Organ harvesting: Part II


Over the weekend Israel’s Channel 2 sparked headlines with a report on Israel admitting that back in the 1990s it had harvested organs from dead bodies without permission.

The story was a big deal since it came on the heels of the brouhaha earlier this year over a Swedish newspaper’s claim — hey, this is a blog, we can call it a blood libel — that Israel was killing Palestinians to harvest their organs.

Any fair-minded person would recognize the difference between the two stories as being a matter of kind, not degree. Earlier this year Israel was being accused of murdering Palestinians for their organs. This week’s story is about Israeli doctors taking organs from people who died on their own. And it wasn’t an anti-Arab thing the organs were taken from deceased Jews and non-Jews, Israelis and Palestinians, and foreign workers.

Just in case, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations issued this statement:


New York, December 21, 2009 … Recent press reports rehashing an interview from 10 years ago regarding the practices at Abu Kabir forensic institute have no relation to the false accusations that appeared this past August in the Swedish newspaper, Aftonbladet. In the 2000 interview, Dr. Yehuda Hiss, then head of the Abu Kabir facility, acknowledged that body parts were removed for medical purposes only from the bodies of Israeli soldiers and civilians as well as Palestinians and others. Following the revelation, the Segelson Commission was appointed and completely forbade organ removal from deceased persons without family permission. The Commission established these rules governing practice for all Israeli institutions, stating that, in accordance with Israeli and Jewish law, consent from families must be obtained.

The report in the Aftonbladet that accused Israelis of killing Palestinians to harvest organs has been completely repudiated and has no connection to the decade-old report about the Abu Kabir forensic institute. Further, the practice at Abu Kabir was not directed at any group and was immediately addressed by Israeli officials once it became known. The Conference of Presidents decries the practice but notes the immediate steps taken to remediate and establish permanent standards, which are universally enforced in Israel.

“This reprinting of old information must not be allowed to become the occasion for mischief, blasphemous lies or distortions. The media must exercise care to correctly portray the re-release of this nine-year old interview which does not relate to the recent baseless charges. The author of the story in the Aftonbladet admitted that he needed to revisit his own report and that his article contained no substantiation beyond allegations of reports from Palestinians. It provided no evidence to indicate that any Palestinian was killed to ‘harvest organs.’ Such accusations can inflame the region, incite violence and undermine the chances of peace,” said Conference of Presidents Chairman Alan Solow and Executive Vice Chairman Malcolm Hoenlein.

You’d like to tell yourself that these Jewish groups are just being paranoid. But then… you read this correction in The Guardian:

We should not have put the headline "Israel admits harvesting Palestinian organs" 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 from the bodies of Israeli soldiers, Israeli citizens, Palestinians and foreign workers without getting permission from the families of the deceased (21 December, page 15). 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.

And, of course, there’s also the likes of Phillip Weiss.

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