[News] Israel opens organ theft hearing

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Dec 23 12:25:09 EST 2009

Israel opens organ theft hearing

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Israel's parliament has begun hearings on the theft of human organs 
from Palestinians, Israelis and foreign workers without their 
relatives' permission.

Israeli health officials testified on Wednesday that Israeli 
authorities harvested organs from the dead bodies of Israelis and 
Palestinians in the 1990s for transplant purposes.

The testimony came three days after the government admitted to the 
practice, following previous denials.

Al Jazeera's Sherine Tadros, reporting from Jerusalem, said 
Wednesday's hearing was not the first time Israeli officials have had 
to face difficult questions in parliament about the organ theft issue.

"What we tended to see in the past was officials trying to skirt 
around the issue, really not wanting to confirm or deny that organ 
theft took place," she said.

"What we had on Wednesday was a very public admission by an Israeli 
official that organ theft was in fact taking place.

"But the health ministry said it was a practice that happened in the 
past and is no longer a problem."

Practice 'continuing'

However, Ahmed Tibi, an Israeli Palestinian member of parliament, 
told the assembly on Wednesday that he had evidence that organ theft 
was still taking place.

"You said that it was ended in the '90s. But Fadul Ordul Shaheen who 
was from Gaza passed away. He died of diabetes this year.  When his 
body was given back to his family, his eyes were bleeding and there 
was a deep cut through his body," he said.

"The family is saying that both the corneas and the kidneys were taken.

"I am asking you if you're willing to look into this complaint and 
see if this activity is continuing, if organs are being harvested 
from Palestinian prisoners."

Yaacov Litzman, the Israeli deputy health minister, said he would 
investigate the case "with all seriousness" to determine if any 
wrongdoing was committed.

Tibi later told Al Jazeera that he would continue to pursue the 
health ministry for answers for the families of those who were affected.

'Highly informal'

The government's admission this week followed the release of an 
interview with Jehuda Huss, the former head of Israel's forensic 
institute, in which he said that workers at the institute had 
harvested skin, corneas, heart valves and bones from Israelis, 
Palestinians and foreign workers.

In the interview, which was conducted in 2000 when Hiss was head of 
Tel Aviv's Abu Kabir forensic institute, he said: "We started to 
harvest corneas ... Whatever was done was highly informal. No 
permission was asked from the family."

Nancy Scheper-Hughes, who conducted the interview, said that she made 
the article public because of the controversy last summer over 
allegations of organ harvesting made by a Swedish newspaper.

In August the Aftonbladet newspaper ran an article alleging that the 
Israeli army had stolen body organs from Palestinian men after killing them.

Israel denied the claims, calling them anti-Semitic, and the incident 
raised tensions when Sweden refused to apologize for the article, 
saying that press freedom prevented it from intervening.

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