The Great Israeli Body Parts Scandal Revisited

Max Blumenthal reports on the suit which Rachel Corrie’s family is pursuing against the Israeli government. Oblivious to the Geneva Conventions, Israel colonel, Yossi, attests under oath that “There are no civilians during wartime”. Blumenthal notes that there are no Israeli reporters present in the courtroom, that ‘the case has been virtually ignored inside Israel’.

The Corrie family have been hampered in their search for justice for their courageous daughter, Rachel, by Israeli authorities, the US congress and executive courtesy of the malevolent control the Israel lobby has over them.

A 2003 bill introduced in the House International Relations Committee calling for a thorough Israeli investigation in Corrie’s killing and for American efforts to prevent such killings from happening again garnered 78 signatures in support (Rahm Emanuel was the only Jewish signer). However, Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, one of the Israel lobby’s closest allies in Congress, prevented the bill from getting out of the committee. President George W. Bush could have pressed for a full floor vote on the bill but he did nothing. The bill died as a result.

Having been obstructed by the Israelis’ opaque investigation and betrayed by their own government (with notable exceptions like former Rep. Brian Baird), the Corries have been forced to take matters into their own hands.

Blumenthal details another aspect of the case pursuant to Rachel’s murder – the abuse of her body. After obstructions by the Israeli regime in transporting her body to the Abu Kabir Forensic Institute in Tel Aviv where all bodies of victims meeting uncertain fates are sent for autopsy, against her parents’ wishes, Rachel’s corpse was autopsied by the notorious Dr. Yehuda Hiss.

Who is Dr. Hiss? The chief pathologist of Israel for a decade and a half, Hiss was implicated by a 2001 investigation by the Israeli Health Ministry of stealing body parts ranging from legs to testicles to ovaries from bodies without permission from family members then selling them to research institutes. Bodies plundered by Hiss included those of Palestinians and Israeli soldiers. He was finally removed from his post in 2004 when the body of a teenage boy killed in a traffic accident was discovered to have been thoroughly gnawed on by a rat in Hiss’s laboratory. In an interview with researcher Nancy Schepper-Hughes, Hiss admitted that he harvested organs if he was confident relatives would not discover that they were missing. He added that he often used glue to close eyelids to hide missing corneas.

When Craig and Cindy Corrie learned that Hiss would perform an autopsy on their daughter, they stipulated that they would only allow the doctor to go forward if an official from the American consulate was present throughout the entire procedure. An Israeli military police report stated that an American official did indeed witness the autopsy. However, when the Corries asked American diplomatic officials including former US Ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzner if the report was true, they were informed that no American was present at all. The Israelis had lied to them, and apparently fixed their own report to deceive the American government.

On March 14, during the first round of hearings in the Corries’ civil suit, Hiss admitted under oath that he had lied about the presence of an American official during the autopsy of Rachel Corrie. He also conceded to taking “samples” from Corrie’s body for “histological testing” without informing her family. Just which parts of Corrie’s body Hiss took remains unclear; despite Hiss’s claim that he “buried” the samples, her family has not confirmed the whereabouts of her missing body parts.

The Corrie family deserve the truth from the duplicitous, prevaricative Israeli regime and the support of their own government. What is the use of government if it is unwilling to protect its citizens from murder, when it chooses to protect the murderer with which it is already complicit through bounteous guaranteed military aid and an extraordinary special relationship? Supporting the Geneva Conventions and human rights law would naturally highlight America’s multiple abuses against its own civilians domestically, along with civilians in foreign nations where it has exercised its vile preemptive doctrine and impunity, travesties shared with and practised by its warmongering, human rights abusing settler colonial cronies and imperial consorts.

UPDATE 27/4/13

Why doesn’t Wikipedia mention Yehuda Hiss or the Abu Kabir Institute or Nancy Scheper-Hughes’ definitive investigations on its page on her?

The organ harvesting story in the Israeli media

The Guardian sanitised version of the above Israeli media article

1 comment to The Great Israeli Body Parts Scandal Revisited

  • Nancy Scheper-Hughes – Body Parts and Bio-Piracy

    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.

    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”.

    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.

    Kosovo organ donor ring: the Israeli connection