The Truth about Israeli Organ Harvesting

By Karl Radl

Back in August 2009 an article by Donald Boström in the Swedish daily newspaper Aftonbladet sparked a global furor about a “new blood libel” that ended up causing a large scale rift between the Swedish and Israeli governments. (1) The article charged that the Israel Defense Force (IDF) had been collecting organs from Palestinians they had killed or who had died in Israeli custody for transplant operations for Israeli citizens and/or scientific research. The article does not, as was mistakenly reported by some media outlets, assert that the IDF deliberately killed Palestinians for their organs, but rather that the IDF exploited Palestinians who had died in IDF custody by harvesting the organs of the deceased Palestinians.

Predictably enough, the Jews globally – with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the vanguard – vociferated that this was ipso facto anti-Semitic and was a “variant” of the “blood libel”. (2) They ignored the fact that it is not anti-Semitic to charge that the IDF is engaging in highly illegal practices as it is not a wider accusation of Jews, but a narrowly focused accusation the IDF and possibly the Israeli medical establishment.

Anti-Semitism is a very specific ideological charge, not a catch-all term for criticism that Jews do not know how to respond to. However, it is a charge heavily over-utilized.  In this case, the editor of the Aftonbladet , Jan Helin, was routinely denounced by Israeli and Jewish politicians and media sources as being a “Nazi”, (3) which was clearly a rhetorical smear designed to suppress criticism by equating it with mass murder.

One enterprising Jew from New York City even tried to sue the Aftonbladet in US Civil Court for “libel” against Israel and/or the Jewish people. This suit, unsurprisingly, went nowhere, given that the evidence has tended to vindicate Boström, not the shot-from-the-hip Israeli denials.

It is not my purpose here to recount the Aftonbladet versus Israel affair as that is complicated and deserves a separate analysis. My purpose here is simply to explore the claim that the IDF harvested organs from Palestinians it had killed or those who had died in IDF custody (mainly, but not exclusively, during the 1980s and 1990s). I will also examine briefly the claim that the Israelis harvested organs in a similar fashion in Haiti (4) when an Israeli medical team was sent there as part of the international humanitarian relief effort to assist the Haitians rebuild after a large earthquake had hit the country in 2010. I find the Haitian angle of this story difficult to believe. On the other hand, I find the central claim of IDF organ harvesting from Palestinians who have died in their custody to have a substantial and plausible evidential base.

The difference between the two claims of Israeli organ harvesting is actually quite drastic. In the Haitian case the Israeli medical team were operating in non-Israeli controlled conditions, far from organ donation centers where tissues could be stored and from which they could send the organs to Israel in a timely manner. The most feasible scenario would have been to use the organs for less time-sensitive tissue experiments. Even selling the organs on the black market would have been difficult due to the destruction of Haiti’s transport and healthcare infrastructure by the earthquake, which would have made quick market access (vital when dealing with organ transports) almost impossible.

Further, the Haitian claim originates, as the Jerusalem Post article correctly relates, from a Jewish anti-Zionist blogger in the United States who made said claim on the basis of an unverifiable YouTube video posted by a group called “AfriSynergy”. (5) Having looked at the group’s other videos on YouTube, they appear to be a Black nationalist group that believes that anyone and everyone is involved in a conspiracy to exploit and oppress Black people. They allege that the Egyptians, (6) Ukrainians, (7) South Africans (8) and the American police (9) are all harvesting the organs of Black people in an international conspiratorial cartel. The fact that nobody else seems to know about this or has found any substantial evidence for it necessarily suggests that the claims about Haitian organ harvesting by the Israelis are probably groundless and based on nothing more than the paranoia of a group of Black nationalists.

In comparison, the claims made about the IDF harvesting organs from the bodies of dead Palestinians are quite specific. They allege that named victims were taken into the IDFs custody (and thus care) and then had their bodies returned to their families sans specific organs.

The main body of contention around this claim is related to the body of Bilal Ghanem, which was the central feature of Boström’s Aftonbladet article. Ghanem was taken into Israeli custody after he was shot for being a Fatah member and activist. (10) After the body of Bilal was returned to them a week later, the Ghanem family noticed that Bilal had been “opened up” (suggesting an autopsy rather than an operation) as he had stitch marks up his torso and also appeared to have no abdomen, while Bilal’s brother Jalal also noticed that Bilal now had no teeth in his mouth. (11)

I want to draw attention to two important observations made by Jalal here. Firstly, the fact that Bilal’s body seemed to have no abdomen (i.e. no belly) is suggestive that organs had been removed. When lying down the abdomen should normally be slightly pronounced due to the presence of the bulky organs beneath it (in addition to any body fat that is extant). The absence of an abdominal bulge suggests that organs had been removed. Secondly, the vertical stitches on Bilal’s anterior torso suggest an autopsy had been performed, most likely by the IDF or Israeli doctors. It is not unusual that an autopsy occurred, but it suggests that as part of that autopsy Bilal’s organs were removed and were not replaced, as is required by Israeli law and standard international practice in autopsy.

It is usually the case that when autopsies are undertaken that the next of kin, if any can be located, have to make a decision as to whether they want the organs to be returned to the deceased individual’s corpse or donated. However, in this case, the organs had apparently been removed without consent. Even if a person is clinically dead, it is possible for several hours afterward to use their organs as transplants. Additionally, tissues such as skin, heart valves, corneas and veins, are harvestable up to 24 hours after death.

This means in effect that all (or most) of Bilal’s abdominal organs had apparently been removed (we do not know about the others) en bloc. It suggests that he was subject to an autopsy immediately after death (or died while being operated on, allowing the surgeons to immediately remove all his abdominal organs) for the purposes of organ transplantation, or that his organs had been removed at a slightly later date, during the official autopsy, for the probable purpose of scientific experimentation.

Another suggestive fact is the complete removal of Bilal’s teeth. I cannot find any reason why this would have been necessary in the course of an autopsy or even an operation – even if he had been shot in the mouth, this would not have been necessary. It is, however, quite possible for teeth to be transplanted (although not necessary today) and the use of teeth for scientific experimentation/practice or as a source of genetic material is fairly common.

I would be less inclined to believe Jalal’s claim that Bilal’s body seemed to have no abdomen if that was all there was to it. However, the removal of all of Bilal’s teeth – because it is such an unusual thing to do – suggests foul play. It is the sort of thing that one may notice and not attach importance to but isn’t exactly the sort of thing a grieving relative would make up. It also adds to the overall impression given by Jalal’s testimony that the IDF or the Israeli medical establishment had more or less gutted Bilal’s body before returning it to the family for burial.

This, as far as evidence goes, suggests clearly that the body was likely substantially tampered while it was in Israeli custody. Only the IDF or Israeli medical professionals could have tampered with the body, as they were the only ones with access to it.

Further evidence relating to these claims surfaced in the wake of the high levels of politicization of due to the Jewish cries of “anti-Semitism” and “Nazis” and caused the Jewish narrative to falter. An American anthropologist – who is also an investigator into organ harvesting and donation on the black/grey market – had taped an interview in the year 2000 with the director of Israel’s L. Greenberg Institute for Forensic Medicine (aka the Abu Kabir Forensic Institute), Yehuda Hiss.

The unfortunately-named Hiss admitted on that tape that during the 1980s and 1990s he had harvested organs, including the types of tissue that were allegedly harvested from Bilal, without the knowledge or permission of the relatives of the deceased in his institute. (12) He harvested tissue mostly from Palestinians, though he also harvested from IDF soldiers and foreign workers. (13) As director of the institute, he could have had other Abu Kabir employees harvest tissues as well.

This served as more or less the nail in the coffin that confirmed organ harvesting had been happening on a regular basis in Israel. With the typical screech of gears, we suddenly saw Israeli propagandists and Jews suddenly start back-pedaling quicker than a swimmer who has just seen a shark’s dorsal fin a few meters away.

All of a sudden, claims which had been a new “blood libel” and “hideous anti-Semitism” had become a quite plausible argument. The Israeli Ministry of Health then jumped into the fray and made the following statement to Russia Today:

“The subject of your enquiry is a matter that passed into history years ago. The Institute performed an organ-harvesting procedure for the purpose of medical treatment that took no note of the provenance of the cadavers.” (14) This is typical public relations news-byte speak that we need but a few moments to unpick.

The Israeli Ministry of Health is actually saying the following:

A) Bad things done in the past (by Israel) do not matter.

B) The L. Greenberg Institute for Forensic Medicine, under the directorship of Yehuda Hiss, used the organs of cadavers for transplant operations.

C) The majority of cadavers subject to the program were obtained from unknown sources, or were operated on regardless of the source, without familial consent.

A is an attempt to claim a special exemption for the Jews from the court of history, which is especially brazen due to the fact that the Israelis insist that everyone on the planet should receive a large amount of “Holocaust” education and, if possible, a visit to Auschwitz for some ritualized weeping.

B and C provide direct confirmation of what I have argued in relation to the case of Bilal Ghanem, which after all is the case that set all off the storm of irrational outrage from the Jews and Israeli government. It directly tells us that – at the very least – the Israelis have engaged in organ harvesting without familial consent in the past.

Further, in the case of C, the Israeli Ministry of Health made a contradictory claim asserting that the cadavers were in nearly all cases those of Israeli citizens or fallen IDF soldiers. (15) This is a rather foolish claim to make precisely because of the fact that if you make no note of where a cadaver came from, you cannot suddenly claim that you know that nearly all the cadavers concerned were Israeli citizens or IDF soldiers.

The defensive claims of the Israeli Ministry of Health are fallacious precisely because they are outright contradictory. The Israeli officials here are simply trying to put out the fire by randomly asserting that they “know” who the dead were, but then get themselves in a twist by asserting to Russia Today that they didn’t know who the dead were, and that they harvested their organs as there was no family to contact.

Interestingly, the Israelis also inadvertently widened the scope of the organ harvesting scandal when their spokeswoman Einav Shimron-Grinboim declared that organ harvesting of this kind had gone on in multiple Israeli hospitals in the past (presumably the 1980s and 1990s). However, she – as in the statement to Russia Today – promptly suggested that Israel shouldn’t be judged on what it had done in the past and denied it had occurred recently.

This is clearly not the case, as in 2000 Hiss had stated on tape that he was doing just this and was remained as director of Abu Kabir until the “body-parts scandals” forced him to step down in 2004. However, he remained as chief pathologist, and eventually became director again, until he was dismissed in 2012. (16) What is noteworthy here is that despite Hiss being forced to step down for his taped admissions (in 2000) of blatant medical misconduct, he was allowed to remain in senior positions for many years.

Indeed – according to Judy Siegel-Itzkovich in the British Medical Journal – in 2001 the Israeli government moved in to review allegations of illegal organ harvesting at the L. Greenberg Institute for Forensic Medicine following an exposé in the Hebrew-language newspaper Yediot Aharonot. (17) What this means is simply that Hiss admitted doing precisely what Boström and Jalal Ghanem accused the Israelis of doing with Bilal Ghanem’s body while it was in their custody. That Hiss wasn’t immediately fired for such major medical misconduct and that it took eleven years to do so is also highly suggestive of a fundamental lack of care for Palestinians at an ideological level among the Israeli medical profession. (18)

The incontrovertible revelations about Hiss’ organ harvesting, and the implicit confession of the Israeli Ministry of Health, make the case of Bilal Ghanem difficult to dismiss and provide good supporting evidence that Bilal Ghanem was subject to organ harvesting by doctors associated with the IDF. This suggests to us that the claims made by Boström are – on the basis of the currently available evidence – true, and not an “anti-Semitic fantasy” as the Israeli government and the Jews were so quick to brand them.

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References

(1) http://edition.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/meast/08/21/israel.sweden.organ.harvesting/index.html
(2) Raphael Israeli, 2012, “Blood Libel and Its Derivatives: The Scourge of Anti-Semitism”, 1st Edition, Transaction: New Brunswick, pp. 56-57
(3) http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3766093,00.html
(4) http://www.jpost.com/International/Haiti-organ-harvesting-claims-false
(5) Ibid.
(6) http://www.youtube .com/watch?v=iS-_8HIvTNU
(7) http://www.youtube .com/watch?v=_9IrD_uSrc8
(8) http://www.youtube .com/watch?v=M0vaVcJ7p7o
(9) http://www.youtube .com/watch?v=rIIYMhp_Gjg
(10) http://www.aljazeera.com/news/europe/2009/08/200982510415994815.html
(11) Ibid.
(12) http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2009/12/2009122161551898444.html
(13) http://www.youtube .com/watch?v=fPzQp6tCuFw&list=PLE00DBAB2CB687C15
(14) Ibid. (1:01 minutes)
(15) http://edition.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/meast/12/21/israel.organs/
(16) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abu_Kabir_Forensic_Institute
(17) http://www.bmj.com/content/322/7279/128.5
(18) Implied in relation to the medical profession by Ilan Pappe, 2011, “The Forgotten Palestinians: A History of the Palestinians in Israel”, 1st Edition, Yale University Press : New Haven, pp. 136; 165-166