The latest favorite means that Israel partisans use to try to attack me is by making false claims about my two articles on Israeli organ trafficking. (These articles represent perhaps about 1 or 2 percent of my writings on the topic of Israel-Palestine).
The best way to refute their claims I feel is to suggest that people read for themselves what I have written on this topic, including the numerous footnotes, so I'll post these articles below. As people will see, the information is largely from mainstream sources, including the Israeli media. I've also written a few follow-up commentaries on this topic, which I'll also post.
In addition, I discuss this at length in the below extended video interview by the managing editor of the South Dakota newspaper, the Argus Leader.
I hope that anyone who sees these claims about me will now post this url for people to see.
Click on the image below to go to the video:
Below are my articles:
Israeli Organ Trafficking and Theft: From Moldova to Palestine
In August Sweden’s largest daily newspaper published an article containing grisly evidence suggesting that Israel had been taking Palestinian internal organs. The article, by veteran photojournalist Donald Bostrom, called for an international investigation to discover the facts.1
Israel immediately accused Bostrom and the newspaper of “anti-Semitism,” and charged that suggesting Israelis could be involved in the illicit removal of body parts constituted a modern “blood libel” (medieval stories of Jews killing people for their blood).2
Numerous Israeli partisans repeated these accusations, including Commentary’s Jonathan Tobin, who asserted that the story was “merely the tip of the iceberg in terms of European funded and promoted anti-Israel hate.”3 Others suggested that the newspaper was “irresponsible” for running such an article.4
The fact is, however, that Israeli organ harvesting – sometimes with Israeli governmental funding and the participation of high Israeli officials, prominent Israeli physicians, and Israeli ministries – has been documented for many years. Among the victims have been Palestinians.
Nancy Scheper-Hughes is Chancellor’s Professor of Medical Anthropology at the University of California Berkeley, the founder of Organ Watch, and the author of scholarly books and articles on organ trafficking. She is the pundit mainstream media call upon when they need expert commentary on the topic.5
While Scheper-Hughes emphasizes that traffickers and procurers come from numerous nations and ethnicities, including Americans and Arabs, she is unflinchingly honest in speaking about the Israeli connection:
“Israel is at the top,” she states. “It has tentacles reaching out worldwide.”6
In a lecture last year sponsored by New York’s PBS 13 Forum, Scheper-Hughes explained that Israeli organ traffickers, “had and still have a pyramid system at work that’s awesome...they have brokers everywhere, bank accounts everywhere; they’ve got recruiters, they’ve got translators, they’ve got travel agents who set up the visas.”7
Lest this sound simply like a successful international concern, it’s important to understand the nature of such a business.
As Scheper-Hughes describes it, organ trafficking consists of “paying the poor and the hungry to slowly dismantle their bodies.”
Organ traffickers prey on the world’s poorest, most desperate citizens – slum dwellers, inhabitants of dying villages, people without means or hope. Traffickers promise them what seem like astronomical sums of money (from $1,000 to $10,000) – which they frequently don’t even deliver – in return for vital internal organs.
For traffickers, human body parts are commodities, to be cut out of the bodies of the poor and sold to the rich. The organ “donors” receive no follow-up care and end up worse off on many levels – physically, financially, psychologically, socially – than even their original tragic situation. Sometimes they are coerced into such “donations.”
Organ sales have been illegal in most countries for years. The United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, which covers prevention, enforcement and sanctions in trafficking of humans, includes in its definition of human exploitation the extraction of organs for profit.8 Israel finally passed legislation against organ trafficking in 2008.9, 10
In her Forum 13 lecture Scheper-Hughes discussed the two motivations of Israeli traffickers. One was greed, she said. The other was somewhat chilling: “Revenge, restitution – reparation for the Holocaust.”
She described speaking with Israeli brokers who told her “it’s kind of ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. We’re going to get every single kidney and liver and heart that we can. The world owes it to us.’”
Scheper-Hughes says that she “even heard doctors saying that.”
For many years Israelis in need of an internal organ have gone on what experts call “transplant tourism” – traveling to other nations to obtain internal organs. Sometimes body parts are obtained from those freshly dead; more often from the desperately needy. While affluent people from numerous countries and ethnicities engage in this practice, Israel is unique in several significant ways.
First, Israelis engage in this at an extraordinarily high rate. According to a 2001 BBC report, Israelis buy more kidneys per capita than any other population.
Second, Israelis have the lowest donor rate in the world – one-fifth that of Europe, according to BBC. This is in part because there has been a widespread impression that Jewish religious law prohibits transplants as a “desecration of the body.”11 The Israeli news service Ynet reports, “the percentage of organs donated among Jews is the lowest of all the ethnic groups.”12
Third, the Israeli government has enabled the practice. For many years the Israeli health system subsidized its citizens’ “transplant holidays,” reimbursing Israelis $80,000 for medical operations abroad. Much of the remaining costs could often be obtained from government-subsidized13 Israeli insurance plans.14 In addition, Israel’s Ministry of Defense was directly involved.
Scheper-Hughes discussed Israeli organ trafficking in detail in 2001 in published testimony to the Subcommittee on International Relations and Human Rights of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.15 In her extensive testimony, Scheper-Hughes stated that although Israel had become a pariah for its organ policies, Israeli officials exhibited “amazing tolerance...toward outlawed ‘transplant tourism.’”
She described an international syndicate which was “organized through a local business corporation in conjunction with a leading transplant surgeon, operating out of a major medical center not far from Tel Aviv,” and which had forged links with transplant surgeons in Turkey, Russia, Moldavia, Estonia, Georgia, Romania, and New York City.
The Israeli Ministry of Defense was directly involved in what Scheper-Hughes called Israel’s “‘illicit [in other nations] national ‘program’ of transplant tourism...Members of the Ministry of Defense or those closely related to them” accompanied transplant junkets.
In her Forum 13 lecture, Scheper-Hughes said that investigating Israeli organ trafficking over the past decade had taken her “from country to country to country to country.”
One of these is Moldova, the poorest country in Europe – and homeland of Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman – where 90 percent of the people earn less than $2 a day. A 2001 BBC report on organ trafficking described the situation: “Hundreds of Israelis have created a production line that starts in the villages of Moldova, where men today are walking around with one kidney.16
Another is Brazil, where a legislative commission found that 30 [it may actually have been as high as 60] Brazilians from impoverished neighborhoods had sold their kidneys to a trafficking ring headed by Israelis, with Israeli citizens receiving almost all of the organs, and the Israeli government providing most of the funding.17
The ring had also begun inquiring about buying other vital organs from poor residents, including lungs, livers and corneas.18
An Inter Press Service (IPS) news story from the time reported that Scheper-Hughes testified to the commission that international trafficking of human organs had begun some 12 years earlier, promoted by Zaki Shapira, head of kidney transplant services at Bellinson Medical Center, near Tel Aviv.
Scheper-Hughes reported that Shapira had performed more than 300 kidney transplants, sometimes accompanying his patients to other countries such as Turkey. The recipients were very wealthy or had very good health insurance, and the “donors” very poor people from Eastern Europe, the Philippines and other developing countries.
The chairman of the Brazilian commission, physician Raimundo Pimentel, was outraged at Israeli policies, pointing out that trafficking can only take place on a large scale if there is a major source of financing, such as the Israeli health system. Pimentel charged that the resources provided by the Israeli health system “were a determining factor” in enabling a network that preyed on society’s poorest populations.
In 2004 there were reports that Israeli traffickers had added China to their target donor populations.19 In one recent case an Israeli paid an organ broker $100,000 for a kidney transplant in China from an 18-year-old Chinese girl. She received $5,000 and died following surgery.20
New York Times reporter Larry Rohter pointed out that allowing brokers to operate with few restrictions benefited Israel “by exporting Israel’s organ shortage overseas.” Rohter cites a kidney specialist at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem who explained that patients who go abroad “‘save the country a lot of money; not only in terms of what doesn’t have to be spent on dialysis, but also by opening places for other people who are on the list.’”21
Many people find governmental complicity in organ trafficking deeply troubling on moral and philosophical grounds.
As Scheper-Hughes testified: “The sale of human organs and tissues requires that certain disadvantaged individuals, populations, and even nations have been reduced to the role of ‘suppliers.’
“It is a scenario in which only certain bodies are broken, dismembered, fragmented, transported, processed, and sold in the interests of a more socially advantaged population...of receivers.” She believes that the risks and benefits of organ transplant surgery should be more equally distributed among nations, ethnic groups, and social classes.
It is difficult to know how often Israeli trafficking involves outright theft of vital organs from living human beings.
It is not rare for the “donor” to receive little or none of the compensation promised. For example, in 2007 Israel’s Haaretz newspaper reported that two Israelis had confessed to persuading Palestinians “from the Galilee and central Israel who were developmentally challenged or mentally ill to agree to have a kidney removed for payment.” According to the Haaretz report, after the organ had been taken the traffickers refused to pay for them.
On occasion, people are coerced into giving up their organs. For example, Levy Izhak Rosenbaum, the alleged Brooklyn trafficker recently arrested in an FBI sweep in New Jersey, reportedly carried a gun. When a potential organ seller would try to back out, Rosenbaum would use his finger to simulate firing a gun at the person’s head.
The Rosenbaum case, reportedly part of a ring centered in Israel, is the first case of trafficking to be prosecuted in the US. His arrest and the substantial evidence against him may have surprised State Department Countermisinformation Director Todd Leventhal, who had characterized organ trafficking as an “urban legend,” stating, “It would be impossible to successfully conceal a clandestine organ-trafficking ring.” Leventhal called such reports “irresponsible and totally unsubstantiated.”
More often organ theft involves dead bodies – or those alleged to be dead.
Israel’s very first successful heart transplant, in fact, used a stolen heart.
In 1968 Avraham Sadegat unexpectedly died two days after being hospitalized in Beilinson Hospital in Israel’s Petah Tikva for a stroke. When his family finally was able to retrieve his body (the hospital initially refused to release it) they found his chest covered with bandages; odd, they thought, for a stroke victim. Upon removing these they discovered that the chest cavity was stuffed with bandages and the heart was missing.22
During this time, the Israeli press was heralding the historic heart transplant, performed by a team of surgeons who were to become some of Israel’s most celebrated physicians, among them Dr. Morris Levy, Dr. Bernardo Vidne, and Dr Jack Solomon, who harvested the heart.23
When the family began to ask questions, the hospital denied any connection. After the man’s wife and brother had raised a media furor, petitioned three cabinet ministers – and agreed to sign a document that they would not sue – the hospital finally admitted it was Sadegat’s heart that had been used.
Haaretz quoted Sadegat’s tearful wife: “They treated him like an alley cat. From the moment he entered the hospital, they apparently saw him only as a potential source of organs and not as a man in need of treatment. They only thought about how to do the deed without us knowing.”
Sadegat’s medical condition before his heart was removed has not been made public. It is possible – perhaps probable – that up until his heart was removed it was still beating; according to an Israeli media report, “once a heart stops beating, it is no longer fit for transplantation.”24
Even if he was what is now termed “brain dead,” the general view is that family members should at least be a party to decisions regarding the patient: first, whether to “pull the plug,” and, second, whether to donate an organ. At the time, however, Israeli law allowed organs to be harvested without the family’s consent.
Forty years later the hospital held an anniversary celebration of the transplant, despite the fact that, according to Haaretz, the heart had been obtained “through deceit and trickery.” The festivities, which honored surviving members of the transplant team, featured balloons and a red, heart-shaped cake.
In this incident of organ theft (and from a possibly living body), the family was Israeli. Had the wife and brother been Palestinians from the West Bank or Gaza, they would not have possessed the power to force a confession from the hospital, and it is likely that those individuals today calling the Swedish article a “blood libel” or “irresponsible journalism” would have applied the same epithets to journalists reporting questions concerning the historic Israeli heart transplant – if any reporters even bothered or dared to do so.
Yehuda Hiss, keeper of the morgue
Perhaps one of the most long-term and high-level cases of organ theft – and one that involves Palestinian as well as Israeli organs – concerns an extraordinarily high official: Dr. Yehuda Hiss, Israel’s chief pathologist and, from 1988 through 2004, director of Israel’s state morgue, the L. Greenberg Institute of Forensic Medicine at Abu Kabir.
An early indication of malfeasance came to light in 1998 and concerned a Scottish man named Alisdair Sinclair, who had died under questionable circumstances after being taken into custody at Israel’s Ben-Gurion Airport.
The Israeli story, as reported by the Israeli news magazine Jerusalem Report, is that Sinclair had confessed to transporting drugs, even though none were found, although he was in possession of 9,000 German marks ($5,000). He then, the police claim, hanged himself by looping his shoelaces and T-shirt around a towel bar about a meter off the ground and slipped the improvised noose around his neck. From a squatting position, the police story goes, he repeatedly threw his bodyweight downward, choking himself.
Sinclair did not die, however, and medics were able to restore a heartbeat. He was transferred to a hospital where, according to the magazine report, the hospital’s associate director, Dr. Yigal Halperin, said that Sinclair “had suffered irreversible brain damage, and there was little doctors could do for him. Left in a corner of the emergency room, he died at 7 p.m. [It’s unknown whether he had been put on life support.] His corpse was transferred to the Institute for Forensic Medicine at Abu Kabir for an autopsy.”
Afterwards, Israeli authorities located Sinclair’s family and gave them three weeks to dispose of the body. They suggested that he be buried in a Christian cemetery in Israel, pointing out that this would be one-third the cost of shipping the body back to Scotland. However, the grieving family scraped up the money to bring him home.
They had a second autopsy performed by Glasgow University, only to discover that Sinclair’s heart and a small bone in his throat called the hyoid were missing. The British Embassy filed a complaint with Israel, and a heart was sent to Scotland. According to the Jerusalem Report, the family “wanted the Forensic Institute to pay for a DNA test to confirm that this heart was indeed their brother’s, but the Institute’s director, Prof. Jehuda Hiss, refused, citing the prohibitive cost.”
Despite a protest from the British government, Israel refused to supply Hiss’s pathology findings or the police report. According to the British government and a report in the Israeli media, around the time of Sinclair’s death a doctor at Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital put in a request for a hyoid bone for research purposes – and eventually received a bill for shipping costs.25 Israel retained Sinclair’s $5,000.
Through the years Hiss and the Abu Kabir Institute of Forensic medicine continued to be accused of organ theft. In 2000 the Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot published an investigative report alleging that Hiss had been extracting organs without permission and then packing the bodies with broomsticks and cotton wool to fill in cavities before burial. The report charged that under Hiss the institute had been involved in organ sales of body parts – “legs, thighs, ovaries, breasts and testicles,” allegedly to medical institutions.
In 2001 a district judge found the Institute had performed hundreds of autopsies and had removed body parts without the families’ permission – and sometimes in direct opposition to their expressed wishes.26 One report described a “museum of skulls” at the institute.
Little was done, however, and complaints continued – often by the parents of dead Israeli soldiers horrified to discover that body parts had been taken from their sons. Finally, in 2004 Israel’s health minister transferred directorship of the morgue itself away from Hiss. Hiss, however, retained his position as Israel’s chief pathologist, a post it appears he holds to this day.27, 28
Hiss had also been connected with two previous national scandals, both of which may have involved powerful people in Israel, which may account for his longevity in Israel’s medical establishment despite years of proven wrongdoing.
The first controversy concerned the “Yemenite Children’s Affair” – a situation, largely from the early 1950s, in which a thousand babies and small children of recent immigrants to Israel had “disappeared.”
When the immigrants had arrived as part of Israel’s “ingathering of the exiles,” babies were immediately taken from their mothers and placed in children’s houses. Many were hospitalized for a variety of ills, and hundreds died, their deaths coming in such large numbers that they were announced over loudspeakers.
The distraught parents often never saw the body or received a death certificate, and there were growing suspicions that not all had died – some, it was believed, had been “given” to Ashkenazi parents. One author writes: “It was a well-known fact within the Jewish community in the United States that if a family wanted a child they could go to [baby brokers, both rabbis] and simply pay the necessary fee.”29
Some Israeli investigators have found considerable evidence for these charges, and indications of complicity at multiple levels of the power structure. In fact, one researcher charges: “People in positions of power at the time that the State of Israel was established profited from the abduction and sale of children from poor immigrant families.”30
Hiss’ connection comes in 1997, when Israel finally had formed a committee to investigate the disappearance of Yemenite and other Jewish children in the years 1948-1954. Among those testifying before this committee was a California woman who had come to Israel searching for her biological mother – and, according to DNA testing by a geneticist at Hebrew University, had found her.
The committee demanded that another DNA test be conducted at the Abu Kabir forensic institute. As at least one observer predicted ahead of time, Hiss’s test came up negative, and the government was allegedly exonerated, despite the fact that the geneticist who had conducted the first tests stood by his results.31
Hiss also plays a role in some conspiracy theories regarding the 1995 assassination of Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin, who had begun a peace process with Palestinians. In March 1999 a group of academics presented findings alleging that Hiss had submitted false evidence to the commission that investigated the killing.32
Israelis have also targeted Palestinians, a particularly vulnerable population on numerous levels.
In her congressional subcommittee testimony, Scheper-Hughes reported that before he moved overseas, Israeli hospital transplant head Zaki Shapira had located kidney sellers “amongst strapped Palestinian workers in Gaza and the West Bank.” She said that his “hand was slapped by an ethics board,” and he moved his practice overseas.
For decades numerous Palestinians and others have charged Israel with taking body parts from Palestinians they had wounded or killed.
In her subcommittee testimony, Scheper-Hughes testified that toward the end of the apartheid period in South Africa, “human rights groups in the West Bank complained to me of tissue and organs stealing of slain Palestinians by Israeli pathologists at the national Israeli legal medical institute in Tel Aviv.”
A Washington Report for Middle East Affairs article by Mary Barrett (see “Autopsies and Executions,” April 1990 Washington Report, p. 21) reported “widespread anxiety over organ thefts which has gripped Gaza and the West Bank since the intifada began in December of 1987.”
Barrett quotes a forensic physician: “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?”
A 2002 news story from IRNA reported that three Palestinian boys aged 14-15 had been killed by Israeli forces on Dec. 30, their bodies finally being returned for burial on Jan. 6. According to the report: “shortly before burial, Palestinian medical authorities examined the bodies and found out that the main vital organs were missing from the bodies.” In an interview on Al Jazeera, President Yasser Arafat held up photos of the boys, saying, “They murder our kids and use their organs as spare parts.”
Journalist Khalid Amayreh, recently investigating this topic further, found that “several other Palestinians gave a similar narrative, recounting how they received the bodies of their murdered relatives, mostly men in their early twenties, with vital organs taken away by the Israeli authorities.”
Israel has consistently characterized such accusations as “anti-Semitic,” and numerous other journalists have discounted them as exaggerations.
However, according to the pro-Israel Forward magazine, the truth of these charges was, in fact, confirmed by an Israeli governmental investigation a number of years ago.
In a recent story critical of the Swedish article, the Forward actually confirmed its main point, that Israel had been taking the body parts of slain Palestinians. The Forward article reported that one of the governmental investigations into Hiss had revealed that “he seemed to view every body that ended up in his morgue, whether Israeli or Palestinian, as fair game for organ harvesting.”33
Over the years, a great many Palestinian bodies have “ended up” in the Israeli morgue. In numerous cases Israeli occupation forces have taken custody of wounded or dead Palestinians. Sometimes their bodies are never returned to their grieving families – Palestinian NGOs say there are at least 250 such cases.
In other cases the bodies have been returned to the families days later, with crudely stitched naval-to-chin incisions. On many occasions Israeli soldiers have delivered the bodies late at night and required the bereaved families to bury their children, husbands, and brothers immediately, under Israeli military guard, sometimes with the electricity shut off.
In 2005 an Israeli soldier34 described a military doctor who gave “medics lessons in anatomy” using the bodies of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces. Haaretz reports: “The soldier said that the Palestinian’s body had been riddled with bullets and that some of his internal organs had spilled out. The doctor pronounced the man dead and then ‘took out a knife and began to cut off parts of the body,’ the soldier said.
“‘He explained the various parts to us – the membrane that covers the lungs, the layers of the skin, the liver, stuff like that,’ the soldier continued. ‘I didn’t say anything because I was still new in the army. Two of the medics moved away, and one of them threw up. It was all done very brutally. It was simply contempt for the body.’”35
While most Israeli investigations into organ theft have largely ignored the Palestinian component, a number of significant facts are known:
- Palestinian organs were harvested during years of an astonishingly lax system in which the body parts even of Jewish Israelis were extracted illicitly at the national morgue by the chief pathologist and exchanged for money.
- Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are largely a captive population. Numerous reports by highly reputable Israeli and international organizations have documented a situation in which Palestinians have few if any real rights; Israeli forces have killed civilians with impunity, imprisoned massive numbers of people without benefit of trials, and routinely abused prisoners.
- Israeli authorities have conducted numerous autopsies of Palestinians without permission of their families, without even a semblance of public transparency, and without, it appears, accompanying reports. For example, the families of those who were taken while still alive are not provided with a medical report stating time and cause of death.
- A very small but significant minority of Israelis, including military officers and governmental ministers, hold extremist supremacist views relevant to organ extraction. In 1996, Jewish Week reported that Rabbi Yitzhak Ginsburgh, a leader of the Lubavitch sect of Judaism and the dean of a religious Jewish school in a West Bank settlement, stated: “If a Jew needs a liver, can you take the liver of an innocent non-Jew passing by to save him? The Torah would probably permit that.” Ginzburgh elaborated: “Jewish life has infinite value. There is something infinitely more holy and unique about Jewish life than non-Jewish life.” [The Jewish Week, April 26, 1996, pp. 12, 31]
While most Israelis strenuously repudiate such beliefs, Rabbi Moshe Greenberg, an Israeli scholar on Jewish scriptural views on racism and ethnic chauvinism, has said, “The sad thing is, these statements are in our books.” Greenberg, who was a professor at Hebrew University, pointed out that such Talmudic texts were “purely theoretical” at the time of their writing, because Jews did not have the power to carry them out. Now, he pointed out, “they’re carried over into circumstances where Jews have a state and are empowered.”
While it is impossible to know whether any Israelis have ever acted on such religious permission to kill a non-Jew in order to provide body parts to Jews, some observers have considered this a possibility.
Dr. A. Clare Brandabur, a distinguished American scholar who has lived and traveled extensively in Palestine, writes that the information published in the Swedish article “resonates with reports from Palestinians in Gaza which I heard during the first intifada.”
She comments, “When I interviewed Dr. Haidar Abdul Shafi, head of the Red Crescent in Gaza, I mentioned to him reports of shootings of Palestinian children at times when there were no ‘clashes’ going on – a solitary 6-year-old entering his schoolyard in the morning with his bookbag on his back. The soldiers abducted the wounded child at gunpoint, then his body would be returned a few days later having undergone an ‘autopsy at Abu Kabir Hospital.’”
She says: “I asked Dr. Shafi if he had considered the possibility that these killings were being done for organ transplant, since (as Israel Shahak notes in Jewish History, Jewish Religion), it is not allowed to take Jewish organs to save a Jewish life, but it is allowed to take the organs of non-Jews to save Jewish lives. Dr. Shafi said he had suspected such things but since they had no access to the records of Abu Kabir Hospital, there was no way to verify these suspicions.”
Scheper-Hughes, in her congressional testimony, describes the danger of “organs got by any means possible including (I was told by one guilt-ridden practitioner) chemically inducing the signs of brain death in dying patients of no means and with access to minimal social support or family surveillance.”
Whether or not there have ever been organ-inspired murders in Israel as it appears there have elsewhere, numerous groups around the world are urging an international investigation into Israel’s handling of Palestinian bodies in its custody.
However, the Israeli government and its powerful advocates abroad, who regularly block investigations into Israeli actions, are doing their utmost to prevent this one.36, 37 Several lawsuits have been filed against the Swedish newspaper, the largest by Israeli lawyer and IDF officer Guy Ophir, who filed a $7.5 million lawsuit in New York against the newspaper and Bostrom. Ophir declared that Israel must “silence the reporter and the newspaper.”38
International investigations, of course, have two results: the innocent are absolved, the guilty discovered.
It is clear which category Israel believes it falls into.
An Internet petition calling for an investigation can be viewed at:
- Bostrom, Donald, “Our sons plundered for their organs,” Aftonbladet, Aug. 17, 2009 , translated by Tlaxcala. http://www.tlaxcala.es/pp.asp?reference=8390&lg=en. (Original Swedish version at http://www.aftonbladet.se/kultur/article5652583.ab)
- Israel Insider, “Netanyahu to press Sweden to condemn blood libel,” Aug. 23, 2009 http://israelinsider.ning.com/profiles/blogs/netanyahu-to-press-sweden-to
- Tobin, Jonathan, “Swedish Anti-Semites Dig Up a Blood Libel,” CommentaryMagazine.com, Aug. 20, 2009 http://www.commentarymagazine.com/blogs/index.php/tobin/76522
- Cassel, Matthew, “Baseless organ theft accusations will not bring Israel to justice,” The Electronic Intifada, Aug. 24, 2009 http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article10730.shtml
- Scheper-Hughes, Nancy, “The Organ of Last Resort,” UNESCO, www.unesco.org, July, 2001
http://www.unesco.org/courier/2001_07/uk/doss34.htm. University of California Berkeley Anthropology Faculty CV: Nancy Scheper-Hughes, Chancellor’s Professor in Medical Anthropology, Head, Doctoral Program in Medical Anthropology, Critical Studies in Medicine, Science and the Body, Director, Organs Watch http://anthropology.berkeley.edu/nsh.html
- Griffin, Drew and David Fitzpatrick, “Donor says he got thousands for his kidney,” CNN Special Investigations Unit, CNN, Sept. 2, 2009 http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/meast/09/01/blackmarket.organs/
- Scheper-Hughes Lecture, New York PBS 13 Forum
- Osava, Mario, “BRAZIL: Poor Sell Organs to Trans-Atlantic Trafficking Ring,” Inter Press Service (IPS), Feb. 23, 2004 http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=22524
- Yeshiva World News, “CNN: Israel a Leader in Organ Trafficking,” Sept. 3, 2009 http://www.theyeshivaworld.com/news/General+News/38973/CNN:+Israel+a+Leader+in+Organ+Trafficking.html
- Chabin, Michele, “Organ Donation: Legal, But Still Controversial,” Jewish Week, April 9, 2008 http://www.thejewishweek.com/viewArticle/c40_a7588/News/Israel.html
- Rohter, Larry, “Tracking the Sale of a Kidney on a Path of Poverty and Hope,” The New York Times, May 23, 2004 http://www.nytimes.com/2004/05/23/international/americas/23BRAZ.html?th=&pagewanted=print&position=
- Shapira-Rosenberg, Efrat, “A mitzvah called organ donation,” Ynet News, June 10, 2007 http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3388529,00.html
- Rohter, Larry, op. cit.
- “Organs for Sale: China’s Growing Trade and Ultimate Violation of Prisoners’ Rights,” Hearing Before the Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights of the Committee on International Relations, House of Representatives, 107th Congress, First Session, June 27, 2001, Serial No. 107–29 http://commdocs.house.gov/committees/intlrel/hfa73452.000/hfa73452_0f.htm
- Lloyd-Roberts, Sue, “Europe’s poorest country supplying organs to its neighbours,” BBC Newsnight, 9/7/01 http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/events/newsnight/1437345.stm
- “BRAZIL: Poor Sell Organs to Trans-Atlantic Trafficking Ring,” Mario Osava, IPS, Feb. 23, 2004 http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=22524
- New York Times
- “Israeli organ traffickers shift operations to China,” BioEdge, June 4, 2004 http://www.bioedge.org/index.php/bioethics/bioethics_article/7726/ http://www.nytimes.com/2004/05/23/international/americas/23BRAZ.html?th=&pagewanted=print&position=
- “CNN: Israel a Leader in Organ Trafficking,” Yeshiva World News, Sept. 3, 2009 http://www.theyeshivaworld.com/news/General+News/38973/CNN:+Israel+a+Leader+in+Organ+Trafficking.html
- “Tracking the Sale of a Kidney on a Path of Poverty and Hope,” New York Times, Larry Rohter, May 23, 2004 http://www.nytimes.com/2004/05/23/international/americas/23BRAZ.html?th
- “40 years after Israel’s first transplant, donor’s family says his heart was stolen,” Dana Weiler-Polak, Haaretz, Dec., 14, 2008 http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1046041.html
- “40 years on, medical staffers from Israel’s first human heart transplant reminisce about the feat,” Judy Siegel, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 7, 2008 http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1P1-159077338.html
- “Shas swing vote pushes through organ donor law,” Shahar Ilan, Haaretz, March 25, 2008 http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/968084.html
“With top rabbis’ blessing, Knesset approves organ donation law,” Shahar Ilan, Haaretz, Aug. 7, 2008 http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/967871.html
- “Scottish Tourist’s Family Rejects Out-of-Court Settlement,” Netty C. Gross, The Jerusalem Report, Jan. 29, 2001
- “Attorney-General lodges complaint against Abu Kabir coroner,” Dan Izenbert, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 11, 2003
- “Hiss fired for repeated body-part scandals,” Judy Siegel, Jerusalem Post, May 11, 2004
- “Infamous Chief Pathologist to Once Again Evade Punishment,” Ezra HaLevi, Arutz Sheva Israel National News, Sept. 26, 2005 http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/90518
- “Were the Children Sold?” Yechiel A. Mann, Stop-Abuse.net
- “The Missing Children,” Yechiel A. Mann, Stop-Abuse.net http://stop-abuse.net/ym1.htm
- “Infamous Chief Pathologist to Once Again Evade Punishment,” Ezra HaLevi, Arutz Sheva Israel National News, Sept. 26, 2005 http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/90518
- “Infamous Chief Pathologist to Once Again Evade Punishment,” Ezra HaLevi, Arutz Sheva Israel National News, Sept. 26, 2005 http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/90518
- “Illicit Body-Part Sales Present Widespread Problem,” By Rebecca Dube, Forward, Published Aug. 26, 2009, issue of Sept. 4, 2009 http://www.forward.com/articles/112915/
- “Palestinian corpse used for IDF anatomy lesson,” Amos Harel, Haaretz, Jan. 28, 2005 http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/pages/ShArt.jhtml?itemNo=533018
- “The Swedish canard – not only smoke, but also fire,” Shraga Elam, Aug. 25, 2009 (posted Sept. 4, 2009) (Hebrew: http://cafe.themarker.com/view.php?t=1192567 ) http://shraga-elam.blogspot.com/2009/09/swedish-canard-not-only-smoke-but-also.html
- “Israeli lawyer sues Swedish paper,” JTA, Aug. 27, 2009 http://jta.org/news/article/2009/08/27/1007480/israeli-lawyer-sues-swedish-paper
- “Israeli lawyer sues ‘Aftonbladet’ in NY Court,” E.B. Solomont, Jerusalem Post, Aug. 26, 2009 http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1251145124980&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull
- “Israeli Reservists To Sue Swedish Newspaper,” David Bedein, The Bulletin, August 30, 2009 http://thebulletin.us/articles/2009/09/04/news/world/doc4a9aa59f46ce3700709743.prt
Israeli Organ Harvesting
The New "Blood Libel"?
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 Ghazaleh, 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, “...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 Institute....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.”
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.”15
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."16
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.17
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.18
“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.”19 20
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,21 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 stair... 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?”
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.”22
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.”23 24
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”)25 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.”26 27
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.”28
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.
- There are two English translations; this article uses the first:
The original Swedish article in Aftonbladet can be viewed at
- New York Times, Feb. 3, 1969, p. 8, Column 6 (53 words)
40 years after Israel's first transplant, donor's family says his heart was stolen By Dana Weiler-Polak, Haaretz Correspondent, Dec. 14, 2008
Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, April 1990, Page 21, The Intifada: Autopsies and Executions
October 30, 1998,Bizarre death of Scottish tourist involves suicide, missing heart by NETTY C. GROSS, Jerusalem Post Service
The Forward, Illicit Body-Part Sales Present Widespread Problem, By Rebecca Dube, Aug. 26, 2009
Masons, Muslims, Templars, Jews, Henry and Dolly.
Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding, Khalid Amayreh, August 20, 2009
Forward, Illicit Body-Part Sales Present Widespread Problem, By Rebecca Dube, August 26, 2009
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
Police uncover illegal organ trade ring
By REBECCA ANNA STOIL, July 23, 2007
Israeli suspected of organ trafficking
By Jpost.com Staff, May 1, 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
Israeli writer Israel Shamir reports that some years ago “...a leading Chabad rabbi, Yitzhak 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.’
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
Haaretz, Bar Ilan to order professor to explain research behind blood libel book, by Ofri Hani, Feb. 11, 2007.
- Earlier books containing related information on medieval and modern Judaism, some of it particularly relevant to discussions of organ extraction, as well as on the widespread suppression of such information, were 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.” We encourage people to read these books in full: “Jewish History, Jewish Religion, The Weight of Three Thousand Years” and Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel” coauthored by Professor Norton Mezvinsky.
Ha’aretz, 'Historian recants theory that Jews killed Christian child in ritual murder,' By Adi Schwartz, Feb 24, 2008
Below are my follow-up blog entries:
Some of the latest reports on organ trafficking and Israel:
Israeli MDs harvesting organs for international trafficking ring
Costa Rica says ring allegedly sold kidneys to patients in Israel, East Europe; Health Ministry: No knowledge of reported cases.
Costa Rican authorities announced on Wednesday that they had broken up an international organ trafficking ring that worked with Israeli doctors and specialized in selling kidneys to patients in Israel and East Europe.
Costa Rica’s Attorney General’s Office said Israeli doctors had performed kidney-removal operations on some Costa Rican “donors” who sold their organs. Authorities also said the key suspect arrested in Costa Rica, a physician, had been in touch with Israeli doctors to match up Costa Rican kidney donors with Israeli recipients.
Performing such operations is a grave felony.
Costa Rican police together with Interpol are now investigating the case of a young woman who had been sent to Israel to donate a kidney, felt bad on the flight back, was taken off it at an interim stop and died.
Costa Rican authorities did not name any of the Israeli doctors alleged to be involved in the ring. Israel’s Health Ministry said it knew nothing about the affair.
In recent years Costa Rica has served as a destination for Israeli patients needing kidney transplants. The price for a kidney transplant on the black market is estimated at some NIS 700,000 per kidney.
San Jose police on Wednesday arrested Dr. Francisco Mora Palma, head of nephrology at the large Calderon Guardia Hospital, and raided a number of medical laboratories and clinics suspected of carrying out tests for the network’s doctors.
Attorney General Jorge Chavarria said the two people arrested − Mora Palma and an employee at Costa Rica’s Public Security Ministry − were the “tip of the iceberg” of the organ trafficking network.
Mora Palma was in touch with Israeli doctors and tested the suitability of the local residents whose organs were to be harvested in Israel, the Attorney General’s Office said.
Chavarria said the network’s doctors sent some of the “donors” to Israel to undergo the operation to have a kidney removed, while others had it removed in Costa Rica.
Sources involved in the investigation said they know of cases in which Israeli patients had been flown to Costa Rica to undergo surgery, without reporting to the health authorities.
Israel’s Health Ministry said in response to the report from Costa Rica that “the cases mentioned are not familiar and the Health Ministry does not know of them.”
It added: “Since 2008, when the New Organ Transplant Law was enacted, the health maintenance organizations and insurance companies stopped funding organ transplants (which could be suspected of organ trafficking) for Israelis abroad. If Israelis did have transplants, as reported by the Costa Rica media, then they were funded privately, illegally and without the ministry’s agreement.”
About a year ago an Israeli organ-trafficking network was exposed in Israel. Its members used to fly Israeli patients for transplants in Kosovo and Sri Lanka. Other states suspected of having organ trafficking networks are Ecuador and Kazakhstan.
Chavarria also said Mora Palma and his associates used the hospital’s data bank to find suitable kidney harvesting candidates. These were usually needy men and women, who received $16,000-$20,000 for a kidney.
“We see these people as victims of an international crime ring,” the prosecutor said.
Israeli permits needed
If organ transplants arranged by the Costa Rican network were performed in Israel, as alleged, then the “donors” from Costa Rica appear to have obtained a permit for the harvest in Israeli hospitals, along with the approval of the Health Ministry committee that authorizes
organ donations from the living.
The committee authorizes donations from living donors who are not related, and is in charge of ascertaining that the donor was acting for humanitarian motives and did not receive payment for his organ.
However, in September 2005 the committee allowed an organ donation that had been presented as humanitarian, but after the death of the donor, a 38-year-old man from Ganei Tikva, it transpired that he had sold his kidney.
Until the New Organ Transplant Law was enacted, the HMOs sued to provide funding for Israelis’ organ transplants abroad, both as part of the complementary insurance and as part of state health insurance. This included states in which patients were required to pay the organ donors, like China and the Philippines.
However, since the law was passed, the number of Israeli transplants funded by HMOs abroad has been significantly reduced. Today they are performed only in states who allow organ donations from cadavers, and only if the hospital performing the operation signs a form ascertaining it does not deal with organ trafficking.
Thus, HMOs have approved funding for kidney transplants abroad only from cadavers in the United States, Russia and Latvia.
In 2007, 143 Israelis received kidney transplants abroad, but according to Health Ministry statistics, that number dropped to 35 in 2011. While transplants abroad have decreased, the new Organ Transplant Law has also led to a 50 percent increase in kidney transplants from live donors in Israel. Until two years ago Colombia performed 35 to 40 liver and heart transplants a year on Israeli patients in Medellin. But in the past year only four Israelis had transplants there, due to the restrictions imposed by Israel’s National Transplant and Organ Donation Center.
A senior official in the Clalit HMO recently asked Health Ministry director General Ronni Gamzu to arrive at a memorandum of understanding between Israel and Colombia to promote organ transplants there. The request was made ahead of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos’ visit to Israel last week.
At the same time a group of patients awaiting transplants in Colombia have asked Health Minister Yael German to advance this initiative.
The Health Ministry has not decided on the issue yet.
Israeli Organ Trafficking Ring Broken Up
By Romy Zipken|June 21, 2013
Israeli Organ Trafficking Ring Broken Up
Costa Rican police raid labs connected to illegal Israeli transplant network
In Jewish law, mutilation of the human body is prohibited. But, Jewish law also holds the utmost responsibility to preserve human life. This paradox sets the scene for the most recent organ transplant debacle.
Haaretz reports that an Israeli organ trafficking ring was uncovered in Costa Rica. On June 19, police announced they learned that doctors were performing kidney transplants to sell to patients back in Israel, or sending Costa Ricans to Israel to have the surgery done:
San Jose police on Wednesday arrested Dr. Francisco Mora Palma, head of nephrology at the large Calderon Guardia Hospital, and raided a number of medical laboratories and clinics suspected of carrying out tests for the network’s doctors. Attorney General Jorge Chavarria said the two people arrested − Mora Palma and an employee at Costa Rica’s Public Security Ministry − were the “tip of the iceberg” of the organ trafficking network. Mora Palma was in touch with Israeli doctors and tested the suitability of the local residents whose organs were to be harvested in Israel, the Attorney General’s Office said.
Israel’s Health Ministry denied knowledge of the illegal surgeries.
Legislation has been initiated to counteract the hesitation in Israel—particularly among the ultra-Orthodox—to consent to organ donation. In 2005, Dr. Jacob Lavee, a cardiothoracic surgeon in Tel Hashomer in Central Israel, had two Haredi transplant patients confide to him that while they would receive an organ donation, they would not return the favor. The experience led him to work on a law that would add nonmedical factors to organ transplant lists, which Danielle Ofri reported on in the New York Times last year:
Working with rabbis, ethicists, lawyers, academics and members of the public, he and other medical experts worked to create a new law in 2010, which will take full effect this year: if two patients have identical medical needs for an organ transplant, priority will be given to the patient who has signed a donor card, or whose family member has donated an organ in the past.
This protocol was added to a 2008 Knesset law that provided an even higher priority to patients with family members who had previously died and donated organs.
Costa Rican police raid labs connected to illegal Israeli transplant network
Israeli arrested in Rome for organ trafficking
Man escaped from Brazil while on leave from prison in 2009, after being convicted of leading a kidney purchasing ring
June 9, 2013
Italian border authorities arrested 77-year-old Israeli citizen Gedaliah Taub on Friday on suspicion of international human organ trafficking. Taub was detained at the Rome airport after officials determined his passport was forged.
Rome police told Maariv that Brazil had issued an international arrest warrant for Taub after he fled the South American country in 2009 during a leave from prison, where he was serving a nine-year sentence for organ trafficking.
Taub reportedly arrived in Rome on Thursday and presented the border officials his Israeli passport. The official noted that Taub was behaving anxiously and upon further inspection, discovered that the date of birth on the passport had been altered. The Israeli citizen was taken for questioning and his fingerprints were run in an international database, which revealed that he was wanted in Brazil. A search of his belongings further revealed that he was carrying multiple passports as well as a knife. Taub was promptly arrested and sent to a local jail where he awaits extradition to Brazil.
The Italian police officer in charge of the case, told Maariv that he spoke to colleagues in Brazil, who told him Taub was a former IDF officer who served as the leader of a human organ trafficking ring that offered poor Brazilians to sell him their kidneys for $12,000.
“We know of at least 19 cases in which Brazilian citizens sold their kidneys to Taub and his friends,” the Brazilian officials told their Italian counterpart. They added that the traffickers would send their victims to South Africa, where doctors would remove their kidneys and transplant them in the bodies of wealthy buyers.
Brazil issued the arrest warrant in 2010, after Taub went missing, failing to return from a prison leave.
The Israeli embassy in Rome received notice of Taub’s arrest. He is entitled to a visit by the ambassador.
Israel’s Campaign To Halt Organ Trafficking Tourism
Mar 18, 2012 10:00 AM EDT
For years, Israel has struggled to curb organ trafficking and transplant tourism.
Life was not going well for A.E., a 21-year-old Arab Israeli man from Kafr Manda, a poor town in northern Israel. He had only an eighth-grade education, did not speak Hebrew well, and was working as a cleaner in a chicken slaughterhouse. He wasn’t getting along with his parents. He was, in a word, vulnerable. But in April of 2007, he saw a newspaper ad in Arabic—it announced that a “Dr. Muhammed” was looking for kidney donors, and promised a “monetary prize during convalescence.” A.E. got in touch with a man named Muhammed Ben Taha Jeeth, an Arab Israeli who was not, in fact, a doctor—just a very persuasive con man. Jeeth, who had changed his name to John Allen, had a deal: $7,000 for one of A.E.’s kidneys.
A.E. moved in with John Allen and his family, and was eventually convinced to fly to the Ukraine, along with another victim, to have a kidney removed in the city of Donetsk. After the operation, A.E. was given an envelope containing only half the promised sum of money—and later, back in Israel, Allen and an accomplice deducted more expenses. A.E.’s final payment: $500. Kicked out of Allen’s house, A.E. moved back home, where he received threats and was told not to go to the authorities. Too scared to seek proper medical care, he removed his own sutures with a household knife.
The case first came to the attention of authorities when the second victim, who also had a kidney removed in the Ukraine, went to the police, leading them to A.E. In a 2007 trial in Israel, both Allen and an accomplice were found guilty of human trafficking for organ removal. And while Allen’s organ ring was particularly heartless in its pursuit of donors, it is hardly the only trafficking network to come out of in Israel in recent years. An ongoing trial in Kosovo has charged seven Kosovars, affiliated with a facility called the Medicus Clinic, with human trafficking, organized crime, and other offenses. The catalyst for the case happened in November of 2008, when authorities raided the clinic and discovered an elderly Israeli man recovering from kidney transplant surgery there. He’d paid 90,000 euros for the organ, according to an indictment. The alleged donor, a Turkish man in his twenties named Yilman Altun, had been promised $20,000 for the kidney. Altun never received the money, and has since disappeared.
Organ recipients in the Medicus case came from Israel and other Western countries such as Canada, the U.S. and Germany, according to Jonathan Ratel, the E.U. special prosecutor for the case in Kosovo. One alleged coconspirator, wanted by Interpol, is an Israeli named Moshe Harel. Harel, an alleged broker or fixer in the Medicus case, was described by Ratel in his opening statements as the “key financial mind” of the criminal organization responsible for the Medicus organ trafficking ring. (Another alleged coconspirator is a Turkish surgeon named Yusuf Sonmez.)
The Medicus clinic in Kosovo is central in an organ trafficking case. (Visar Kryeziu / AP)
At the heart of the issue has been a relatively low availability of kidneys for transplant in Israel.
And a current trial in Israel shows that, in one instance, organ trafficking involving Israelis reached American shores: A man named Sammy Shem-Tov, a retired employee of Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in Jerusalem, stands accused of extortion and of being a kidney broker. (An Israeli lawyer says that Shem-Tov, who plead not guilty, was recently rearrested after he broke his house arrest.) The reported connection to America comes from a Brooklyn man named Levy-Izhak Rosenbaum—allegedly an associate of Shem-Tov—who pled guilty this October in a New Jersey court to brokering organ deals for three Americans with donors in Israel.
Of course, Israel is hardly the only country whose citizens go abroad to seek organ transplants—it’s a problem for many wealthy nations, including Britain, Australia, the U.S., Japan, South Korea and the United Arab Emirates. Patients generally head to a poorer part of the world—China, Eastern Europe, Colombia, the Philippines, to name a few—in order to circumvent long donor lists at home. Yet while there are no available statistics that give concrete numbers on the black market of international transplant tourism, medical watchdogs say that Israelis have popped up in organ trafficking cases over the past decade with surprising frequency, particularly given the country’s small size and its level of development—although experts also note that the country has made big gains in eradicating the practice in recent years.
“Israel is not alone in this issue” of transplant tourism, says Jeremy Chapman, a recent president of the Transplantation Society, who added that when it comes to Israel, one “apparent difference,” has been “brokerage on the push side”—that is, brokerage in Israel for those who needed transplants. “I hope that it will be a thing of the past. The situation in Israel has undoubtedly moved dramatically for the better.”
Perhaps the most important step in improving Israel’s organ problem was the country’s 2008 Organ Transplant Act, which regulated domestic transplants and made it explicitly illegal for Israelis to buy or sell organs. The law also dictated that transplants outside Israel must be conducted according to the laws of the host country, in addition to complying with Israeli law, and that insurance companies can only reimburse for operations done in the boundaries of this law.
“Up to 2008, many Israelis went to China,” says Dr. Jacob Lavee, director of the heart transplant unit at the Sheba Medical Center near Tel Aviv. “The Israelis were not the only transplant tourists who went to China—there were American and mostly European patients who went to China too—but the Israeli patients in China seeking organ transplant were the only ones, or almost the only ones, who brought with them money not out of their own pocket but from the money that came from the insurance company, or the HMOs, which made the presentation as if Israel endorses the crime against humanity that was going on in China.” The practice has now stopped, Lavee says.
At the heart of the issue has been a relatively low availability of kidneys for transplant in Israel. According to data assembled by the World Health Organization, ranking countries by the number of kidney transplantations per million population, Israel falls towards the middle of the pack, sandwiched between Colombia and Saudi Arabia, as of 2010. But considering Israel’s high placement on the Human Development Index and its reputation for excellent medical care, it ranks low, with fewer than 20 kidney transplants per million people in Israel in 2010. Only 12 percent or so of its adult population has signed organ donor cards. “You would expect Israel to be way better,” considering its level of advancement, says Dr. Luc Noel, coordinator of the clinical procedures team at the WHO, who added that Israel has improved.
A critical statistic in transplants is the consent rate: the percentage of the time when, after a relative has been declared brain dead, families agree to let the organs from the deceased person be transplanted. Historically, Israel’s consent rate is low: In 2010, the rate was 49 percent. But there is good news: that climbed to 55 percent in 2011. (That compares to an average consent rate in the United States of about 75 percent, based off the most recent data.)
The main reason for Israel’s low consent rate, says Lavee, “is the false belief that Judaism is against organ donation—a belief held by only a fraction, a small minority, of ultra-orthodox rabbis who do not believe in brain death,” and thus believe that the only way to die is through cardiac arrest. “Most of the mainstream rabbis, including the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, are absolutely for it, and are very vocal for it.”
One Israeli woman who went abroad for transplantation, and who asked to remain anonymous, shared her story with The Daily Beast. She had been born with just one kidney, and in 2001, she noticed bubbles in her urine, a sign of kidney failure. Medications and vitamins helped for some time. But a few years ago, her health took a critical turn downwards. In the end, she had the procedure done abroad, traveling overseas with a donor, a relative not related by blood whom she says donated the kidney without payment. The cost for the entire procedure: $28,000. She emphasizes how frightening the experience was, and also that the regulations in the country she went to were “more lenient for foreigners.”
“We are dealing with quite a moral issue,” says an Israeli lawyer who has worked on an organ trafficking case. “On one hand, you still have to think about those people who are sick, and it’s a question for them of living and dying, and this is why they have to travel abroad.”
But the most innovative aspect of Israel’s 2008 law is a clause guaranteeing that organ donors get preferential rankings if they should ever need a transplant themselves—an idea that encourages people to be willing to give if they are willing to receive. The new system, spearheaded by Lavee, was scheduled to go into effect on January 1, 2012, but due to overwhelming demand, the deadline for people to register was extended to March 31. The director of Israel’s National Transplant Center, Dr. Tamar Ashkenazi, says that her office saw a huge increase in activity for people who wanted to register to become donors. In a normal month, she says, there are about 3,000 to 5,000 people who want to register; in December 2011, before the deadline, her office handled more than 40,000 people who wanted to register. Lavee credits an ongoing public campaign with the reason the consent rate has improved.