or Latin
America. Israeli health authorities have full
knowledge of this business but do nothing to stop
it. At a conference in 2003 it was shown that
Israel is the only western country with a medical
profession that doesnt condemn the illegal organ
trade. The country takes no legal measures
against doctors participating in the illegal
business on the contrary, chief medical
officers of Israels big hospitals are involved
in most of the illegal transplants, according to
Dagens Nyheter (December 5, 2003).
To fill this need former Prime Minister Ehud
Olmert, then health minister of Israel, organized
a big donor campaign in the summer of 1992, but
while the number of donors skyrocketed, need still greatly surpassed supply.
Palestinian disappearances increase
Bostrom, who earlier wrote of all this in his
2001 book Inshallah, (20) reports in his recent article:
While the campaign was running, young
Palestinian men started to disappear from
villages in the West Bank and Gaza. After five
days Israeli soldiers would bring them back dead,
with their bodies ripped open.
Talk of the bodies terrified the population of
the occupied territories. There were rumors of a
dramatic increase of young men disappearing, with
ensuing nightly funerals of autopsied bodies.
I was in the area at the time, working on a
book. On several occasions I was approached by UN
staff concerned about the developments. The
persons contacting me said that organ theft
definitely occurred but that they were prevented
from doing anything about it. On an assignment
from a broadcasting network I then travelled
around interviewing a great number of Palestinian
families in the West Bank and Gaza meeting
parents who told of how their sons had been
deprived of organs before being killed.
He describes the case of 19-year-old Bilal Achmed
Ghanan, shot by Israeli forces invading his village.
The first shot hit him in the chest. According
to villagers who witnessed the incident he was
subsequently shot with one bullet in each leg.
Two soldiers then ran down from the carpentry
workshop and shot Bilal once in the stomach.
Finally, they grabbed him by his feet and dragged
him up the twenty stone steps of the workshop
Israeli soldiers loading the badly wounded
Bilal in a jeep and driving him to the outskirts
of the village, where a military helicopter
waited. The boy was flown to a destination unknown to his family.
Five days later he was returned, dead and
wrapped up in green hospital fabric. Bostrom
reports that as the body was lowered into the
grave, his chest was exposed and onlookers could
see that he was stitched up from his stomach to
his head. Bostrom writes that this was not the
first time people had seen such a thing.
The families in the West Bank and in Gaza felt
that they knew exactly what had happened: Our
sons are used as involuntary organ donors,
relatives of Khaled from Nablus told me, as did
the mother of Raed from Jenin and the uncles of
Machmod and Nafes from Gaza, who had all
disappeared for a number of days only to return at night, dead and autopsied.
Bostrom describes the questions that families asked:
Why are they keeping the bodies for up to five
days before they let us bury them? What happened
to the bodies during that time? Why are they
performing autopsy, against our will, when the
cause of death is obvious? Why are the bodies
returned at night? Why is it done with a military
escort? Why is the area closed off during the
funeral? Why is the electricity interrupted?
Israels answer was that all Palestinians who
were killed were routinely autopsied. However,
Bostrom points out that of the133 Palestinians
who were killed that year, only 69 were autopsied.
He goes on to write:
We know that Israel has a great need for organs,
that there is a vast and illegal trade of organs
which has been running for many years now, that
the authorities are aware of it and that doctors
in managing positions at the big hospitals
participate, as well as civil servants at various
levels. We also know that young Palestinian men
disappeared, that they were brought back after
five days, at night, under tremendous secrecy,
stitched back together after having been cut from abdomen to chin.
Its time to bring clarity to this macabre
business, to shed light on what is going on and
what has taken place in the territories occupied
by Israel since the Intifada began. (21)
The new Blood Libel?
In scanning through the reaction to Bostroms
report, one is struck by the multitude of charges
that his article is a new version of the old
anti-Semitic blood libel. Given that fact, it
is interesting to examine a 2007 book by Israels
preeminent expert on medieval Jewish history, and what happened to him.
The author is Bar-Ilan professor (and rabbi)
Ariel Toaff, son of the former chief rabbi of
Rome, a religious leader so famous that an
Israeli journalist writes that Toaffs father is
to Italian Jewry as the Eiffel Tower is to
Paris. Ariel Toaff, himself, is considered one
of the greatest scholars in his field. (22, 23)
In February 2007 the Israeli and Italian media
were abuzz (though most of the U.S. media somehow
missed it) with news that Professor Toaff had
written a book entitled "Pasque di Sangue"
(Blood Passovers) (24) containing evidence that
there was a factual basis for some of the
medieval blood libels against the Jews.
Based on 35 years of research, Toaff had
concluded that there were at least a few, possibly many, real incidents.
In an interview with an Italian newspaper (the
book was published in Italy), Toaff says:
My research shows that in the Middle Ages, a
group of fundamentalist Jews did not respect the
biblical prohibition and used blood for healing.
It is just one group of Jews, who belonged to the
communities that suffered the severest
persecution during the Crusades. From this trauma
came a passion for revenge that in some cases led
to responses, among them ritual murder of Christian children. (25)
(Incidentally, an earlier book containing similar
findings was published some years ago, also by an
Israeli professor, Israel Shahak, of whom Noam
Chomsky once wrote, Shahak is an outstanding
scholar, with remarkable insight and depth of
knowledge. His work is informed and penetrating,
a contribution of great value. ) (26)
Professor Toaff was immediately attacked from all
sides, including pressure orchestrated by
Anti-Defamation League chairman Abe Foxman, but
Toaff stood by his 35 years of research, announcing:
"I will not give up my devotion to the truth and
academic freedom even if the world crucifies me
One shouldn't be afraid to tell the truth."
Before long, however, under relentless public and
private pressure, Toaff had recanted, withdrawn
his book, and promised to give all profits that
had already accrued (the book had been flying off
Italian bookshelves) to Foxmans Anti-Defamation
League. A year later he published a revised version.
Donald Bostroms experience seems to be a repeat
of what Professor Toaff endured: calumny,
vituperation, and defamation. Bostrom has
received death threats as well, perhaps an
experience that Professor Toaff also shared.
If Israel is innocent of organ plundering
accusations, or if its culpability is
considerably less than Bostrom and others
suggest, it should welcome honest investigations
that would clear it of wrongdoing. Instead, the
government and its advocates are working to
suppress all debate and crush those whose
questions and conclusions they find threatening.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, rather than
responding to calls for an investigation, is
demanding that the Swedish government abandon its
commitment to a free press and condemn the
article. The Israeli press office, apparently in
retaliation and to prevent additional
investigation, is refusing to give press
credentials to reporters from the offending newspaper.
Just as in the case of the rampage against Jenin,
the attack on the USS liberty, the massacre of
Gaza, the crushing of Rachel Corrie, the torture
of American citizens, and a multitude of other
examples, Israel is using its considerable,
worldwide resources to interfere with the investigative process.
It is difficult to conclude that it has nothing to hide.
Alison Weir is executive director of If Americans
Knew. A version of this article containing
citations and additional information is available
1/ There are two English translations; this article uses the first:
The original Swedish article in Aftonbladet can be viewed at
2/ New York Times, Feb. 3, 1969, p. 8, Column 6 (53 words)
3/ 40 years after Israel's first transplant,
donor's family says his heart was stolen
By Dana Weiler-Polak, Haaretz Correspondent, Dec. 14, 2008
4/ Washington Report on Middle East Affairs,
April 1990, Page 21, The Intifada: Autopsies and Executions
5/ October 30, 1998,Bizarre death of Scottish
tourist involves suicide, missing heart
by NETTY C. GROSS, Jerusalem Post Service
6/ The Forward, Illicit Body-Part Sales Present
Widespread Problem, By Rebecca Dube, Aug. 26, 2009
7/ Masons, Muslims, Templars, Jews, Henry and Dolly.
8/ Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding, Khalid Amayreh, August 20, 2009
12/ The Economist, Organ transplants: The gap
between supply and demand, Oct. 9, 2008
BRAZIL: Poor Sell Organs to Trans-Atlantic Trafficking Ring
By Mario Osava, IPS, Feb. 23, 2004
Haaretz, Two Haifa men sentenced to jail for
organ trafficking, By Fadi Eyadat, Dec. 18, 2007
14/ http://www.jpost.com/Police uncover illegal organ trade ring
By REBECCA ANNA STOIL, July 23, 2007
Sting rocks U.S. transplant industry, David
Porter, Carla K. Johnson, ASSOCIATED PRESS, july 25, 2009
U.S. Professor: I told FBI about kidney trafficking 7 years ago
By Natasha Mozgovaya, Haaretz Correspondent, August, 3, 2009
A mitzvah called organ donation, Efrat Shapira-Rosenberg, 10.6.07
Orthodox in uproar over organ donation incident, Neta Sela, 06.22.06
The Return of the Body Snatchers, By Israel Shamir,
Haaretz. The Wayward Son, by Adi Schwartz, March 1, 2007
Haaaretz, Bar-Ilan to order professor to explain
research behind blood libel book
By Ofri Ilani, Haaretz Service and The Associated Press, Feb 11, 2007
Israeli writer Israel Shamir reports that some
a leading Chabad rabbi,
Ginzburgh, gave his religious permission for a
Jew to take a liver from a non-Jew even without
his consent. He said that a Jew is entitled to
extract the liver from a goy if he needs it, for
the life of a Jew is more valuable than the life
of a goy, likewise the life of a goy is more
valuable than the life of an animal.
Haaretz, Bar Ilan to order professor to explain
research behind blood libel book, by Ofri Hani, Feb. 11, 2007.
Washington Report on Middle East Affairs,
August/September 2001, page 11, In Memoriam:
Israel Shahak (1933-2001), By Norton Mezvinsky
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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