Israel: Harvest Time

December 21st, 2009

Via: Guardian:

Israel has admitted pathologists harvested organs from dead Palestinians, and others, without the consent of their families – a practice it said ended in the 1990s – it emerged at the weekend.

The admission, by the former head of the country’s forensic institute, followed a furious row prompted by a Swedish newspaper reporting that Israel was killing Palestinians in order to use their organs – a charge that Israel denied and called “antisemitic”.

The revelation, in a television documentary, is likely to generate anger in the Arab and Muslim world and reinforce sinister stereotypes of Israel and its attitude to Palestinians. Iran’s state-run Press TV tonight reported the story, illustrated with photographs of dead or badly injured Palestinians.

Ahmed Tibi, an Israeli Arab MP, said the report incriminated the Israeli army.

The story emerged in an interview with Dr Yehuda Hiss, former head of the Abu Kabir forensic institute near Tel Aviv. The interview was conducted in 2000 by an American academic who released it because of the row between Israel and Sweden over a report in the Stockholm newspaper Aftonbladet.

Channel 2 TV reported that in the 1990s, specialists at Abu Kabir harvested skin, corneas, heart valves and bones from the bodies of Israeli soldiers, Israeli citizens, Palestinians and foreign workers, often without permission from relatives.

The Israeli military confirmed to the programme that the practice took place, but added: “This activity ended a decade ago and does not happen any longer.”

Hiss said: “We started to harvest corneas … whatever was done was highly informal. No permission was asked from the family.”

However, there was no evidence that Israel had killed Palestinians to take their organs, as the Swedish paper reported. Aftonbladet quoted Palestinians as saying young men from the West Bank and Gaza Strip had been seized by the Israeli forces and their bodies returned to their families with missing organs. The interview with Hiss was released by Nancy Scheper-Hughes, professor of anthropology at the University of California-Berkeley who had conducted a study of Abu Kabir.

She was quoted by the Associated Press as saying that while Palestinians were “by a long shot” not the only ones affected, she felt the interview must be made public, because “the symbolism, you know, of taking skin of the population considered to be the enemy, [is] something, just in terms of its symbolic weight, that has to be reconsidered.”

Israel demanded that Sweden condemn the Aftonbladet article, calling it an antisemitic “blood libel”. Stockholm refused, saying that to so would violate freedom of speech in the country. The foreign minister then cancelled a visit to Israel, just as Sweden was taking over the EU’s rotating presidency.

Hiss was removed from his post in 2004, when some details about organ harvesting were first reported, but he still works at the forensic institute.

Israel’s health ministry said all harvesting was now done with permission. “The guidelines at that time were not clear,” it said in a statement to Channel 2. “For the last 10 years, Abu Kabir has been working according to ethics and Jewish law.”

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2 Responses to “Israel: Harvest Time”

  1. Peregrino Says:

    For some historical context read the Book of Joshua where God orders the Chosen People to obliterate town after town of Canaanites and mound the foreskins of the dead men to commemorate the slaughter. To be fair, the paleo-anthropological record provides no evidence of an Egyptian captivity or subsequent conquest of Canaan, but the story certainly indicates how the people saw themselves, even if they were only indigenous farmers and herders who gradually became wealthy and eventually a pain in the butt to the Romans. Today, sadly, the bullet-headed Israeli wing of the Chosen are acting out their myth on real bodies.

  2. Eileen Says:

    Yes, surely the story continues to evolve. Oh yeah, we forgot that we were stealing from the dead until that dern Swedish newspaper reported it. Such a petty and mundane thing in the minds of some I guess, to steal the parts of dead body.
    They are dead after all right?
    While I do understand in some way how the Isreali’s – a people who have a deep bitterness that their religion and their people have been persecuted, uh, I think its time to get over it already. Way past time. How long is it healthy for an entire religion, culture, people, country to nurse anger, rage, whatever at a former persecution?
    I don’t have the answer. But the longer the persecution complex goes on, the more it sounds to me, that the Isreali’s are becoming more and more like their former prosecutors.
    As a ten year old I had a Jewish girlfriend,(one of the few people my parents allowed me to be friends with) who told me stories she heard about how Jewish peoples skins were turned into lampshades and soap.
    I’m wondering how this story is going to be told differently by Palenstinian children to their friends when they learned Grandpa had his organs harvested?
    Just wish the cycle could be broken.
    It must be through forgiveness.

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