September 1, 2009
BACKGROUND: In late July 2009, FBI Agent Robert J. Cooke filed a criminal complaint in US District Court against Levy Rosenbaum alleging that he unlawfully conspired "to acquire, receive, and otherwise transfer human organs." Rosenbaum is quoted as indicating he had been procuring human organs for "[t]en years" and there are "people over there [in Israel] hunting" for organs.
On August 17, 2009, a Swedish newspaper, Aftonbladet, published "Our sons plundered for their organs," by veteran Middle East photojournalist Donald Boström. Boström indicates the Rosenbaum story, which garnered international attention, inspired him to revisit his experiences in Palestine in the 1990s. He writes: "I then travelled around interviewing a great number of Palestinian families in the West Bank and Gaza—meeting parents who told of how their sons had been deprived of organs before being killed. ... 'Our sons are used as involuntary organ donors,' relatives of Khaled from Nablus told me, as did the mother of Raed from Jenin and the uncles of Machmod and Nafes from Gaza, who had all disappeared for a number of days only to return at night, dead and autopsied." Boström opines that these charges raise "enough question marks to motivate the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to start an investigation ..."
Boström's article echoes a report by Mary Barrett; "Autopsies and Executions," which was published in April 1990 in Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. In it, Barrett concludes, "The question of organ theft is of compelling concern to Palestinians." In June 2001, Dr. Nancy Scheper-Hughes of the University of California-Berkeley and Organs Watch testified to the House Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights. She described 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 Palestinains [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."
It's worth recalling that millions of Palestinians live under brutal military occupation by troops of the very same Israeli Ministry of Defense. Just a little more than a year after Scheper-Hughes' testimony, Israel's Chief Pathologist and Director of the national Institute of Forensic Medicine in Tel Aviv was investigated. Arutz Sheva, reports in 2005, that Dr. Yehuda Hiss agreed to a plea bargain with Israeli prosecutors. It says: "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."
Veteran, award-winning Palestinian journalist Kawther Salam wrote recently: "The issue of stealing the Palestinian organs is known to everybody in Palestine. I reported several times about this crime." She concluded: "If the Israelis go forward and cause troubles for Donald Boström in court, I will volunteer to testify in his favor ..."
Israelis have gone forward to cause trouble. The Yedioth Ahronoth reports, "Thousands of Israelis on Sunday signed an internet petition calling for a consumers' boycott on Swedish home products retailer IKEA, as well as other companies from the Scandinavian country ..." Meanwhile, the Israeli government is pressuring Sweden's government to "condemn the 'anti-Semitic' article" and "Swedish Chancellor of Justice Goeran Lambertz received two written requests on Tuesday asking to investigate whether the report amounted to racial agitation ..." Ha'aretz reports the Israeli Government Press Office (GPO) is delaying the issuance of press credentials to Swedish journalists trying to get into Gaza. Meanwhile, the Jerusalem Post reports Israeli lawyer Guy Ophir filed a $7.5 million lawsuit against the Aftonbladet and Boström in a New York court.
Despite the vociferous Israeli response, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine has called for "an immediate, serious investigation into reports alleging that Zionist occupation forces stole organs from young Palestinians they killed in the West Bank and Gaza." The younger brother of Bilal Ahmed Ghanem, whose mutilated body was pictured in Boström's article, is quoted in the Jerusalem Post as follows: "But in light of the investigative report in the Swedish newspaper, we are demanding an international commission of inquiry into the case." American Muslims for Palestine has also stated it "believes the questions the article raises must be investigated."
PETITION TEXT: As people deeply concerned with human rights, we believe it is essential to listen respectfully when occupied people speak about war crimes committed against them. Therefore, we support Donald Boström and Aftonbladet in their decision to publish "Our sons plundered for their organs." We salute the Swedish government's refusal to submit to Israeli pressure and undermine the freedom of the press. We support calls for an investigation and urge the International Committee of the Red Cross, and other competent tribunals to undertake a thorough, impartial investigation of allegations that Israelis have unlawfully removed organs from Palestinians.
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Deir Yassin Remembered
Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends
If Americans Knew
Voices of Palestine
We Hold These Truths
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Alison Weir. "Israeli Organ Trafficking and Theft: From Moldova to Palestine."
American Muslims for Palestine. "Allegations into Organ Trafficking Must Be Investigated."
US House Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights. "Hearing Before the "Organs for Sale: China's Growing Trade and Ultimate Violations of Prisoners' Rights" (PDF). Testimony of Dr. Nancy Scheper-Hughes begins on page 24.
Lubomyr Prytulak. "Israeli crimes in broad day light."
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