Thursday, September 10, 2009
Investigate Possible Israeli War Crimes
Background: In late July, FBI Special Agent Robert J. Cooke filed a criminal complaint in US District Court (District of New Jersey) against Levy Izhak Rosenbaum. The complaint alleges that Rosenbaum unlawfully conspired "to acquire, receive, and otherwise transfer human organs for valuable consideration for use in human transplantation ... and did an act to effect the object of the conspiracy." Rosenbaum is quoted as indicating that he had been procuring human organs for "ten years" and that there are "people over there [in Israel] hunting" for organs. The Rosenbaum case was part of broader corruption and money-laundering case that garnered international media attention.
On August 17, 2009, a Swedish newspaper, Aftonbladet, published "Our sons plundered for their organs," an article by veteran Middle East photojournalist Donald Boström. Boström indicates that the organ trafficking charges against Rosenbaum inspired him to bring to light his experiences in the West Bank and Gaza Strip 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. ... The families ... felt that they knew exactly what had happened: 'Our sons are used as involuntary organ donors,' relatives of Khalid 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." Although Boström does not assert the factuality of the Palestinian accusations he does note that the charge that Palestinians are being used as Israel's "organ reserve" is "a very serious accusation, with enough question marks to motivate the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to start an investigation about possible war crimes."
It requires no great leap of logic or imagination to go from "support and direct involvement of the Israeli Ministry of Defense" in illegal Israeli organ transplantations abroad to Israeli military involvement in the harvesting of organs from Palestinians in territories under Israeli military occupation. And as it turns out, just a little more than a year after Scheper-Hughes gave her testimony, Israel's Chief Pathologist and Director of the national Institute of Forensic Medicine in Tel Aviv, Dr. Yehuda Hiss, was investigated for "for suspicions including the removal of organs from 81 deceased persons without familial consent." The Israeli news network, Arutz Sheva, reports in 2005, Hiss agreed to a plea bargain with Israel prosecutors. It say: "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."
As people deeply concerned with human rights, we believe it is essential to listen respectfully when many members of a population speak about war crimes committed against them. Therefore, we support Donald Boström and the editor and publisher of Aftonbladet in their decision to publish "Our sons plundered for their organs." We salute the Swedish government in refusing to submit to Israeli pressure and undermine the fundamental rights of freedom of the press and freedom of expression. We support calls for a thorough investigation into allegations that Israelis have removed organs from Palestinians in violation of international humanitarian law. We urge the International Committee of the Red Cross, the International Court of Justice, and other competent tribunals to undertake a thorough, impartial investigation of these charges.