1 September, 2009 — Alison Weir
[See the petition calling for an investigation here.]
With all the heat engendered by the recent Swedish article, “Our sons plundered for their organs,” I feel that there is a need for some clarification and logical discussion.
First, I’d like to alert people to additional information that we’ve just discovered:
In June 2001 Dr. Nancy Scheper-Hughes of the University of California-Berkeley and Organs Watch testified before the House Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights. Scheper-Hughes testified that she had discovered a “multi-million dollar business” that the Israeli Ministry of Health refused “to intervene and crack down on.” She stated:
- … hundreds of kidney patients from Israel … travel in privately brokered ‘transplant tourist’ junkets to Turkey, Moldova, Romania … to Russia … and to South Africa …
- While in Israel for Organs Watch in the summer of  and, again in March 2001, … I interviewed more than 50 transplants professionals, transplant patients, and organs buyers and sellers involved in commercialized transplants … none were willing to condemn a practice which they saw as ‘saving lives’…
- Meanwhile, human rights groups in the West Bank complained to me of tissue and organs stealing of slain Palestinians [sic] by Israeli pathologists at the national Israeli legal medical institute in Tel Aviv. …
- A more troubling phenomenon is the support and direct involvement of the Israeli Ministry of Defense in the illicit national ‘program’ of transplant tourism. Some patients who traveled with the outlaw Israeli transplant surgeon to other countries noted that in each of the organized transplant groups were members of the Ministry of Defense or those closely related to them.
Second, I’d like to make two points about the Swedish article itself. After that, I’ll discuss my own thoughts and article:
1. Everyone should read Bostrom’s article for him or herself – carefully — to see what it contains and what it does not. It is often being misrepresented and/or misunderstood. I worry that people are reading what people say it says instead of simply finding out for themselves.
2. When people read the article, they will see that it does not claim to prove anything. It provides facts, describes incidents, and repeats questions that the reporter feels are significant enough to merit a thorough investigation.
Do I agree with the need for an investigation?
Absolutely. Below are some reasons:
When a multitude of people describe similar incidents, all pointing to the same serious human rights abuse, it is important to listen to them and investigate their concerns – particularly when there are additional, outside clues that seem to support their statements.
The world has a history of ignoring Palestinian (and others’) charges – only to find later that they were true.
- In the early part of the 20th century some Palestinians were concerned that Zionists were moving to Palestine with the intention of taking it over for a Jewish state. To some people at the time, both inside and outside Palestine, this seemed far-fetched, perhaps even anti-Jewish. It turned out to be true.
- After Israel’s founding war Palestinian refugees said that they had not left voluntarily but had been violently expelled from their land. This was viewed as extremism and anti-Semitism. Again, it was true.
- Palestinians described horrific massacres during this war, relating grisly tales of brutality; again they were largely dismissed. Later, former Israeli soldiers corroborated their claims.
- For decades Palestinians have described grotesque abuses against them while in prison. Again, these were portrayed as lies and exaggerations, until finally they were documented by outsiders.
- For many years American veterans of the Israeli attack on the USS liberty claimed that this had been an intentional attack. They were called anti-Semitic and disdained. Thirty years later, the senior prosecuting attorney of the one official investigation into the attack stated in a legal document that he and others had been ordered by the White house to cover up the fact that all of the evidence indicated that it had been a deliberate attack.
It is time to listen – and investigate.
As we all know, accusations do not prove guilt, and not all Palestinians are making these particular ones. However, when there are a great many such charges, and when they are accompanied by circumstantial evidence, they should be explored.
The innocent can then be absolved; the guilty discovered. An investigation benefits both.
On a side note, there is no doubt that journalist Bostrom and his editors were aware that they would be viciously attacked and threatened if they published his information and gave voice to the questions it contains. I feel that they should be supported for fulfilling their journalistic responsibility to print the news. When numerous people are making serious charges, these are normally reported. It was appropriate to bring them to the public’s attention.
Incidentally, it appears that the Palestinian Association in Sweden, which represents more than 30,000 Swedish Palestinians, agrees. Reportedly the group has sent a letter to the Aftonbladet newspaper, expressing their appreciation.
People who agree with the need for an investigation may wish to sign this petition.
How likely is it that such an investigation will find wrongdoing?
Below are some thoughts…
1. Internal organs are extremely valuable commodities – a kidney goes for at least $160,000. I can only imagine what a heart gets.
2. Israel has been riddled with organ-trafficking scandals – some involving extremely high Israeli officials and Israeli funding.
A. Israel’s very first heart transplant was taken without permission from a victim who had survived a stroke and whose family was told for days that he was ‘doing well.’ (See the Israeli report.) Only after the family brought media attention and sufficient pressure did the hospital finally admit that it had stolen the heart.
If the man had been Palestinian, it is quite likely that the hospital admission would never have been forthcoming. In such a case those decrying the Swedish article would, in all probability, be suggesting that this man’s family members were simply overwrought, that their accusations were another unacceptable ‘blood libel.’ and that individuals listening to them and also calling for an investigation were gullible, irresponsible, and/or anti-Semitic.
B. Israel’s chief pathologist was finally removed from his post – not fired – years after evidence had long been accruing that he was stealing ‘legs, ovaries, and testicles’ – and probably the heart of a Scottish man who was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
He took body parts from Israelis. Do we find it likely that he took no organs from the many Palestinian bodies to which he had extremely easy access?
C. Israelis have for many years been heavily involved in international organ trafficking.
An official investigation in Brazil found that Israel was providing most of the funding for an organ trafficking ring that targeted Brazil’s most impoverished citizens. The same type of trafficking was going on in numerous other places – Turkey, Romania, Moldova.
D. According to the above testimony by an organ trafficking expert before a Congressional subcommittee, the Israeli military was directly involved.
3. Palestinians are a largely captive population.
Numerous human rights groups have documented their situation in detail. There are a multitude of official studies that indicate Israel can kidnap, torture, and kill Palestinians with impunity. They can detain them without charge, hold them as long as they wish, abuse them while in custody, and turn over dead bodies that have been ripped open and ‘autopsied’ without explanation to or permission from the helpless, grieving family.
Given the above points, it begins to appear that the suggestion that no Israelis or Israeli governmental officials have ever stolen Palestinian body parts is the the more far-fetched hypothesis.
Finally, there is one additional aspect to include when pondering this topic. A very small but significant minority of Israelis hold disturbing religious views that are essential to understand in considering the situation for Palestinians under Israeli occupation, and that are directly related to the question of involuntary organ extraction.
This tiny but sometimes lethal group (a Jewish religious extremist assassinated an Israeli prime minister, another gunned down 29 people while they were praying, still another threw a grenade into the middle of an Israeli peace march) have a disproportionate effect on Israeli policies – much to the outrage of many Israelis. They also have considerable power of Palestinians.
Yesterday, I received an email from a person who said that he was from Sweden, had read my article, and had seen the footnote in which I cite a piece by Israeli author Israel Shamir about a rabbi who had given his permission for “a Jew to take a liver from a non-Jew even without his consent.”
This email correspondent sent the full transcript of a news article on this subject that he said he had originally received from Israeli author Israel Shahak.
I’ll post it below for anyone who’s interested in looking into this facet and so that it will be available on the public record.
Below that I will post a small discussion of my own article, and below that will be links to other stories of interest.
The Jewish Week, April 26, 1996, pp. 12, 31
Hero Or Racist?
Are Jewish lives really more valuable than non-Jewish ones?
Radical rabbi just freed from an Israeli prison thinks so.
Lawrence Cohler, Staff Writer
The triumphal cheers of some 500 Lubavitch chasidim shook the hall on Eastern Parkway in Crown Heights Sunday night as a tall, white-haired rabbi basked in their toasts to his recent victory over the government of Israel’s effort to silence him.
- A sea of men in black hats and women in long dresses hailed Rabbi Yitzhak Ginsburgh from separate sides of the ballroom of the Oholei Menachem Yeshiva. And amid round wood tables stacked high with challah, herring and rounds of vodka, Rabbi Ginsburgh joined them heartily as glasses rose to his long life.
But ask Lubavitch leader Rabbi Shmuel Butman about Rabbi Ginsburgh’s view that the Torah would “probably permit” seizing an innocent non-Jew for a liver transplant to save the life of a Jew, and Rabbi Butman, who helped organize the welcome, politely demurs
- “That is a purely halachic question,” he says, using the Hebrew adjective for matters pertaining to traditional Jewish law. We don’t get into that.”
Not everyone is so sanguine.
Contributing editor Jon Kalish contributed to this article.
Some comments on my own article…
My short section near the end of my article on Ariel Toaff’s suppressed book on blood libel was a very small part of the fairly long article, but, as expected, it has drawn considerable wrath from some quarters. Others have raised the question of whether it was relevant to include in the article, a reasonable question and one I pondered ahead of time, knowing the anger it would engender among those who wish such things to remain hidden.
Obviously, I decided in the affirmative. Given that virtually all Bostrom’s critics were using the epithet ‘blood libel’ in their attempts to block any real consideration of the article’s content, I felt that the successful silencing of an Israeli scholar who had raised significant questions about this very subject was quite relevant and useful for people to know about — especially since the Toaff controversy had been covered so extensively in the Israeli press at the time. I don’t like the idea that some people are permitted to know something, but that others are not supposed to learn about it.
If people read Toaff’s book for themselves, and I provided the link so that they could, they can see the content for themselves and determine whether they feel that his evidence supports the conclusions he had drawn or not. If they do feel that some small groups did do what he believes they did, this conclusion in many ways simply indicates that the Jewish population is basically similar to anyone else, since history shows that there have been sects in numerous religious groups, that have committed “religious” violence.
The problem is that some people believe that the Jewish population is better than all the rest of humanity; others allege it’s worse. My view is that individuals within this population run the whole gamut, just as in other populations.
The continual portrayal of an entire population that has never done anything wrong (as Alfred Lilienthal once discussed), and that is eternally the victim of allegedly bigoted, always baseless accusations is part of what buttresses the Israeli myth, replete with its astonishing claim of ‘purity of arms.’ (The fact that so many people can believe that the soldiers of one army — unlike all others — have never committed a single abuse is an example of the pervasiveness of this myth of extreme exceptionalism.)
I feel that the continual attempt to censor all negative facts and allegations – to suppress books and block investigations — is a dangerous, two-edged sword. Many people believe the myth, at least for awhile, which enables continued and expanded misconduct. Others, however, do not, and they, recognizing the suppression, sometimes then imagine a reality that is considerably worse than the actual facts — and such suspicions smolder and grow.
I believe it’s always better for the truth to come out.
Finally, the original version of my article contained a sentence in a parentheses near the end of the piece that may have seemed to say that Israeli professor and author Israel Shahak also believed there was a basis to the blood libel accusations. In reality, the findings that were similar to Toaff’s were Shahak’s information on Talmudic texts emphasizing vengeance, the profound anti-Christian statements to be found in numerous religious texts, and the extreme religious violence within some medieval Jewish communities, sometimes ordered by Rabbis, eg cutting out tongues, chopping off noses, etc – and not that there had been ritual killings of Christians.
I urge people to read his book along with Toaff’s to discover for themselves the similarities and differences. Shahak’s book is also posted here.
It is a shame that Professor Shahak is no longer alive. It would have been valuable to learn his views on Toaff’s original book, and on Bostrom’s article.
“It’s the greatest tragedy to take isolated texts and use them without tradition,” Rabbi Wurzburger said. “[Rabbi Meir] Kahane did this, too. You can always take statements out of context.”
Additional articles and postings
Price tags on bones
Aftonbladet follow up
Blog postings by kawther Salam
Ynet article with kusam Aslam allegations
Gaudy Taubber portrait
Discussion of ethics, etc.