- Our Sons Plundered For Their Organs
- By Donald Boström
- August 2009
- (An English translation of the famous article in a leading
Swedish paper. More about it soon).
- You could call me a "matchmaker," said Levy
Yitzhak Rosenbaum, from Brooklyn, USA, in a secret recording with an FBI-agent
whom he believed to be a client. Ten days later, at the end of July this
year, Rosenbaum was arrested and a vast, Sopranos-like, imbroglio of money-laundering
and illegal organ-trade was revealed. Rosenbaum's matchmaking had nothing
to do with romance. It was all about buying and selling kidneys from Israel
on the black market. Rosenbaum says that he buys the kidneys for 10,000
dollars, from poor people. He then proceeds to sell the organs to desperate
patients in the States for 160,000 dollars. The accusations have shaken
the American transplantation business. If they are true it means that organ
trafficking is documented for the first time in the US, experts tell the
New Jersey Real-Time News.
- On the question of how many organs he has sold Rosenbaum
replies: "Quite a lot. And I have never failed," he boasts. The
business has been running for quite some time. Francis Delmonici, professor
of transplant surgery at Harvard and member of the National Kidney Foundation's
Board of Directors, tells the same newspaper that organ-trafficking, similar
to the one reported from Israel, is carried out in other places of the
world as well. 5-6,000 operations a year, about ten per cent of the world's
kidney transplants are carried out illegally, according to Delmonici.
- Countries suspected of these activities are Pakistan,
the Philippines and China, where the organs are allegedly taken from executed
prisoners. But Palestinians also harbor strong suspicions against Israel
for seizing young men and having them serve as the country's organ reserve
- a very serious accusation, with enough question marks to motivate the
International Court of Justice (ICJ) to start an investigation about possible
- Israel has repeatedly been under fire for its unethical
ways of dealing with organs and transplants. France was among the countries
that ceased organ collaboration with Israel in the nineties. Jerusalem
Post wrote that "the rest of the European countries are expected to
follow France's example shortly."
- Half of the kidneys transplanted to Israelis since the
beginning of the 2000s have been bought illegally from Turkey, Eastern
Europe or Latin America. Israeli health authorities have full knowledge
of this business but do nothing to stop it. At a conference in 2003 it
was shown that Israel is the only western country with a medical profession
that doesn't condemn the illegal organ trade. The country takes no legal
measures against doctors participating in the illegal business - on the
contrary, chief medical officers of Israel's big hospitals are involved
in most of the illegal transplants, according to Dagens Nyheter (December
- In the summer of 1992, Ehud Olmert, then minister of
health, tried to address the issue of organ shortage by launching a big
campaign aimed at having the Israeli public register for postmortal organ
donation. Half a million pamphlets were spread in local newspapers. Ehud
Olmert himself was the first person to sign up. A couple of weeks later
the Jerusalem Post reported that the campaign was a success. No fewer than
35,000 people had signed up. Prior to the campaign it would have been 500
in a normal month. In the same article, however, Judy Siegel, the reporter,
wrote that the gap between supply and demand was still large. 500 people
were in line for a kidney transplant, but only 124 transplants could be
performed. Of 45 people in need of a new liver, only three could be operated
on in Israel.
- While the campaign was running, young Palestinian men
started to disappear from villages in the West Bank and Gaza. After five
days Israeli soldiers would bring them back dead, with their bodies ripped
- Talk of the bodies terrified the population of the occupied
territories. There were rumors of a dramatic increase of young men disappearing,
with ensuing nightly funerals of autopsied bodies.
- I was in the area at the time, working on a book. On
several occasions I was approached by UN staff concerned about the developments.
The persons contacting me said that organ theft definitely occurred but
that they were prevented from doing anything about it. On an assignment
from a broadcasting network 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.
One example that I encountered on this eerie trip was the young stone-thrower
Bilal Ahmed Ghanan.
- It was close to midnight when the motor roar from an
Israeli military column sounded from the outskirts of Imatin, a small village
in the northern parts of the West Bank. The two thousand inhabitants were
awake. They were still, waiting, like silent shadows in the dark, some
lying upon roofs, others hiding behind curtains, walls, or trees that provided
protection during the curfew but still offered a full view toward what
would become the grave for the first martyr of the village. The military
had interrupted the electricity and the area was now a closed-off military
zone - not even a cat could move outdoors without risking its life. The
overpowering silence of the dark night was only interrupted by quiet sobbing.
I don't remember if our shivering was due to the cold or to the tension.
Five days earlier, on May 13, 1992, an Israeli special force had used the
village's carpentry workshop for an ambush. The person they were assigned
to put out of action was Bilal Ahmed Ghanan, one of the stone-throwing
Palestinian youngsters who made life difficult for the Israeli soldiers.
- As one of the leading stone-throwers Bilal Ghanan had
been wanted by the military for a couple of years. Together with other
stone-throwing boys he hid in the Nablus mountains, with no roof over his
head. Getting caught meant torture and death for these boys - they had
to stay in the mountains at all costs.
- On May 13 Bilal made an exception, when for some reason,
he walked unprotected by the carpentry workshop. Not even Talal, his older
brother, knows why he took this risk. Maybe the boys were out of food and
needed to restock.
- Everything went according to plan for the Israeli special
force. The soldiers stubbed their cigarettes, put away their cans of Coca-Cola,
and calmly aimed through the broken window. When Bilal was close enough
they needed only to pull the triggers. The first shot hit him in the chest.
According to villagers who witnessed the incident he was subsequently shot
with one bullet in each leg. Two soldiers then ran down from the carpentry
workshop and shot Bilal once in the stomach. Finally, they grabbed him
by his feet and dragged him up the twenty stone steps of the workshop stair.
Villagers say that people from both the UN and the Red Crescent were close
by, heard the discharge and came to look for wounded people in need of
care. Some arguing took place as to who should take care of the victim.
Discussions ended with Israeli soldiers loading the badly wounded Bilal
in a jeep and driving him to the outskirts of the village, where a military
helicopter waited. The boy was flown to a destination unknown to his family.
Five days later he came back, dead and wrapped in green hospital fabric.
- A villager recognized Captain Yahya, the leader of the
military column who had transported Bilal from the postmortem center Abu
Kabir, outside of Tel Aviv, to the place for his final rest. "Captain
Yahya is the worst of them all," the villager whispered in my ear.
After Yahya had unloaded the body and changed the green fabric for a light
cotton one, some male relatives of the victim were chosen by the soldiers
to do the job of digging and mixing cement.
- Together with the sharp noises from the shovels we could
hear laughter from the soldiers who, as they waited to go home, exchanged
some jokes. As Bilal was put in the grave his chest was uncovered. Suddenly
it became clear to the few people present just what kind of abuse the boy
had been exposed to. Bilal was not by far the first young Palestinian to
be buried with a slit from his abdomen up to his chin.
- The families in the West Bank and in Gaza felt that they
knew exactly what had happened: "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 Mahmud and Nafes from Gaza,
who had all disappeared for a number of days only to return at night, dead
- - Why are they keeping the bodies for up to five
days before they let us bury them? What happened to the bodies during that
time? Why are they performing autopsy, against our will, when the cause
of death is obvious? Why are the bodies returned at night? Why is it done
with a military escort? Why is the area closed off during the funeral?
Why is the electricity interrupted? Nafes's uncle was upset and he had
a lot of questions.
- The relatives of the dead Palestinians no longer harbored
any doubts as to the reasons for the killings, but the spokesperson for
the Israeli army claimed that the allegations of organ theft were lies.
All the Palestinian victims go through autopsy on a routine basis, he said.
Bilal Ahmed Ghanem was one of 133 Palestinians killed in various ways that
year. According to the Palestinian statistics the causes of death were:
shot in the street, explosion, tear gas, deliberately run over, hanged
in prison, shot in school, killed at home et cetera. The 133 people killed
were between four months to 88 years old. Only half of them, 69 victims,
went through postmortem examination. The routine autopsy of killed Palestinians
- of which the army spokesperson was talking - has no bearing on the reality
in the occupied territories. The questions remain.
- We know that Israel has a great need for organs, that
there is a vast and illegal trade of organs which has been running for
many years now, that the authorities are aware of it and that doctors in
managing positions at the big hospitals participate, as well as civil servants
at various levels. We also know that young Palestinian men disappeared,
that they were brought back after five days, at night, under tremendous
secrecy, stitched back together after having been cut from abdomen to chin.
- It's time to bring clarity to this macabre business,
to shed light on what is going on and what has taken place in the territories
occupied by Israel since the Intifada began.
- Donald Boström
- This is the url of the original article http://www.aftonbladet.se/kultur/article5652583.ab