[News] Israeli Organ Harvesting

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Fri Aug 28 16:50:01 EDT 2009

August 28-30, 2009

The New "Blood Libel"?

Israeli Organ Harvesting


Last week Sweden’s 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 country’s 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 newspaper’s 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.

Israel’s first heart transplant

Israel’s 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 man’s 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 man’s wife and brother began 
to put the two events together and demanded answers.

The hospital at first denied that Sadegat’s 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 Sadagat’s 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 Sadagat’s 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.”

He responded:

"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, “
told they 
had three weeks to come up with about $4,900 to 
fly Sinclair's corpse home. [Alisdair’s 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 
Alisdair’s 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 
couldn’t deny or confirm that organs of 
Palestinian youths and children killed by the 
Israeli army were taken out for transplants or scientific research.

“‘I couldn’t say for sure that something like that didn’t 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)

Israel’s chief pathologist removed from post for stealing body parts

For a number of years there were allegations that 
Israel’s leading pathologist was stealing body 
parts. In 2001 the Israeli national news service reported:

 the parents of soldier Ze’ev 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 Sinclair’s death had first alerted 
authorities to Hiss’s 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.”

IPS reports:

The Brazilians were recruited in Brazil’s 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 Israel’s Ha’aretz 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)

Israel’s 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 
ethnic groups
 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 
Ministry’s 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 France’s 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 doesn’t 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 Israel’s 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.”

Why autopsies?

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?”

Israel’s 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.

It’s 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 Bostrom’s 
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 Israel’s 
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 Toaff’s 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 Foxman’s Anti-Defamation 
League. A year later he published a “revised version.”

Donald Bostrom’s 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

9/ http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/Flash.aspx/12699

10/ http://www.forward.com/articles/112915/


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

15/ http://www.thestar.com/news/world/article/671687
Sting rocks U.S. transplant industry, David 
Porter, Carla K. Johnson, ASSOCIATED PRESS, july 25, 2009

16/ http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1102799.html
U.S. Professor: I told FBI about kidney trafficking 7 years ago
By Natasha Mozgovaya, Haaretz Correspondent, August, 3, 2009

17/ http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3388529,00.html
A mitzvah called organ donation, Efrat Shapira-Rosenberg, 10.6.07

18/ http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3265889,00.html
Orthodox in uproar over organ donation incident, Neta Sela, 06.22.06

19/ http://www.israelshamir.net/English/Body_Snatchers.htm
The Return of the Body Snatchers, By Israel Shamir,

20/ http://www.bokus.com/b/9789170370939.html

21/ http://www.tlaxcala.es/pp.asp?reference=8390&lg=en

22/ http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/829381.html
Ha’aretz. The Wayward Son, by Adi Schwartz, March 1, 2007

Ha’aaretz, Bar-Ilan to order professor to explain 
research behind blood libel book
By Ofri Ilani, Haaretz Service and The Associated Press, Feb 11, 2007

24/ http://www.bloodpassover.com/toafftableofcontents.htm
Israeli writer Israel Shamir reports that some 
years ago “
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

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