The Great Israeli Body Parts Scandal

The luminary journalist I.F. Stone observed that “Israel is creating a kind of moral schizophrenia in world Jewry. In the outside world, the welfare of Jews depends on the maintenance of secular non-racial pluralistic societies. In Israel, Jewry finds itself defending a society whose ideal is racial and exclusionist. Jews must fight everywhere for their security – against principles and practices they find themselves defending in Israel.”

While the Swedish government expresses its commitment to constitutional rights of free speech in the press, Nutanyahoo and Lieberman are running true to form screaming blue murder and blood libel, demanding condemnation of Donald Boström’s op ed organ theft piece in Sweden’s biggest daily, Aftonbladet. Some incensed Israelis are demanding a boycott of Ikea though it has no ties with either media or government.

Donald Boström’s article juxtaposes the US Rabbi Rosenbaum organ trafficking revelations with unanswered questions back in the Ziocolony.

In 1992, out of 133 Palestinians who had been killed, 52 had had autopsies performed, according to Boström. The bodies had been autopsied at Israel’s Abu Kabir Forensic Institute, and were later returned to their families.

Dr. Yehuda Hiss the Abu Kabir Institute at least since 1989. In a 2005 court arrangement, he received only a reprimand for his involvement in the unauthorized removal of parts from 125 bodies.

According to 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.

Hiss was fired from his position as Director of the institute shortly after the courts became involved in allegations against him, but has remained the Chief Pathologist at the Institute.

This is not the first time that Hiss has escaped legal consequences for his actions. Former Attorney-General Elyakim Rubenstein aroused objections from several directions when he ruled that Hiss should not be charged with criminal behavior, even though he provided “expert testimony” about autopsies at which he had not been present and used tissues and organs after autopsies without permission from the families of the deceased.

In July 2002, while Hiss was under police investigation for suspicions including the removal of organs from 81 deceased persons without familial consent, the Supreme Court rejected a petition by the Movement for Quality in Government (MQG) demanding his suspension.

In August 1999, Jerusalem District Court Judge Ruth Orr sharply criticized him for testifying that a 12-year-old Arab rock-thrower died as a result of a beating by Beitar security chief Nachum Korman three years earlier. She wrote that Hiss “was carried away by his desire to find the exact cause of the death… and ignored important pathological findings that did not correspond with this desire.”

The MQG had requested that former Rubenstein reconsider his decision not to indict Chief Pathologist Prof. Yehuda Hiss. Rubenstein had stated that even if the Institute did not act properly, “there is no suspicion of corruption or profiteering on the part of Prof. Hiss, whose only interest was the advancement of medical research.”

An enquiry at Tel Aviv’s L Greenberg Institute of Forensic Medicine commenced in 2001 following investigations by Yediot Aharonot Daily reporters Ronen Bergman and Gai Gavra :

… the institute – headed for the past 13 years by chief pathologist Professor Yehuda Hiss – had been involved in “organ sales” of body parts. Providing much ghoulish evidence, including “price listings” for leg and thigh bones and other body parts, the investigative journalists said that whole organs had been removed from corpses and transferred to universities for research and to medical schools for “practice” by students.

The allegations in 2002 were

inappropriate behavior as a medical professional to criminal acts such as the illegal sale of and dealings in organs and body parts, removing organs from deceased persons without consent, and misrepresenting organs in returned bodies.

Allegations made against Hiss in some cases include his taking organs without consent, placing the cardboard center of toilet paper rolls and metallic rods in their place to fill the voids in the body and hide the theft of the organs.

A court-ordered search of the institute revealed large supplies of stored organs taken illegally from bodies. 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.

Organs belonging to soldiers killed in various circumstances were found in the institute during a surprise search this week. After consulting with Chief Chaplain Brig. Gen. Rabbi Yisrael Weiss, it was decided that in concert with the bereaved families, graves would be opened and the organs buried along with the remains of each soldier involved.

Khalid Amayreh concurs with the destination of the bodies of Palestinian victims of the IDF.

Israel had killed thousands of innocent civilians in the West Bank , and many of the victims were sent to the Abu Kabir forensic institute for autopsy operations.

However, it is unclear if the vital organs of these young victims were always disposed of or taken out for transplant in Jewish patients.

In January, 2002, an Israeli cabinet minister tacitly admitted that organs taken from the bodies of Palestinian victims might have been used for transplants in Jewish patients without the knowledge of the Palestinian victims’ families.

The minister, Nessim Dahan, said in response to a question by an Arab Knesset member that he couldn’t deny or confirm that organs of Palestinian youths and children killed by the Israeli army were taken out for transplants or scientific research.

“I couldn’t say for sure that something like that didn’t happen.”

The Arab Knesset member who posed the question to Dahan is believed to be Ahmed Teibi. Teibi pointed out that he had received “credible evidence” proving that Israeli doctors at the forensic institute of Abu Kabir extracted such vital organs as the heart, kidneys, and liver from the bodies of Palestinian youth and children killed by the Israeli army in Gaza and the West Bank .

According to Saed Bannoura’s report, former detainee, Palestinian researcher Abdul-Nasser Farwana, states

all facts on the ground, since decades, prove that the Israeli occupation executed Palestinian detainees after they surrendered and refused to hand their bodies to their families. Hundreds of bodies were transferred to the families days, months or even years after the fact, and when the bodies were sent back, they were missing vital internal organs.

Farwana added that one of the illegal acts carried out by Israel is having secret detention facilities in which dozens of detainees were imprisoned and never heard of anymore. This is in addition to the “Numbers Graveyard” in which “unknown” Palestinian and Arab fighters are buried.

He said that Israel still denies it is holding hundreds of Palestinian and Arab fighter, and refuses to cooperate with the Red Cross on the issue.

The researcher added that Israel is the only state that had a policy of detaining the bodies of slain Arab and Palestinian fighters, and that some 300 fighters are buried in the numbers graveyard.

Farwana further said that dozens of detainees died in Israeli prisons, some due to torture, and their bodies were not immediately sent to their families, but instead were moved to forensic center, and some of their body parts were removed before bodies were sent back to the Palestinians.

More recently, in 2007 two Haifa men were convicted for organ trafficking.

This is the first time an Israeli court has issued a conviction for this offense, based on a law passed at the end of last year.

The pair confessed to the charges against them in a plea bargain with the prosecution.

Allan and Zakhalka admitted that at the end of 2006, they persuaded Arabs from the Galilee and central Israel who were developmentally challenged or mentally ill to agree to have a kidney removed for payment. They located their victims by placing ads in the newspaper offering money for organ donation. According to the indictment, the pair gave false information to the donors, and also pressured and threatened them to give up their kidney. After the surgery, Allan and Zakhalka did not pay the donors as promised.

Judges Josef Elron, Ron Sokol and Menahem Raniel decided to accept the plea bargain because they said clear legal interpretation had not yet been formulated with regard to the crime of human trafficking for the purpose of harvesting organs,

In “Ethical Issues in Organ Transplantation in Israel” (Eubios Journal of Asian and International Bioethics 6 (1996), 169), Gershon B. Grunfeld, Ph.D notes that

Interestingly, the Israeli Anatomy and Pathology Law (1953) allows for “using part of a corpse when it is needed to save the life of a person” without any consent. This law has very rarely been used and on one celebrated occasion may have brought more damage than benefit. On June 19, 1993, a heart, liver, lungs, and kidneys were harvested from an anonymous traffic accident victim in Beersheba and transplanted in five patients in Israel. After all attempts to identify the family failed, the hospital staff harvested the organs without consent. This person was not carrying a donor card. The story was described on the front pages of the daily newspapers as a case of “organ robbery,” and public response was so unfavorable that no similar attempts have been made since.

The shortage of organs for transplantation in Israel has also created practices that are far from ethical. In recent years reports have been published in Israel about Israelis who travel to neighboring countries (especially Egypt) and buy a kidney for transplantation from poor immigrant workers. Some papers have even reported the existence of such practices in Israel, which are currently being investigated by a governmental commission. Interestingly, the Jewish Halacha does not forbid selling or buying organs from the living, even if the seller is poor or in debt.”

There have been other incidents involving Israelis in body parts trafficking. In 2003

An Israeli organ trafficking ring which was smashed in South Africa last year has shifted its operations to China, according to a report in the New York Times. A 52-year-old Tel Aviv man, Ilan Peri, is alleged to have organised at least 100 kidney transplants for Israelis. The Times profiled the case of an American woman from Brooklyn and a Brazilian man from the impoverished city of Recife in Durban. She paid brokers US$60,000 (a special discount because of family ties) and he received $6,000 from them. The operation was performed at St Augustine’s Hospital in Durban. This is owned by a private health care chain, Netcare, which boasts that it aims “to uphold South Africa’s reputation as ‘the transplant capital of the world'”.

Nancy Scheper-Hughes, medical anthropologist at UCLA who has investigated body parts trafficking around the globe writes of her encounter with a transplant patient in Israel: :

“Why should we Israelis be made to travel to third world clinics to get the kidneys we need to survive from the bodies of peasants, soldiers, or guest workers who may be in worse physical shape than ourselves?” a 71-year-old “kidney buyer” from Tel Aviv asked me rhetorically. “Organs should be seen as a human, not as a national resource.” It was good to see “Avirham,” an elderly gentleman, alive and happy with his revitalizing 22-year-old “peasant” kidney. And his living donor? “A peasant, without anything!” he replied. “Do you have any idea what $1,000, let alone $5,000 means in the life of a peasant?”

Last Sunday Aftonbladet featured a follow up story annotated at IMEMC :

Two of Aftonbladet reporters went to the Amateen town, near the northern West Bank city of Nablus, and obtained information from the mother and the brother of Bilal Ghamin, the Palestinian youth who was killed by the Israeli army at 19, during the first Intifada.

His mother said that on May 13, 1992, the soldiers airlifted her son to Israel and several days later, his body was sent to them in a black bag.

She added that his teeth were all removed; his body was cut open from throat to abdomen, and was badly sewed.

His brother, Jalal, said that he believes Ahmad‘s internal body parts were removed in Israel.

But he added that he does not have any proof, and that he met several other Palestinians who had similar stories regarding their relatives who were killed by the army.

The French Press Agency stated that Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Yigal Palmir, said that he does not know specifics about this case, and added that he believes that there is no justification for opening a closed case.

He added that the family can exhume the body to perform forensic tests on it, and can file an official request to the Israeli authorities to give a copy of the forensic report.

Abu Kabir has been further implicated in another strange case or two.

The family of Alastair Sinclair, a Scottish tourist, who, hanged himself in an Israeli jail, was forced to bring suit for the return of missing body parts.

University of Glasgow pathologists, who did an autopsy at the request of Sinclair’s family, found that it had been returned without a heart (which they suspect was used for a transplant) and without the crucial bone needed to confirm the claim that he died from hanging.

Dr. Hiss also performed the autopsy on courageous human rights activist, Rachel Corrie, who was killed by a ziocolonial bulldozer whilst attempting to prevent the demolition of a Palestinian home.

An autopsy was conducted on March 24 at the Israel’s National Center of Forensic Medicine in Tel Aviv. The final report was not released publicly, but in their report on the matter Human Rights Watch asserts a copy was provided to them by Craig Corrie, with a translation supplied by the U.S. Department of State. In the report they quote Professor Yehuda Hiss, who performed the autopsy, as concluding that “her death was caused by pressure on the chest (mechanical asphyxiation) with fractures of the ribs and vertebrae of the dorsal spinal column and scapulas, and tear wounds in the right lung with hemorrhaging of the pleural cavities.” [28]

According to a correspondent for Gannett News Service, the IDF document, “The Death of Rachel Corrie” made no mention of the pathologist’s conclusion, though, according to Corrie’s parents, the entire document has not been released.

Most tantalising are Hiss’s forensics on assassinated Prime Minister Rabin.

Hiss has also been the subject of controversy regarding the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin. The police were asked to investigate charges that Hiss altered Rabin’s wounds and submitted false evidence to the Shamgar Commission that investigated the killing. In March 1999, a group of Israeli academics presented findings showing that Hiss’ pathology report contradicted other authoritative findings. Prof. Hiss had stated that Rabin suffered no damage to his spinal cord, nor was he wounded by a frontal gunshot wound to the chest. But Dr. Mordechai Gutman’s surgical report, as well as taped testimony by Ichilov Hospital Director Dr. Gabi Barabash and former Health Minister Ephraim Sneh, indicate that Rabin’s backbone was shattered and that there was a frontal chest wound.

Does the Nut Prince protest too loudly? are there other reasons for his shrill attempt to muzzle the free Swedish press? could it be a smokescreen to smother the media with his cries rather than the latest, more urgent stories on proposed Israeli land grabs and settlement expansion in East Jerusalem? on the eve of his visit to Europe is it a tactic to reengage European sympathy?