Israeli Organ Trafficking, Much Ado About Something
Posted Apr 8, 2010

Israeli Organ Trafficking, Much Ado About Something

by Sheila Musaji

Today, the BBC and other major news sources report that a major organ-trafficking ring has been smashed in Israel   One of those arrested was an IDF Retired Gen Meir Zamir, who had won a medal of valour in the Yom Kippur War.

The illegal trafficking in human organs has become a global problem.

This is not the first time that Israeli’s or members of the Jewish community have been accused of such activities:

In Brazil in 2004 - Gedalya Tauber, a former Israeli police officer, and his partner, Ivan Bonifacio da Silva, a retired Brazilian military police officer. were arrested for organ trafficking.  They made the arrangements including obtaining passports and airline tickets for the donors to travel to South Africa, where the transplants took place.  According to a Brazilian paper, O Globo “The retired army officer, Geldaya Tauber Gady told a court in Brazil that Israel financed organ transplants in other countries, mainly South Africa, through its national health service. “The Israeli government is aware of the traffic in organs for patients in its country and pays for all transactions through 4 health plans,”

In 2005 Prof. Yehuda Hiss, (Israeli chief pathologist) received only a reprimand for his involvement in the unauthorized removal of parts from 125 bodies. In exchange, Hiss will admit to the acts. The plea bargain is subject to the approval of the court.  In all of the 125 cases, Dr. Hiss and his subordinates removed organs, bones and tissue without the permission of, and in many cases, against the expressed wishes of the families of the deceased, according to Israel National News.

In 2005 an IDF military doctor gave IDF medics lessons in anatomy using the bodies of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces. 

In May of 2007 Turkey arrested Prof. Zaki Shapira, an Israeli who was suspected of black market organ trafficking in a private Istanbul hospital.

In New Jersey in 2009, an FBI sting exposed an organ trafficking ring that operated for more than a decade.  Rabbi Levy Izhak Rosenbaum, an American, was arrested along with 44 others.  Organ donors in that case were brought to the U.S. from Israel, where their kidneys were removed, according to the indictment.  This was a global operation.  Two New Jersey state legislators and several rabbi’s were among those arrested.  According to the World Jewish Congress: “The rabbis are Saul Kassin, 87, chief rabbi of Sharee Zion Synagogue in Brooklyn; Eliahu Ben Haim, 58, the principal rabbi of Congregation Ohel Yaacob in Deal, New Jersey; Edmond Nahum, 56, of Deal Synagogue; Mordchai Fish, 56, of Congregation Sheves Achim in Brooklyn; and New York resident Rabbi Levy Izhak Rosenbaum, 58.” 

In 2009 Israeli’s were arrested in Romania on charges of human egg trafficking.

In Dec. 2009 the Guardian published an article “Doctor admits Israeli pathologists harvested Palestinian organs without consent” which noted that “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.”  There was an uproar about this article.  After pressure, the Guardian issued a correction and changed the stories headline to “Doctor admits Israeli pathologists harvested organs without consent”.  According to Haaretz the Guardian statement said: “We should not have put the headline 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.  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.”   This story was referring to the case of Prof. Yehuda Hiss.  Effectively, the Guardian was retracting nothing except that the victims had been both Israeli’s and Palestinians, which the original article title might have misrepresented as Palestinians only.

In August 2009 Aftonbladet, a Swedish paper published an article by Donald Bostrom which said that Israelis may have been harvesting internal organs from Palestinian prisoners without consent for many years. 

In March 2010 the United Nations Human Rights Council posted an article that accused Israel of being involved in illegal organ harvesting.

In December of 2009 MPAC posted the following statement:

Today, several prominent news outlets confirmed what the Israeli government initially denied and denounced as anti-Semitic—that Israeli doctors had extracted human organs from dead Palestinians during the 1988 intifada and into the 1990s. MPAC today called on the U.S. government to condemn this atrocity, which must be investigated as a war crime. The perpetrators of this injustice must be brought to the Hague for prosecution under international law.

SEE: Swedish Paper’s Organ Harvesting Article Draws Israeli Outrage (CNN)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demanded that the Swedes condemn the article as anti-Semitic, but the Swedish government retorted that it cannot encroach on free speech. Bostrom’s story garnered more attention after the indictment of 44 people in New Jersey for money laundering schemes, including Levy-Izhak Rosenbaum for convincing people to give up their kidneys and selling them for $160,000 on the black market

“That the Israeli government would accuse those who exposed this immoral, illegal and appalling crime of anti-Semitism is evidence of what happens to anyone who dares to criticize any of its actions,” said MPAC Senior Advisor Dr. Maher Hathout. “This tyranny of intimidation is stifling any healthy debate within our society, particularly between American Jews and Muslims.”

The controversy began when the governments of Israel and Sweden exchanged angry remarks over an article written by David Bostrom entitled “Our Sons Plundered for their Organs” in a Swedish newspaper. Bostrom accused Israelis of organ theft on Palestinians killed by Israeli soldiers during the first intifada in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and called for an international investigation. Israeli officials responded angrily at the newspaper for publishing the material, calling it anti-Semitism that will lead to hate crimes against Jews in Europe, reminiscent of the pogroms.

What is missing in today’s media reporting is the voice of the Palestinian families who issued the grievances in the first place. After their relatives where killed by Israeli soldiers, the families believed the deceased were taken for autopsies. However, they were returned several days later with noticeable abdominal cavities, stitching of the ventral side of the body, and missing teeth. When they questioned Israeli authorities, they were told that the bodies were investigated on the causes of their unnatural deaths.

There was an uproar from the Israeli government, and from Jewish organizations to all of these articles.

The ADL called these stories a “blood libel”.

Bernie Farber of The Canadian Jewish Congress also called the U.N. report an age-old “blood libel”, and said:  “Not only is there no proof, it is a takeoff of the historical calumny of the Jewish blood libel, and that this is coming out under the auspices of the United Nations, and from an accredited UN organization, is breathtaking in its shame.”

So, we have a former IDF General, a former Israeli police officer, an IDF medical doctor, a number of rabbis - all involved in illegal organ trafficking.  And yet, the response of the Jewish community has been to accuse those who have raised this issue of being anti-Semitic or of repeating a blood libel.

Rabbi Yitzhak Ginzburg of the Kach movement, who is considered by some as the successor to Meir Kahane said “If you saw two people drowning, a Jew and a non-Jew, the Torah says you save the Jewish life first,”  - and “If every simple cell in a Jewish body entails divinity, is a part of God, then every strand of DNA is part of God. Therefore, something is special about Jewish DNA…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. Jewish life has an infinite value.”

We can only pray that this sort of extremist mentality is not spreading beyond the very small Kach circle.  It is to be hoped that all of these charges will be carefully investigated, and that, if they are true, that those who believe that such inhuman practices are “kosher” will not be allowed to prey on the weak and vulnerable.

Every life has value.  All of us are equally God’s creatures.  We must learn to respect and protect not only ourselves, but the other.