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Thread: Israeli troops 'kidnap' Palestinians for organs

  1. #21

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    Corrections and clarifications




    •?We should not have put the headline "Israel admits harvesting Palestinian organs" on a story about an admission, by the former head of the Abu Kabir forensic institute near Tel Aviv, that during the 1990s specialists at the institute harvested organs from the bodies of Israeli soldiers, Israeli citizens, Palestinians and foreign workers without getting permission from the families of the deceased (21 December, page 15). That headline did not match the article, which made clear that the organs were not taken only from Palestinians. This was a serious editing error and the headline has been changed online to reflect the text of the story written by the reporter.
    •?A leader in praise of Cumbrian spirit said that the county council's motto, Ad montes oculos levavi, translated strictly as "I shall lift up mine eyes to the hills". That should have been "I have lifted up mine eyes to the hills" (10 December, page 36).
    •?A diary item expressed the view that an actor playing Michael Martin, former Speaker of the House of Commons, would keep the place looking nice, though he might not excel at the Woolsack. Quite right: he would be in the wrong chamber – the Woolsack is in the House of Lords (18 December, page 37).


    http://www.guardian.co.uk/theguardia...clarifications

    ###

    « The Beat Goes On

    Guardian Retracts Organ Harvesting Headline

    Published by Ben Cohen
    on December 23, 2009
    in Britain, anti-Zionism, antisemitism and bad journalism

    Now here’s one item in The Guardian that’s really worth reading:
    We should not have put the headline “Israel admits harvesting Palestinian organs” on a story about an admission, by the former head of the Abu Kabir forensic institute near Tel Aviv, that during the 1990s specialists at the institute harvested organs from the bodies of Israeli soldiers, Israeli citizens, Palestinians and foreign workers without getting permission from the families of the deceased (21 December, page 15). That headline did not match the article, which made clear that the organs were not taken only from Palestinians. This was a serious editing error and the headline has been changed online to reflect the text of the story written by the reporter.

    How, I wonder, could such an error have been made?
    "Where is the intersection between the world's deep hunger and your deep gladness?"

  2. #22

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    Here's the new Guardian headline:

    Doctor admits Israeli pathologists harvested organs without consent
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009...rvested-organs

    :hmmmm2:

    Here's the revised article:

    Doctor admits Israeli pathologists harvested organs without consent
    Ian Black, Middle East editor The Guardian, Monday 21 December 2009

    Israel has admitted pathologists harvested organs from dead Palestinians, and others, without the consent of their families – a practice it said ended in the 1990s – it emerged at the weekend.

    The admission, by the former head of the country's forensic institute, followed a furious row prompted by a Swedish newspaper reporting that Israel was killing Palestinians in order to use their organs – a charge that Israel denied and called "antisemitic".

    The revelation, in a television documentary, is likely to generate anger in the Arab and Muslim world and reinforce sinister stereotypes of Israel and its attitude to Palestinians. Iran's state-run Press TV tonight reported the story, illustrated with photographs of dead or badly injured Palestinians.

    Ahmed Tibi, an Israeli Arab MP, said the report incriminated the Israeli army.

    The story emerged in an interview with Dr Yehuda Hiss, former head of the Abu Kabir forensic institute near Tel Aviv. The interview was conducted in 2000 by an American academic who released it because of the row between Israel and Sweden over a report in the Stockholm newspaper Aftonbladet.

    Channel 2 TV reported that in the 1990s, specialists at Abu Kabir harvested skin, corneas, heart valves and bones from the bodies of Israeli soldiers, Israeli citizens, Palestinians and foreign workers, often without permission from relatives.

    The Israeli military confirmed to the programme that the practice took place, but added: "This activity ended a decade ago and does not happen any longer."

    Hiss said: "We started to harvest corneas ... whatever was done was highly informal. No permission was asked from the family."

    However, there was no evidence that Israel had killed Palestinians to take their organs, as the Swedish paper reported. Aftonbladet quoted Palestinians as saying young men from the West Bank and Gaza Strip had been seized by the Israeli forces and their bodies returned to their families with missing organs. The interview with Hiss was released by Nancy Scheper-Hughes, professor of anthropology at the University of California-Berkeley who had conducted a study of Abu Kabir.

    She was quoted by the Associated Press as saying that while Palestinians were "by a long shot" not the only ones affected, she felt the interview must be made public, because "the symbolism, you know, of taking skin of the population considered to be the enemy, [is] something, just in terms of its symbolic weight, that has to be reconsidered."

    Israel demanded that Sweden condemn the Aftonbladet article, calling it an antisemitic "blood libel". Stockholm refused, saying that to so would violate freedom of speech in the country. The foreign minister then cancelled a visit to Israel, just as Sweden was taking over the EU's rotating presidency.

    Hiss was removed from his post in 2004, when some details about organ harvesting were first reported, but he still works at the forensic institute.

    Israel's health ministry said all harvesting was now done with permission. "The guidelines at that time were not clear," it said in a statement to Channel 2. "For the last 10 years, Abu Kabir has been working according to ethics and Jewish law."

    • This article was amended on 21 December 2009. The headline was changed as it did not reflect accurately the contents of the story. Nancy Scheper-Hughes's name was misspelled as Nancy Sheppard-Hughes in the original text.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009...rvested-organs
    "It means this War was never political at all, the politics was all theatre, all just to keep the people distracted...."
    "Proverbs for Paranoids 4: You hide, They seek."
    "They are in Love. Fuck the War."

    Gravity's Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon

    "Ccollanan Pachacamac ricuy auccacunac yahuarniy hichascancuta."
    The last words of the last Inka, Tupac Amaru, led to the gallows by men of god & dogs of war

  3. #23

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    Thanks, Jan. Not being British or in Britain, or having any sense of how news, politics and things like this are seen in that part of the world, this correction struck me as some "spin" aftermath as various entities battled in the information wars. It is clear from other sources that there is a lot of that going on. I also am personally a little bit more clear on how Judaism and Jewish law sees the issues of organ retrieval, but I live in the USA where law and attitude currently see organ donation as a strictly voluntary procedure (though there is a good deal of pressure to change that). I also find the issue disconcerting to say the least when it involves state/cultural/religious enemies who have been dehumanized in other ways whose faith also requires voluntary approval. There probably is some appropriate song or poem (or hymn?) that ought to be noted here, though I can't think of it, that says "Mother and Father, this is not the world I grew up in".
    "Where is the intersection between the world's deep hunger and your deep gladness?"

  4. #24

    Default Israeli Organ Trafficking and Theft: From Moldova to Palestine

    Israeli Organ Trafficking and Theft: From Moldova to Palestine

    By Alison Weir

    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

    In this photograph taken March 22, 2007, Vasile Dimineti holds a picture of his 24-year-old son, who died a year after selling his kidney. The family lives in the impoverished Moldovan village of Mingir, where about 40 of its 7,000 residents are thought to have sold a kidney. AFP photo/Daniel Mihailescu/Files
    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.”
    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.7 Israel finally passed legislation against organ trafficking in 2008.8, 9
    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.”10 The Israeli news service Ynet reports, “the percentage of organs donated among Jews is the lowest of all the ethnic groups.”11
    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-subsidized12 Israeli insurance plans.13 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.14 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.15
    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.16
    The ring had also begun inquiring about buying other vital organs from poor residents, including lungs, livers and corneas.17
    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.18 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.19
    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.’”20
    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.
    Organ theft

    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.21
    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.22
    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.”23
    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.24 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.25 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.26, 27
    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.”28
    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.”29
    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.30
    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.31
    Palestinian Victims

    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.”32
    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 soldier33 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.’”34
    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.35, 36 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.”37
    International investigations, of course, have two results: the innocent are absolved, the guilty discovered.
    It is clear which category Israel believes it falls into.
    Alison Weir is executive director of If Americans Knew and is on the board of the Council for the National Interest.

    An Internet petition calling for an investigation can be viewed at

    http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/i...ateorgantheft/


    Footnotes:

    1 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 )
    2 Israel Insider, “Netanyahu to press Sweden to condemn blood libel,” Aug. 23, 2009
    http://israelinsider.ning.com/profil...ress-sweden-to
    3 Tobin, Jonathan, “Swedish Anti-Semites Dig Up a Blood Libel,” CommentaryMagazine.com, Aug. 20, 2009
    http://www.commentarymagazine.com/bl...hp/tobin/76522
    4 Cassel, Matthew, “Baseless organ theft accusations will not bring Israel to justice,” The Electronic Intifada, Aug. 24, 2009
    http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article10730.shtml
    5Scheper-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
    6 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/...ans/index.html
    7Osava, Mario, “BRAZIL: Poor Sell Organs to Trans-Atlantic Trafficking Ring,” Inter Press Service (IPS), Feb. 23, 2004
    http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=22524
    8 Yeshiva World News, “CNN: Israel a Leader in Organ Trafficking,” Sept. 3, 2009
    http://www.theyeshivaworld.com/news/...afficking.html
    9Chabin, Michele, “Organ Donation: Legal, But Still Controversial,” Jewish Week, April 9, 2008
    http://www.thejewishweek.com/viewArt...ws/Israel.html
    10Rohter, 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/in...rint&position=
    11Shapira-Rosenberg, Efrat, “A mitzvah called organ donation,” Ynet News, June 10, 2007
    http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7...388529,00.html
    12Rohter, Larry, op. cit.
    13Ibid.
    14 “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...fa73452_0f.htm
    15 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
    16 “BRAZIL: Poor Sell Organs to Trans-Atlantic Trafficking Ring,” Mario Osava, IPS, Feb. 23, 2004
    http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=22524
    17New York Times
    18 “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=
    19 “CNN: Israel a Leader in Organ Trafficking,” Yeshiva World News, Sept. 3, 2009
    http://www.theyeshivaworld.com/news/...afficking.html
    20“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/in...23BRAZ.html?th
    21 “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
    22“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
    23“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
    24 “Scottish Tourist’s Family Rejects Out-of-Court Settlement,” Netty C. Gross, The Jerusalem Report, Jan. 29, 2001
    25“Attorney-General lodges complaint against Abu Kabir coroner,” Dan Izenbert, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 11, 2003
    26 “Hiss fired for repeated body-part scandals,” Judy Siegel, Jerusalem Post, May 11, 2004
    27 “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
    28 “Were the Children Sold?” Yechiel A. Mann, Stop-Abuse.net
    http://stop-abuse.net/ym5.htm
    29 “The Missing Children,” Yechiel A. Mann, Stop-Abuse.net
    http://stop-abuse.net/ym1.htm
    30 “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
    31“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
    32“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/
    33“Palestinian corpse used for IDF anatomy lesson,” Amos Harel, Haaretz, Jan. 28, 2005
    http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/pages/S...?itemNo=533018
    34 “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...-but-also.html
    35 “Israeli lawyer sues Swedish paper,” JTA, Aug. 27, 2009
    http://jta.org/news/article/2009/08/...-swedish-paper
    36 “Israeli lawyer sues ‘Aftonbladet’ in NY Court,” E.B. Solomont, Jerusalem Post, Aug. 26, 2009
    http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satelli...cle%2FShowFull
    37 “Israeli Reservists To Sue Swedish Newspaper,” David Bedein, The Bulletin, August 30, 2009
    http://thebulletin.us/articles/2009/...3700709743.prt
    http://www.wrmea.com/component/content/article/321-2009-november/6602-israeli-organ-trafficking-and-theft-from-moldova-to-palestine.html
    "I think it would be a good idea." Mahatma Gandhi, when asked what he thought of Western civilization.

    The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it.
    Karl Marx.

    "Well, he would, wouldn't he?" Mandy Rice-Davies, 1963, replied Ms Rice Davies when the prosecuting counsel pointed out that Lord Astor denied an affair or having even met her.

  5. Default Focus on Israel: Harvesting Haitian Organs

    Focus on Israel: Harvesting Haitian Organs

    January 26th, 2010 6:20 AM

    by Stephen Lendman
    On January 15, Haaretz reported that:

    "The Israel Defense Forces' aid mission to Haiti left Israel overnight (January 14) with equipment for setting up an emergency field hospital. Around 220 soldiers and officers (were) in the delegation, including 120 medical staff (to) operate the hospital in the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince."
    According to Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, it includes "40 doctors, 25 nurses, paramedics, a pharmacy, a children's ward, a radiology department, an intensive care unit, an internal department and a maternity ward (able to) treat approximately 500 patients each day," including in two surgery rooms.
    On January 20, Lebanon's Al-Manar TV reported on the mission, citing a damning You Tube video posted by an American named T. West from a group called AfriSynergy Productions.
    "The video presents something to think about while exploiting the horrible tragedy that has befallen Haiti where Israeli occupation soldiers are engaged in organ trafficking."

    continues with lengthy re-cycling of previous article at :http://www.thepeoplesvoice.org/TPV3/Voices.php/2010/01/26/focus-on-israel-harvesting-haitian-organ

  6. Default

    Nick Clegg fires 'distasteful' LibDem frontbencher over Haiti organ-trafficking claims



    By Daily Mail Reporter
    Last updated at 12:25 AM on 13th February 2010

    A Liberal Democrat frontbencher was sacked today after calling for an inquiry into allegations that Israeli soldiers in Haiti had been involved with organ-trafficking.

    Party leader Nick Clegg removed Baroness Tonge as a LibDem health spokeswoman in the House of Lords, describing her remarks as 'wrong, distasteful and provocative'.

    It is the second time she has been fired for making controversial comments about Israel.

    Baroness Tonge has been sacked over her controversial comments about Israeli soldiers in Haiti

    The latest row followed accusations in the online Palestine Telegraph - of which Lady Tonge is a patron - that members of the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) had been harvesting body parts in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake.
    She subsequently told the Jewish Chronicle: 'To prevent allegations such as these - which have already been posted on YouTube - going any further, the IDF and the Israeli Medical Association should establish an independent inquiry immediately to clear the names of the team in Haiti.'

    Mr Clegg said Baroness Tonge's comments were 'wrong, distasteful and provocative'

    Fellow Lib Dems were said to have complained to Mr Clegg about her comments.

    In a statement issued this evening, the leader said the peer 'apologises unreservedly'.

    He said: 'Following discussions with the Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords, Lord McNally, I have decided that Jenny Tonge will stand down as Liberal Democrat health spokesperson in the Lords following her unacceptable comments suggesting an inquiry into highly offensive allegations against the IDF humanitarian operation in Haiti.

    'The comments were wrong, distasteful and provocative and I recognise the deep and understandable distress they have caused to the Jewish community.

    'While I do not believe that Jenny Tonge is anti-semitic or racist, I regard her comments as wholly unacceptable. Jenny Tonge apologises unreservedly for the offence she has caused.'
    Lady Tonge was a Lib Dem MP between 1997 and 2005, when she entered the Lords.

    She has regularly run into controversy for her critical stance towards Israel.

    In 2004, she was sacked as a LibDem spokeswoman on children's issues after suggesting she could consider becoming a suicide bomber.

    Then leader Charles Kennedy dropped her after she told a pro-Palestinian meeting in Westminster: 'If I had been a mother and a grandmother in Palestine living for decades in that situation, I don't know, I may well have become one myself.'


    Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1250708/Liberal-Democrat-leader-Nick-Clegg-fires-distasteful-Baroness-Tonge-Haiti-organ-trafficking-claims.html#ixzz0fRQhO97B

  7. Default Body Parts and Bio-Piracy

    Nancy Scheper-Hughes – Counter Punch (October 25, 2010)

    Editorial Note: Nancy Scheper-Hughes is professor of anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley, where she directs the doctoral program in medicine and society. Since 1996, she has been involved in active field research on the global traffic in human organs, following the movement of bodies, body parts, transplant doctors, their patients, brokers, and kidney sellers, and the practices of organ and tissue harvesting in several countries – from Brazil, Argentina, and Cuba, to Moldova, Israel and Turkey, to India, South Africa, and the United States. She is a co-founder of Organs Watch, an independent, medical human rights, research and documentation center at UC Berkeley.

    What follows is her detailed report on the tissue, skin, bone and organ harvesting conducted for many years at Israel’s L. Greenberg National Institute of Forensic Medicine, a.k.a. The Abu Kabir Institute, under the aegis of its former director and current chief pathologist, Dr. Yehuda Hiss. Long before Donald Boström leveled allegations of organ-harvesting from Palestinians in the Swedish tabloid, Aftonbladet, in August 2009, causing furious accusations of “blood libel,” Dr. Scheper-Hughes had already interviewed Dr. Hiss and had on tape the interview that forms part of her report here.

    Dr. Scheper-Hughes says her purpose here is to refute the controversial official statements of the Ministry of Health and the IDF that while there may have been irregularities at the National Forensic Institute, they have long since ended. To this day, she says, they have failed to acknowledge, punish, or rectify various medical human rights abuses, past and present at the National Forensic Institute. While many of the allegations are widely known, the testimony by Israeli state pathologist and IDF (reserve) Lt. Col. Chen Kugel has never been published in English and his allegations are known only within Israel. Dr. Scheper-Hughes invited Dr. Kugel to speak publicly on this topic in the U.S. on May 6, 2010.

    There are three lawsuits ongoing in Israel at the present moment concerning the Forensic Institute and Dr. Hiss. Two concerns alleged abuses against the dead bodies of Israeli citizens. The third concerns Rachel Corrie, a U.S. citizen who was killed in Gaza in 2003 while protesting the demolition of houses. Transcripts of court proceedings show that Corrie’s autopsy was conducted in contravention of an Israeli court order that an official from the U.S. Embassy be present. These transcripts also show Dr. Hiss conceding that he had kept samples from Corrie’s body without her family’s knowledge. Dr. Hiss also testified that he was uncertain where these samples now are. For his part, Dr. Kugel asserts that abuses at the Institute continue to this day.

    The Scheper-Hughes article takes care to note Dr. Kugel’s description of his former mentor, Dr. Hiss, as a man who saw himself as willing to take great personal and professional risks “to serve a noble end… to help the war-wounded victims of terrorist attacks,” with his actions “as something sublime, or even heroic, as a modern-day Robin Hood.” AC/JSC

    In July 2009, I was identified as the “whistle-blower” in the arrest by New Jersey FBI agents of a Brooklyn organs trafficker, an orthodox rabbi, Isaac Rosenbaum,1,2 whose unorthodox business activities I had uncovered several years earlier while investigating an international network of outlaw transplant surgeons, their brokers, lawyers, kidney hunters, insurance and travel agents, safe house operators, and “baby sitters” to mind sick and anxious international “transplant tourists.” The particular criminal network, in which Rosenbaum played a bit part, originated in Israel through a “company” run by a well-known crime boss Ilan Peri, who had over the years established shady transplant deals and kidney transplant outlets and connections in Turkey, Moldova, the Ukraine, Brazil, Germany, South Africa, the Philippines, China, Kosovo, Azerbaijan, Columbia, and the United States.3

    The arrests, amidst gunfire in the operating rooms, of two of Ilan Peri’s transplant associates – Dr. Zaki Shapira, formerly of Rabin Medical Center, Petach Tikva, Israel, and his Turkish associate Dr. Yusuf Sonmez – in a private hospital in Istanbul in 20074 gave pause to the Israeli Ministry of Health which, until then, had permitted Israeli sick funds (medical insurance) to reimburse living donors overseas with transplants, many of them trafficked from the former Soviet Union countries. The kidney sellers captured in the Turkish shootout, however, were two Palestinians, Omar Abu Gaber, age 42, and Zaheda Mahammid, age 26. The organ recipients were an Israeli man of 68, Zeev Vigdor, and a younger South African man, John Richard Halford, who were filmed on Turkish TV being carried out of the operating room on stretchers and taken to another hospital before being returned home, without the transplants they had so desired.
    After his release from a German prison in 2007, Peri returned to Israel, where he was investigated for tax fraud,5 detained, but released because Israel’s organ-transplant laws were murky with respect to the legality of “brokering” overseas transplants using paid donors. In 2008, two new laws were passed by the Israeli Parliament (Knesset): one that paved the way for applying brain death criteria that would satisfy the ultraorthodox, and the other that outlaws buying, selling and brokering organs for transplant.6 The Ministry of Health no longer reimburses overseas transplants unless they are legal. Peri continues to organize transplant tours, but today, he claims, using only deceased donor organs and legal pathways.

    In its heyday (1997-2007), the Israeli transplant tourism/organ-trafficking network was an ingenious and extremely lucrative multimillion-dollar program that supplied a few thousand Israeli patients and diasporic Jews worldwide with the “fresh” organs and transplants they needed. With Rosenbaum’s arrest, the U.S. media were suddenly interested in the Israeli-based transplant-trafficking scheme, now that there was a proven link to hospitals in New York City.

    The NYC Commissioner of Health and the FBI, whom I alerted years earlier about the Rosenbaum transplant gang, had dismissed the information as lacking credibility. How could patients and kidney sellers from two different countries be smuggled into hospitals for illegal transplants? How would they get through the red tape required for any transplant operation? It sounded like an old wives’ tale, an urban legend, or a blood libel against Jewish surgeons and their patients. And that was the worst suspicion of all.

    Although the criminal justice system refused to believe the story I gave them, transplant surgeons working in hospitals in the U.S. who had been approached by Ilan Peri and his associates, including Isaac Rosenbaum, knew it to be true and knew that some of their colleagues were complicit in transplant crimes that ranged from violating the National Organ Transplant Act (NOTA) in the buying and selling organs, to fraud, deception, money laundering, taking bribes, participating in organized crime and human trafficking. The Rosenbaum case, still in preparation, will be the first U.S. federal prosecution of crimes related to organs trafficking.7

    The Aftonbladet Story Breaks
    Then, in August 2009, another organ-trafficking story broke, one that linked Rosenbaum’s U.S.-Israel organ-brokering and money-laundering schemes with much older allegations of organ-and-tissue stealing from the bodies of Palestinian “terrorists” and stone throwers’ following autopsy at Israel’s National Forensic Institute in Abu Kabir, a neighborhood of Tel Aviv. These allegations, dating back to the early 1990s, were recycled by a Swedish journalist Donald Boström in a left-leaning Swedish tabloid, Aftonbladet, on August 17, 2009.8

    Headlined “Our Sons Plundered for Their Organs,” Boström’s feature story was a mix of organ-theft accusations, seemingly coincidental connections, and political rhetoric. The information was based on Boström’s research in Israel and the Occupied Territories during the first Intifada, and his award-winning book, Inshallah,9 published in 2001, where Bostrom first introduced the allegations of body tampering and organ-and-tissue theft from Palestinian dead brought for autopsy to the Abu Kabir Forensic Institute. Boström’s article suggested that Palestinian bodies were being harvested as the “spoils of war.”

    The Aftonbladet story, instantly translated into Hebrew and English, created a firestorm of protest that included a libel lawsuit by anti-defamation lawyers in New York City and a boycott of Swedish industries. Boström was labeled an anti-Semite, and the story he “dredged up from the sewer” was labeled a despicable “blood libel” against Israel and the world’s Jews.

    I read these news reports with mounting dread. Like Boström, I was once greeted during a research visit to Israel in 2003 with an ugly headline and centerfold ( “New Blood Libel on French TV – Israel Steals Kidneys of Orphan Children in Moldova”) in Makor Rishon, a right-wing tabloid.10 The feature story reviewed an hour-long TV documentary by French filmmaker Catherine Bentellier, Kidneys Worth their Weight in Gold. I had traveled with the filmmaker to Moldova in 2001, where we interviewed people in villages that had been ravaged by organs traffickers targeting young men and trafficking them to Turkey, the Ukraine and Georgia as paid, sometimes coerced, kidney providers to Israeli transplant patients. The “blood libel” accusation featured medieval woodcuts and a blurry photo of me patting the hand of a Moldovan orphan in his crib.

    With respect to the Swedish “blood libel” against the National Forensic Institute at Abu Kabir, the main issue that wasn’t raised in the avalanche of articles, editorials, and news columns published in Israel, Europe and the United States was one simple question, “Was the organ theft story true?” And were there any grounds for linking the tissue theft from the dead to the organization of illicit transplant tours for Israeli patients? Were there any grounds for linking the one story with another?

    Introducing Dr Yehuda Hiss
    I knew the answer. In July 2000, while studying the growth of organized transplant tours run by underworld brokers in Israel, I conducted a formal, audiotaped interview with the director of Israel’s National Forensic Institute, Dr. Yehuda Hiss, at Abu Kabir, in which he openly and freely discussed the “informal” procurement of organs and tissues from the bodies of the dead brought to the Institute for examination and autopsy. Hiss described a kind of “presumed” consent, one invented by him and shared with no one except, by example, with his medical students and residents and interns. He pursued a quiet policy of aggressive tissue, bone, skin, and organ harvesting, purportedly for the greater good of his country, a country at war, and for the good of his countryman. Professor Hiss, viewed by many Israelis and by the New York Times as a hero because of his service to the nation in handling bodies killed by terrorists and suicide bombers, deemed his behavior as patriotic. He was, in his own mind, not so much “above the law,” as representing the law, a much higher law, his law, supremely cool, rational, and scientifically and technically correct. The country was at war, blood was being spilled everyday, soldiers were being burned, and yet Israelis refused to provide tissues and organs needed. So, he would take matters into his own hands.
    The taped interview was a smoking gun, but I feared the unintended consequences of making it public. The tape sat, more or less untouched, in my archives for ten years. But now it was necessary to set the record straight. But before I did so, I wanted to give professor Hiss a chance to explain, or even to correct, the things he had admitted to in the 2000 interview. Prior to leaving for a research trip in September-October 2009, accompanied by Dan Rather and his team for a news report on the criminal networks built around organ trafficking in Turkey, Moldova, and Israel, I contacted Yehuda Hiss in Israel (through one of my several Israeli research assistants) requesting a follow-up interview.

    The Ministry of Health thwarted his initial acceptance. A private interview in his home was proposed, but Hiss (and his lawyers) wanted to review beforehand any questions I wished to raise. Then the Ministry of Health denied Hiss permission to speak with me at all, under any circumstances. While being interviewed about the effects of the changes in transplant laws and practices, several medical and transplant colleagues in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem often interjected disparaging references to the “despicable blood libel by the Swedish media,” even though they knew full well – and knew that I knew – that tucked inside Boström’s tabloid story was a real medical and political scandal of international proportions. I understood their nervousness about the topic, but not their denial of a known fact that was being manipulated into a global political tool of the Israeli government.

    Just before returning to the United States, I met with Meira Weiss, a distinguished anthropologist and former professor at Hebrew University, and Chen Kugel, M.D., a forensic pathologist who had worked side by side with his mentor, Yehuda Hiss, at the Institute. Both Weiss and Dr. Kugel urged me to write a rebuttal to those in Israel who were “crying wolf” and using blood libel accusations to bludgeon their critics into submission. Weiss reminded me of the taped interview, done in 2000, with Dr. Hiss, as she herself had arranged the interview and was present during it, and she was as stunned as I was at the boldness and arrogance of Hiss’ revelations. Chen Kugel, a military officer (reserve) and former forensic pathologist at the Institute, agreed that the truth should be told to the global community, though perhaps not by them. Both had suffered enough. Both had been forced out of their jobs.

    My interview with Yehuda Hiss at the Institute had come about in the following circumstances. In July 2000, three years into the Organs Watch project, I was given a file and a photo by an Israeli human rights lawyer, Lynda Brayer, at her organization’s headquarters in Bethlehem. The Society of St. Yves was created to provide legal assistance to Palestinian families, whose relatives had suffered the demolition of their homes, forced removals, and other abuses. The organization was then representing the family of Abdel Karim Abdel Musalmeh, who was shot in the head on November 8, 1995, by IDF snipers. The single bullet that killed Abdel is clearly indicated in the photo, which was part of the autopsy record. A military order for the demolition of Musalmeh’s home in Beit Awa, a village outside of Hebron, preceded his murder by the IDF as a “wanted person on the run.” The lawyers were arguing a case to allow the home to stand, so that Abdel’s widow and their six children would not be homeless. If murder and dispossession were not enough, Musalmeh’s body was returned to his wife in tatters. The autopsy report attributed death by rifle shot to brain. Why, then, was the body subjected to a total dissection and the removal of cornea and skin? I agreed to look into it.

    When I first shared this information and the graphic photo with Meira Weiss, she reassured me at that time that there was no organ or tissue harvesting at the Institute. She had witnessed hundreds of autopsies – of Israelis, Arabs, Arab-Israelis, Russian immigrants, foreigners, and Palestinians. While bodies were opened and organs examined, they were returned to the body, except for small tissue samples as needed for forensic examination in the laboratories above the morgue. There were practices Weiss had observed that were not in compliance with international codes of ethics and internal law, the 1975 Helsinki Accords on the use of human subjects.11 There were acts of deviance by certain staff members. Tattoos, for example, were sometimes removed with a knife from the bodies of new immigrants to Israel, mostly Russian and Ukrainian, always suspect of nor being Jewish enough. Tattoos gave them away, and so they were treated with hostility. Penises might be circumcised, postmortem, without the knowledge or consent of relatives. The bodies of Jews and Muslims were treated differently. When Palestinians were brought in, following conflict, they were subjected to a complete autopsy, as required to produce information for the Palestinian Authority. On the other hand, the bodies of Israeli soldiers were respected, and autopsies were often discreet and partial.

    Allegations About the Forensic Institute
    The National Institute of Forensic Medicine at Abu Kabir, a Tel Aviv suburb, is Israel’s national depository of dead bodies requiring identification, examination, and autopsy. It serves two purposes, on the one hand, as a scientific institute affiliated with the Sackler School of Medicine (Tel Aviv University), through which it operates a state-of-the-art genetics laboratory. On the other hand, the Institute is controlled and closely supervised by the chevra kadisha – the orthodox religious organization has a virtual monopoly on all burials in Israel, except for the military. The Institute is a civil organization working under the Ministry of Health. On the other hand, it is an arm of the security police and the military.
    The Institute is then both a traditional medical-legal mortuary and, off the record, Israel’s primary source of tissues, bone, and skin needed for transplantation, plastic surgery, research and medical teaching. The illicit traffic in organs, tissues, bone and the stockpiling of assorted body parts at the Institute is what anthropologists call a public secret, something that every one inside the society knows about but which is never discussed, and certainly never admitted to those outside the society. But, in fact, allegations and official investigations of organ-and-tissue trafficking at the Forensic Institute have been ongoing in Israel since 1999 up to the present day. Yehuda Hiss has been, off and on, the focus of public scrutiny. He has been sued, and he has been decorated. He has been both upbraided and rewarded, fired from his position as director of the Institute, and given a new title, senior pathologist, with a higher salary.
    Allegations of Hiss’ confiscation of organs, tissues and other body parts date back to November 1999, with an investigative report in the local Tel Aviv newspaper Ha’ir, which stated that medical students under Hiss’ direction were allowed to practice on bodies sent to the Institute at Abu Kabir for autopsy, and that body parts were transferred for transplant and other medical uses without permission from the families concerned. In 2000, the newspaper Yediot Aharonot published a price list for body parts that Hiss had sold to university researchers and to medical schools. A committee of international forensic experts was appointed by the Minister of Health to investigate practices at the Institute. It took two years for the investigation to be completed, during which time, according to Hiss’ former assistant and protégé, Chen Kugel, much of the evidence was destroyed. Nonetheless, according to Kugel, Hiss still had a huge collection of body parts in his possession at Abu Kabir, when the Israeli courts ordered a search in 2002. Israel National News reported at the time, “Over the past years, heads of the Institute appear to have given thousands of organs for research without permission, while maintaining a ‘storehouse’ of organs at Abu Kabir.” Hiss was reprimanded but allowed to continue his activities, which he defended as necessary for medicine, for the defense of the Israeli state, and for the advancement of science.

    In 2005, new allegations of organs trafficking at Abu Kabir surfaced, and Hiss admitted to having removed parts from 125 bodies without authorization. Following a plea bargain with the state, the attorney general decided not to press criminal charges, and Hiss was given only a reprimand, and he continues on as chief pathologist at Abu Kabir, that is, the state of Israel’s official head pathologist. Illegal harvesting of bodies was simultaneously prohibited and tolerated. Hiss was, in fact, the state’s answer to the chronic scarcity of tissues and organs. He recognized the need produced by the deep cultural reluctance of families to tamper with the bodies of the dead, which allowed him to cross a line and to do as he pleased with the bodies entrusted to him.

    Interviewing Dr Hiss
    When I met professor Yehuda Hiss for the first and, as it turned out, the only time, the pathologist struck me as a formidable, frightening, and brilliant man. A Polish immigrant to Israel, with striking blue eyes, short beard, wiry body, and a tense, hypervigilant and belligerent demeanor, he commands attention. The interview took place on July 21, 2000, in Hiss’ office at the Institute, in the presence of a staff member and Meira Weiss. We were all, I think, shocked by his revelations. Hiss allowed the interview to be audiotaped, but parts of our conversation were off the record, and the tape was turned off at those moments. What follows now is a transcription of the audiotape pared down, some asides deleted.

    YH: My name is Yehuda Hiss. I am a forensic specialist. Here we do forensic medicine, as well as anatomical pathology. I do both. The main issue, here, as compared to other countries, is that [in Israel] we have only one [forensic] Institute for the entire country. And it is very conveniently located in the center of Israel, so that the bulk of the population is located very near to us….There are another twenty medical centers in various places, each with its own department of pathology. But very few complete autopsies are performed in Israel.
    I began my training in anatomical pathology in 1974, in Sheba (Tel Hashomer). We had only three residents, and we would perform about 850 complete autopsies [each year]. Today, there are 6-8 residents, and the hospital that trains residents in anatomical pathology is three times as big, but residents today perform only 40-50 mostly incomplete autopsies [per year]. So, this is representative of what is going on in the state of Israel. We did 800 per year 25 years ago with fewer residents, and only 40-50 per year today with many more resources. The only place where complete autopsies are conducted in Israel happens to be here.
    Now, about the question of harvesting organs – it’s strange. Not only here, in Israel, but elsewhere it all depends on the personal approach of those in charge of pathology or organs harvesting. In my case, when I was a resident in Tel Hashomer – a hospital linked to the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) – we would collaborate with the army and we would provide the army with grafted (harvested) skin for burn victims, and, from time to time, they would ask us for cornea. So, I would be involved in it because I was in charge, with two others, and we would provide this.

    NS-H: Why cornea to the military?

    YH: For injuries perhaps. Maybe it was easier [for the military] to make this request of us, and, once we had gotten permissions to perform – and the family agreed – to the autopsy, we would take some skin and take the cornea. For autopsy, we always had to ask permission of the family, unless it was a court order [a criminal case].

    NS-H: There is some resistance here, in Israel, to autopsy – both Jewish and Arab – right?

    YH: Yes. We did everything off the record, highly informal. We never asked for the families’ permission.
    Then we started harvesting cornea for several Israeli hospitals, initially for Tel Hashomer, because I had friends there who knew me well. I suggested this to them at various meetings. I was amazed because no one had ever come to us to ask. Why are you not coming over to us? I told them how it worked at Case Western Reserve Hospital [in Cleveland]. So, then they started to come from hospitals in Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv. Everything was done on a friendly basis between us and our colleagues in various departments. I felt strongly that these corneas should go to public patients and not to private clinics. We were not paid for harvesting, but we weregiven some donations, equipment that we needed.
    Whatever was done here was off the record, highly informal. We never asked permission of the family. But we would harvest only from bodies that the family agreed to allow an autopsy. So, we would never harvest where there were objections to the autopsy.

    NS-H: The law allows this?

    YH: The law demands permissions for autopsy, but not for harvesting. I read this in the law books….There was an addendum to the law in 1981, that you should ask the permission of the family – for autopsy…. We were free to take skin from the back of legs. We took cornea. We would not take cornea from those bodies where we suspected that the families might want to open the eyelids. There are some Orthodox and some Oriental [Arab] families who open the eyelids and throw sand on top of them. We knew whom to avoid. Also we only removed the cornea, not as we did in Teleshemer [hospital], the whole eyeball. And we would close and glue the eyelids, and we would cover any place where we had removed something. And, similarly, we would take [skin] only from the back of the legs. In the beginning of the 1990s, we began to take some long bones from the legs. Then we were asked for cardiac valves, and we did a few of them, because of the lack of collaboration between us and major thoracic departments. Then, beginning in 1995, we started to do it more formally. It was done according to a certain list of priorities, established by various medical centers and specific departments. It was done as a kind of semi-legal thing. At that point, we would inform the Ministry of Health. Before that time [1995], it was only between me/the Institute and the various departments and medical centers – informally. Later, we decided that it should be done through the Ministry of Health.

    NS-H: Your chief is the Minister of Health, but you were free to do quite a lot without any interference from them?

    YH: Yes, correct, but there are things that really should be done with some instruction and through the Ministry of Health. It was unclear for many years.

    NS-H: In some countries of Latin America, the IMF [Forensic Institutes] is under the jurisdiction of the police, but in others, like Cuba, it is under the Ministry of Health. In the old South Africa, it was under the military police – and here?

    YH: Independence is very important. This institution was established in 1954 under the auspices of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Then, in the early 1970s, it came under the police department. Then, in 1975 or ’76, it came under the Ministry of Health. We are now part of the Ministry of Health, and the director-general of the ministry is our boss, but we are actually completely independent. Until a few years ago, all medical centers were under the Ministry of Health, but in the late 1990s they have become independent. There are only a few still directly under the Ministry of Health. Since then, they are more interested in what we are doing here and in our capacities [to harvest tissues], and so we now get more demands and we feel that it should be regulated. We want to be on record, too, for the various costs that are involved in the harvesting of skin and cornea, bones, pulmonary values and so forth… . But until then, this was just between us and the various hospitals that we serviced, but we wanted there to be some control over this.

    NS-H: How were the prices set?

    YH: In 1996, we made up a list of the various medical services that we provided, a list of hundreds or thousands of shekels – there were expenses that we wanted to recoup. We would collaborate only with public hospitals. On one occasion, about ten years ago, there was a case of a head of a department who used one or two corneas donated to the hospital from a pathology Institute – and he used them for his private patients. This is the only case known to me – where tissue donated for general use was used privately. Since 1998, because of popular pressure, there was a sharp decline in autopsies, and we were made to ask permission of all families for autopsy and for harvesting, or for dissection, or for training of military medical students. It was all because a man went to the newspapers just recently to scream that his son, who died in military service, was used for medical experimentation and medical training. And a furor resulted in the country and permissions for autopsies declined. Since then – about two years ago [1998] – we were told to ask permission for everything. [This is a reference to the late Sergeant Zeev Buzaglo of the Golani Brigade, who was killed in a training accident in April 1997. When his father, Dr. Haim Buzaglo, a pediatrician, came to see his son’s body, he saw that it had been harmed at the Institute – NS-H].

    NS-H: Why [is] the military [involved in this]?

    YH: There is a special relationship between the Institute and the army because of the current political situation in Israel. All Israelis feel that we all have an obligation to help out in some way, and because we all served in the army, we all have a personal stake in the army ever after. We are all linked to the army. And because of this, we took it for granted. We never asked. We thought it was part of the duty of all Israelis to cooperate.

    YH [pointing out data from his files]: Look, here is the data. Since January–April we received here 705 bodies. Of these, 500 were not suitable for harvesting. Either the bodies were too decomposed, or because of infections. Only 175 were adequate for harvesting. We called all of them, and 98 refused. Twelve we could not locate the next of kin. Only 65 out of them agreed. So, I would say we have an acceptance rate of less than one-third.
    When we cannot find the next of kin, we do not harvest by law. Originally, the law required only that we inform the family that harvesting is going to take place. Now, we not only inform, we have to ask them for permission. So, because of this one bad incident, the backlash is overriding the Parliament and the law of the land.

    [Here NS-H explains how in some states in the U.S. there is “presumed” consent for cornea harvesting, as in California, but most people were totally unaware that it was going on. The law was more or less kept a secret.]

    YH: Yes, this was our policy for many years, and then one case, one bad scandal, and it is all over for us. Now, young military medical personnel no longer can get the training they need and, when they are sent to Lebanon or to the Palestinian territories – and there are injuries, they have to intervene without proper training, so that they are actually experimenting on living soldiers. That is what all this has brought us. No previous experience, no training whatsoever with the human body. They have to practice [surgery] on dogs – but never on humans! This is an absurdity! I would not want anyone to perform a tracheotomy or colostomy on me without any previous experience or training. Would you? Today, they do virtual training on computerized bodies and so on, but it’s not the same thing.

    NS-H: So, no biotech firms that want your material?

    YH: In Israel, 100 per cent of the skin harvested goes to Hadassah Hospital’s skin bank – it is for military purposes only – no biotech firms have access. There is another skin bank in the south of the country, to which the Institute is not linked – but I know that if something happens – if one of the burn centers need skin for a private patient, say, they can take skin from the Hadassah skin bank, but they have to repay it. Logistically, we are only linked to Hadassah.
    Since six months ago, we have a new man working with us downstairs, who is a kind of mortuary assistant, and he is harvesting skin, bones, cornea, and bones. Before him, there was only an arrangement with the army – they used to send us here every week a plastic surgeon, who would come here to harvest skin for the skin bank in Hadassah. This lasted for many years. More than 12 or 13 years he did this. Since 1987-1988, every other week, a plastic surgeon would come here to harvest skin. But now we no longer have this direct relationship with the army since this latest scandal. Now, we have our own mortuary assistant, who is paid to harvest for us all the skin, bone, cornea, etc., that is needed. He helps out in other activities as well.

    NS-H: When you ask permission, do some say you can take this and not that organ?


    YH: Some say do not touch the heart or the brain – some are afraid you might want to take the skin. But it is not like you are skinning a rabbit or something, and we say, no, it is not like that – it is gentle, there is no blood – we are not peeling the skin off. It is not like scalping a person. We take only a superficial layer off – from the back and the legs. And we tell them, too, that we are only taking the thin tissue [from the eye] and not the globe.
    In order to fulfill both Jewish and Muslim laws about the disposal of the dead, everything is done immediately. We start working here at about 6 in the morning. By 7 a.m., we have the whole list of all the bodies that are going to be coming in that day. Only some of these are going to be autopsied. And then this person here draws up a list about what will be done to whom. And then we are on the phone.

    NS-H: Are there special techniques for how to present this request to people?

    Staff member: We have to know how to read people.

    YH: – Yes, but this is not for me. From the very beginning, I said, “Please free me from this! I cannot possibly talk to people about these things.” I am not patient like this.

    Staff member: He loves the dead. But not the living! [Laughter]

    YH: Yes, I switched to forensics from clinical medicine because I wanted the patients to shut up already! So, we say that X will do it – but she is too busy – and, really, we need a social worker to do this …

    NS-H: Any other body parts taken – like pituitary glands?

    YH: When I was a medical resident, we would take pituitary glands. Today, we have chemical substitutes, but when I was a resident, I used to rush to the refrigerator to deposit pituitary glands in a bottle with water. I would collect them – sure, of course! Also, tiny bones from inside the ear – these are very good for some surgical procedures. We would do this about twice a year.

    NS-H: Some of these small bones were used for training NASA astronauts for space travel, and its effects on balance? And what about transnational sales?

    YH: You can buy cornea from Russia for $300 each, I think…. In Moscow, you can get a kidney for $20,000 and cornea for a few dollars, because they really don’t care… At every autopsy, they take what they want, and they have a tremendous stockpile of organs that they can draw on. They have skin and cornea. In some large medical centers in Russia, you can get fresh kidney that they get from auto accidents – and in Turkey as well. So, in both places you can get transplanted organs for just $20,000 – including the kidney – because they have a stockpile of them. I know because I was part of a transplant procurement organization, and we studied this. It is very cheap. It is well done by very good surgeons there. In fact, there is a surplus of kidneys in Russia. They have surplus because fewer people there can afford transplants.

    NS-H: There is some doubt about whether Russia was using the international standards for determining brain death.

    YH: Yes, sometimes our surgeons would accompany our Israeli patients to Russia, and they would perform the surgery there and the kidney was from a Russian. The surgery would be performed by Israeli doctors in Russia, with Russian kidneys. Some are leading transplant surgeons from Israel…

    NS-H: Yes, transplant tourism, some of this has been reported in the newspapers.

    YH: Right. They would go once a month for a few days and would perform five or six surgeries there, and the patient would come back here to recuperate.

    NS-H: The UCSF medical ethics board decided that if people who want to break the law and travel to China or the Philippines to be transplanted, then we will not provide you with follow-up care – you can go to a private institution.

    YH: Many things in Israel are done on a personal basis and through connections… I think that in Israel everything should be as equitable as possible. One should not have to depend on connections or money. If advertising and the media would only persuade the Israeli population to donate organs from deceased victims from trauma… [ and even though there is nothing in Talmudic law against organ harvesting from the dead], a religious family will find a rabbi who will agree with them. I try to tell them how important it is to donate, and they will say, “I need to discuss this with my rabbi” – and nine times out of ten they come back with a negative answer. That is, the answer that they want….

    Dr Chen Kugel, Whistleblower
    As can be seen from the transcript, Hiss readily admitted to the non-consensual, informal tissue, skin, bone and organ harvesting to serve the needs of the country. Until he arrived in 1987 as chief pathologist at the Forensic Institute, there was no organ or tissue harvesting. He explained to his staff that this practice was common elsewhere in the world, in the U.S., at Case Western Reserve, where he had studied, and in other forensic Institutes he had visited. It was a “presumed consent” without the backing of the population, or the law. Although it was in violation of tissue and organs laws, Hiss thought it could be justified for a war-torn and traumatized country like Israel. Hiss admitted that the organs-and-tissue harvesting was “informal” and its legality unclear. From his perspective as a state pathologist, little harm was done by the careful removal of some organs that would never be missed by the deceased and about which the family would never have to know. Medical students in military training were brought into the morgue after Hiss and his team completed their legally mandated autopsies, to be trained in the removal of organs.

    After my tape was released in Israel, on December 19, 2009, to Israeli TV’s Channel 2, government officials for the army and the Ministry of Health admitted that organs and tissues were harvested from the dead bodies of both Palestinians and Israelis throughout the 1990s, but that the practice ended in 2000. Dr. Hiss, however, publicly denied everything on tape – including his words to me. Today, he says that he denies it all – the stockpiling of body parts, the perjury, and the organ harvesting. He denies everything. He says that everything was all done in agreement with and by law, and that families consented to harvest for transplantation. No organs were taken for studies, he said, none at all.

    In May 2010, Dr. Chen Kugel and Meira Weiss spoke at a special conference I organized at the University of California, before a working group of experts, including anthropologists, transplant surgeons, pathologists, detectives, prosecutors, and human rights activists.
    Chen Kugel, the unheralded and original (unnamed outside of Israel) whistle-blower on the Forensic Institute, said that the situation was much worse than what Yehuda Hiss admitted in his interview with me in 2000. Kugel’s comments stand as a first-person account from a military officer and a forensic pathologist. When he returned to Israel to work at the Forensic Institute in 2000, after several years in the United States, where he was working in various hospitals and forensic programs, he says he immediately realized that something was terribly wrong. He tried to address the problems with three medical residents, and with them together to have a meeting with the director. Kugel was the spokesperson, and he told Hiss that it was wrong to harvest organs and tissues without permission, and that “giving false evidence in court is also not okay.” This went nowhere, and so the group wrote a letter of complaint to the Ministry of Health, outlining the illegalities. The Ministry of Health reacted with alacrity: they fired the three residents and punished Kugel, who, as a military officer working for the IDF, could not be fired. Then they went to the media and spilled the entire story about what exactly was going on.

    Kugel: “Organs were sold to anyone”
    In fact, according to Kugel, “Organs were sold to anyone; anyone that wanted organs just had to pay for them.” While skin, heart valves, bones, and corneas were removed and used for transplants, solid organs – hearts, brains, livers – “were sold for research, for presentations, for drills for medical students and surgeons.”

    There was a price for these organs, low – $ 300 for a femur, for example – and should a client want all the organs from a body, that could be arranged, not the body itself, but all the organs removed and sold, Kugel said, for about $2,500.

    Amid the uproar prompted by the whistle-blowers, Hiss waged his own media campaign and tried to convince the public that everything that was done was to serve a noble end, to help the war-wounded victims of terrorist attacks, and the sick. He presented his conduct, in Dr. Kugel’s descripton, “as something sublime or even heroic, as a modern-day Robin Hood. Taking from the dead and giving to the innocent victims.”

    So, whom were the organs taken from? Kugel asked rhetorically. The answer was they were taken from everyone, from Jews and Muslims, from soldiers and from stone throwers, from terrorists and from the victims of terrorist suicide bombers, from tourists and from immigrants. There were only two considerations – the physical condition of the body and its organs, and the ability to conceal what they were doing.

    Most of the victims of illegal organ harvesting, according to Kugel, were not even subject to autopsy, they were simply harvested. They hid the damage by putting pipes and glass eyes, and broom sticks, and toilet paper and plastic skull caps to cover the place where the brain was removed, and so on. The Institute, Kugel said, was counting on one thing: that most Israelis do not view the body after death except once, to verify that the body is the right one. The body is wrapped in a winding sheet, or might be wrapped in plastic sheets for the burial company to come for it. In that case, the staff would warn the burial employees, who were not well educated, not to open the sheet because the body was contaminated with an infectious disease. It was more difficult to take organs from soldiers because their bodies were supervised by the military, which was more difficult to fool. “But organs were taken from soldiers,” Kugel said. It was easier to take tissues and organs from the new immigrants, and, needless to say, easiest of all to take from the Palestinians. They would be going back across the border, and, “if there were any complaints coming from their families, they were the enemy and so, of course, they were lying and no one would believe them”.

    What Kugel found most amazing was the uproar around the Boström article, when there was abundant detail in the Israeli press about the Institute whose affairs were discussed heatedly by commissions, finding blatant evidence of illegalities despite the attempts to destroy all the evidence. After these things were exposed, it took two years for the judge, or the head of the special inquest, to decide whether or not Hiss should be sued. Then, it took the police two years to begin a serious investigation. The end result was that Hiss was removed as director of the Institute but, as previously noted, retained as senior pathologist and given a salary increase. Kugel was dismissed from his post because, during the investigation, he spoke with one of the witnesses who had buried evidence – human body parts – and thus was seen as interfering with the trial. He was censored and blacklisted from teaching at all but one of Israel’s universities. To Dr. Kugel the prime issue had nothing at all to do with science: it was about disrespect, about hoarding body specimens, about turning the Institute into a factory of bodies. The Institute’s conduct was motivated by money, by power, and by authoritarian paternalism of the sort that says, “We know what’s good for you, we’ll decide what happens to you, the person who doesn’t know anything. We’ll decide.” And that’s the reason why that happened, and Dr. Kugel asserts it is happening to this day.

    Questions About Rachel Corrie’s Autopsy
    On March 14, 2010, the Haifa District Court heard testimony in the civil law suit filed by the family of the slain U.S. citizen and Gaza peace activist, Rachel Corrie, against the State of Israel for her unlawful killing in Rafah, Gaza. Corrie, an American college student and human rights activist, was crushed to death on March 16, 2003, by a Caterpillar D9R bulldozer.

    During the hearing, Dr. Hiss, who conducted the autopsy of Rachel Corrie at the request of the Israeli military, admitted that he had violated an Israeli court order that required an official from the U.S. Embassy to be present as a witness. Hiss stated that it was his policy not to allow anyone who is not a physician or a biologist to observe autopsy. Hiss admitted that he had retained samples of tissues and organs from Corrie’s body for examination and testing without informing the Corrie family. Hiss was uncertain about whether the samples had been buried with other body samples from the Institute. Corrie’s parents, Cindy and Craig, were shocked by these chilling admissions and really do not know quite what to make of them or what, if anything, they should do about it. They are seeking, they told me, only the truth and symbolic damages of $1.00. The prevention of harm to others is, they say, far more important than money.

    Finally, what links the story of Yehuda Hiss at the National Forensic Institute and Isaac Rosenbaum and the international network of organs traffickers in Israel? Perhaps only the same sad fact that hysteria about organs scarcities – whatever that chilling phrase evokes – have driven both the medical abuses of the dead and the medical abuses of those who were trafficked to service transplant tourists from Israel to New York City, Philadelphia and Los Angeles, among other sites. When Dr. Zaki Shapira began putting out feelers for kidney sellers in the early 1990s to serve the needs of his transplant patients at Bellinson Hospital in Tel Aviv, he found them close at hand, Palestinian guest workers. Palestinians were, he told me in Bellagio in 1996 at a conference on organ trafficking, “pre-disposed” to sacrifice their organs. Or, perhaps, to be sacrificed. It works both ways.

    CP

    Nancy Scheper-Hughes is the author of several books on poverty and health, including Death without Weeping: the Violence of Everyday Life in Brazil – listed by CounterPunch in its top 100 non-fiction books published in English in the 20th Century. She can be reached at:
    nsh@berkeley.edu

    Footnotes

    [1]. N. Mozgovaya, US Professor is whistle blower in Rosenbaum arrest. Haaretz 26 July, 2009. http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1102799.html.
    [2]. M. Daly Anthropologist’s ‘Dick Tracy moment’ plays role in arrest of suspected kidney trafficker. New York Daily News 24 July 2009.
    [3] Nancy Scheper-Hughes,2008,“Illegal Organ Trade: Global Justice and the Traffic in Human Organs” in Living Donor Organ Transplants, edited by Rainer Grussner,M.D. and Enrico Bendetti, MD. New York: McGraw-Hill; N. Scheper-Hughes,2006,“Kidney bKin: Inside the Transatlantic Kidney Trade”, Harvard International Review (winter) 62-65; “N. Scheper-Hughes, (2004) “Parts Unknown: Undercover Ethnography in the Organ Trafficking Underworld”, Ethnography 5(1): 29-73; N. Scheper-Hughes,2000, The Global Traffic in Organs, Current Anthropology 4192): 191-224
    [4] “Israeli doctor said detained in Turkey for illegal organ transplants. Three other Israelis said detained, including 2 alleged kidney donors and a recipient;15 people held.” Haaretz News Service, January 1, 2007.
    [5] In several detailed email exchanges (2006-2008) from a criminal lawyer (name withheld on request) I learned that the government of Israel decided to pursue the international crimes of transplant surgeons and brokers operating out of Israel by means tax fraud investigations.
    [6] http://www.health.gov.il/trans” plant/about_adi.html “Knesset approves new organ donation law”, http//www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3523461,00.html
    [7] United States District Court of New Jersey: criminal complaint: United States of America v. Levy Izhak Rosenbaum, : Mag. No. 09-3620 a/k/a “Issac Rosenbaum”, July 2009
    [8] English translation of Donald Bostrom’s article can be found at: http://www.aftonbladet.se/kultur/article5691805.ab
    [9] Donald Boström, 2001. Inshallah : konflikten mellan Israel och Palestina. Stockholm: Ordfront.
    [10] Zeev Galilee, 2003. First Source (Makor Rishon) –“Pangs of Conscience” (Musar Klayot) New Blood Libel on French Television: Israel Steals Kidneys of Orphan Children in Moldavia, 24 October 2003.
    [11] Meira Weiss, personal communication and paper read at Organs Watch conference combating traffic in organs and tissues, UCBerkeley, May 7, 2010.
    For an audio link for the Hiss interview go to nhnotes.html.

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