an organ robberyHorrid beyond words

Has Israel been harvesting organs from Palestinians it kills? Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, have been fulminating against Sweden after a newspaper there published revelations alleging that Israeli occupation authorities had been harvesting organs from Palestinian victims. Khalid Amayreh in occupied Jerusalem looks closer at the explosive revelations.

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The mass-circulation Aftonbladet last week quoted relatives of Palestinian victims accusing the Israeli authorities. The report featured a picture of one victim, with a large scar running from chin to abdomen.“Our sons were plundered for their organs,” said one Palestinian quoted in the report. The report linked the revelations with the recent human organ trafficking scandal in New Jersey involving Israeli and American rabbis.

 

Donald Bostrom, author of the report, spoke of strong suspicions among Palestinians that Israeli authorities were taking organs from dead Palestinians. He didn’t give an opinion on the matter, but said that the seriousness of the suspicions warranted an international investigation.He quotes one Palestinian witness as describing a case in which the organs of a victim, identified as Bilal Ahmed Ghniyan, were harvested by the Israelis. “He (Ghniyan) was taken away by a military helicopter and brought back by the army five days later, dead. As his family members buried him, they saw a large scar running from his stomach to his chin.”

 

Adopting a dismissive attitude, Israeli officials accused the Swedish newspaper of committing a “blood libel” and making a “canard” against Israel. Israeli leaders demanded a “clear and immediate apology” from Sweden.Netanyahu urged the Swedish government to condemn the “incendiary article”. Other Israeli leaders threatened to take unspecified punitive measures against Sweden, including cancelling an upcoming visit to Israel by Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, denying Swedish journalists posted in Israel government accreditation, and even boycotting Swedish products and interests.

 

Netanyahu spoke to Bildt earlier this week, urging him to issue a “public condemnation” of the article. However, the Swedish government has so far refused to budge to Israeli pressure, arguing that the government of Sweden was in no position to condemn articles or materials published in the Swedish press, regardless of whether the government agreed or disagreed with the contents.

“No one can demand that the Swedish government violate its own constitution. Freedom of speech is an indispensable part of Swedish society,” Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt reportedly told the Swedish news agency TT.

Earlier, Bildt rejected Israeli accusations that Sweden was harbouring anti-Semitic feelings, saying that his country had established laws against anti-Semitism. The adamant Swedish refusal to meet Israeli demands infuriated Israeli leaders and media.

Israel is not accustomed to seeing another state — especially a Western one — stand up to its moral pressure. Hence, Israel is worried that the Swedish “precedent” might auger ill for the future, emboldening others to refuse Israeli demands. The Israeli panic is heightened by the mood in Washington under the Obama administration, which appears, unlike previous administrations, to be taking relative distance from egregious Israeli actions.

Israel is well known for its harsh and cruel treatment of Palestinians. Hence, the notion of Israeli authorities extricating organs from the bodies of Palestinians for transplant or sale is credible. Indeed, in January 2002 an Israeli cabinet minister tacitly admitted that certain organs from the bodies of Palestinians might have been used for Jewish transplant patients without the knowledge of the victims’ families. The minister, Nessim Dahan, said he couldn’t confirm or deny that organs taken from Palestinian victims were used for transplant or in scientific research.

During an interview with Al-Jazeera in 2002, late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat accused Israel of murdering Palestinian children and harvesting their organs for transplant operations. “They murder our kids and use their organs as spare parts. Why is the whole world silent? Israel takes advantage of this silence to escalate its oppression and terror against our people,” said an angry Arafat.

During that interview, which took place on 14 January 2002, Arafat held up pictures of the bodies of some children killed and badly mutilated by the Israeli army.

No genuine investigation into the Palestinian allegations was carried out. According to a report by Saira Soufan, the illegal harvesting of the organs of Palestinians, especially guerrillas and freedom fighters, has been documented before the 1990s. “Upon return of the (Palestinian) soldiers’ bodies to their mourning families, the pillage of body parts is discovered during the burial process. The empty cavities have been filled with garbage such as cotton wool, garden hoses, and broom sticks, then sewn up as a result of the so-called autopsy.”

In 1998, Israeli medical authorities stole body organs from a Scottish tourist, Alistair Sinclair, who died under mysterious circumstances inside Ben Gurion Airport. Sinclair’s family sued Israeli authorities upon finding that their son’s heart and other organs were missing. According to one report, a replacement heart and organs were sent to his mother, who didn’t believe that these were her son’s.

Ahmed Teibi, a prominent Arab Knesset member, criticised the media’s latent focus on the alleged harvesting of Palestinian victims’ organs by Israel. “Well, harvesting the organs of victims is appalling and disgusting… but the actual killing of these helpless victims was a greater crime, and Israel has killed thousands of Palestinians, knowingly and deliberately. This is the real crime that much of the world pays very little attention to. This is the real crime for which Israel ought to be exposed and condemned

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