Varieties of Compassion: Haiti — Gaza

Akiva Eldar wrote an article entitled “Israel’s compassion in Haiti can’t hide our ugly face in Gaza” (Haaretz, January 18, 2010) in which he explains the contradiction in the public relations campaign conducted by Israel’s rulers in rescuing and treating victims of the earthquake in Haiti and the their utter indifference in relation to the suffering of the people of Gaza whose children, women and elderly die on a daily basis because of the lack of medicine and the destruction of hospitals and because Israeli authorities prevent food and medicine from entering Gaza.

Larry Derfner wrote in Jerusalem Post (20/01/2010) about the aid which Israel’s rulers hasten to send to Haiti now and which they sent to Rwanda years ago – with great efficiency – while many Israelis feel shame over the actions of their government in Gaza.  He wonders about the causes of the discrepancy between Israel’s efficiency in rescue and treatment actions in  disaster areas across the world and its shameful disregard of the disasters caused by successive Israeli governments against Palestinian civilians.

Catherine Philip wrote an analysis (Sunday Times, January 21, 2010) explaining that the Israeli government took advantage of the disaster in Haiti to conduct a public relations campaign to cover up the disgraceful Israeli crimes described in the Goldstone report on the Israeli war on Gaza.  She concludes that the earthquake was a natural disaster, while the collapse of the health system in Gaza and the hunger and destruction in Gaza were imposed by Israel and its allies on Gazan civilians.

The life of  unarmed Palestinian civilians in Gaza and the rest of Palestine has become  public relations material.  The life of Palestinians has no significance for Israel except in as much as it affects its interests and image in the West.  That is why they are preventing reporters, politicians, diplomats and human rights activists from going to Gaza so that they do not expose the disgraceful conditions under the blockade, and in order to be able to promote their lies about their concern for saving human life somewhere in the world.

Helping the victims of disasters has become now an occasion for launching public relations campaigns or achieving hidden political and military objectives.  People still fall victim to earthquakes, disasters, occupation, oppression and terrorism.  They also fall victim to campaigns which use their tragedy to achieve other purposes which have nothing to do with the value, importance, sanctity and dignity of human life.

After the Swedish journalist Donald Bostrom wrote about the Israeli army killing Palestinian youth in order to steal their organs, there were other media reports about Israelis stealing Ukrainian children for the same purpose.  Once again there are documented reports from Haiti that organs are being stolen by Israelis without international justice intervening to put an end to such criminal practices against vulnerable people.

The United States took advantage of the chaos in Haiti to tighten its control over the island.  Thus, we can see that the disaster in Haiti provided an opportunity to other parties to make a move on the public relations level or on the political and military level in order to turn facts on their head and project a glossy image of the causes of human suffering in different parts of the world.

We should also note the lack of Arab initiative, not only in terms of aid and rescue, but also in terms of standing up to the attempts of our enemies to bury the suffering of the Palestinian people and hide it from the eyes of the media and public opinion.  They use the Haiti disaster to cover up their crimes and blunt the impact of the Goldstone report and obstruct the launch of an international campaign in support of the Palestinian people.

The discrepancy in the Israeli official position towards the victims of the disaster in Haiti, on the one hand, and the victims of the blockade on Gaza and the war on Palestine for the past sixty years, on the other, should be highlighted and explained, particularly that Israel hastens to the assistance of any disaster-hit country – from Rwanda to Haiti – to cover up the great disaster which it caused and still causing to  people who used to live safely and peacefully on their land.

The suffering of the people of Haiti is the result of a natural disaster, while the increased suffering of the people of Gaza in its latest phase is a direct consequence of a hateful and racist shelling with phosphoric bombs and the destruction of schools, hospitals and houses.  In the same vein, the suffering of the residents of the Salwan and Jarrah neighborhoods is the result of a racist settler colonialism which sees only Jews in humanity.  It is implemented by Israeli powers which believe in racist supremacy and religious fanaticism.

So far, no language has been able to describe this conflict and convey its nature to the minds and hearts of people all over the world.  Disaster is being used as a commodity in public relations campaigns.  If this is evidence of anything, it is evidence of a declining level of the feeling of responsibility and the distortion which has characterized political processes in recent years.

Hence, the tragedy becomes greater and the suffering longer because of the difficulty of conveying the real picture of what is happening to people all over the world.  Even allowing concerned people to see what is happening becomes subject to bargaining as a result of the meticulous calculations of the political objectives of what is being done.

Thus American officials as well as, the media speak about the duties of the Palestinians and the Israelis towards the peace process, forgetful of the fact that the Palestinians are prisoners of a racist occupation and subject to collective punishment and genocide, while others are involved in propaganda campaigns to prevent the achievement of justice and the realization of the legitimate aspirations of innocent people who simply want to live in freedom and dignity. Next time you hear or read “both sides” or hear an obligation related to “Palestinians and Israelis” by Western officials beware of the deliberate confusion planned between the killer “Israelis” and the victims “Palestinians”.

What each and every one of us can do is to stand for human integrity and dismiss all the propaganda designed and marketed by the enemies of justice and sacred human rights.

REf:Counterpunch

Bouthaina Shaaban is Political and Media Advisor at the Syrian Presidency, and former Minister of Expatriates. She is also a writer and professor at Damascus University since 1985. She has been the spokesperson for Syria and was nominated for Nobel Peace Prize in 2005. She can be reached through nizar_kabibo@yahoo.com

Israeli organ theft: Articles Which Threaten Israeli Security

The investigative report written by Swedish journalist Donald Boström and published in Sweden’s largest newspaper Aftonbladet about Israeli occupation forces killing Palestinians with the objective of stealing their organs raised a political and media storm in Israel meant to cover up a horrible crime perpetrated for years under the full gaze of the ‘free’ world.

These criminal acts began in 1992 when Palestinians started to witness a sharp rise in the number of young Palestinians disappearing and of bodies of Palestinians killed by occupation forces being returned with organs like hearts, kidneys, livers and eyes missing.

“I was in the area at the time, working on a book”, Boström writes. “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…. I traveled 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 Ghanam”.

Bilal, 19, was one of 133 Palestinians killed in various ways that year; 69 of them went through postmortem examination. Boström describes in detail how Israeli occupation soldiers targeted Bilal, a leader of the stone-throwing children, at midnight on May 13, 1992, shot him first in the chest and he was subsequently shot with one bullet in each leg. Two soldiers then shot Bilal in the stomach. Finally, they grabbed him by his feet, dragged him, then loaded him in a jeep and drove him to the outskirts of the village, where a military helicopter waited. He was flown to an unknown destination. Five days later he came back, dead and wrapped in green hospital fabric.

It was clear that Bilal’s body was slit from his abdomen up to his chin. The families and relatives of Khaled from Nablus, the mother of Raed from Jenin and the uncles of Mahmood and Nafez from Gaza, all talked to Boström about their children who had all disappeared for a number of days only to return at night, dead and autopsied.

Investigations in New Jersey, have proved that Rabbi Levy-Izhak (Isaac Rosenbaum) from Brooklyn and other rabbis have run for years Soprano-like networks to sell the kidneys of Palestinian martyrs in the US black market. Patients in the United States paid up to US$ 160,000 per kidney. In 2003, a medical conference showed that Israel is the only country in the world in which the medical profession does not condemn stealing human organs and does not act against those involved in such a crime. On the contrary, and as was revealed by a Dagens Nyheter report on December 5, 2003 and the Aftonbladet report of August 17, 2009, prominent doctors in major Israeli hospitals steal and transplant organs routinely.

When asked about the number of bodies sold by rabbi Rosenbaum, he answers proudly, “we are talking about a very large number,” and that his company has worked in this field “for a long period of time”. Francis Delmonici, professor of transplant surgery at Harvard University confirms that organ trafficking is widespread in Israel and believes that there is sufficient evidence to ask the International Criminal Court to investigate Israeli crimes.

Israeli media has turned the results shown by Aftonbladet’s investigative report into a diplomatic crisis between Sweden and Israel instead of demanding an end to this atrocious crime and bringing those corrupt criminals to justice. Headlines highlighted that the Swedish prime minister refused to apologize and that Donald Boström refused to withdraw the report despite the fact that he received death threats. The question, however, is what should the Swedish prime minister apologize for? Israel, not Sweden, is accused of killing young people, stealing and trafficking in their organs; and it is Israel which should be put on trial.

They behaved in the same way with Mary Robinson and others who defended the rights of the Palestinians. They raised a media storm about president Obama awarding her the Medal of Freedom because she took a courageous stand in support of justice in Palestine. They behaved in the same way towards the author of this article because she wrote a column in Asharq al-Awsat newspaper in which she lauded Robinson’s courage in defense of human rights. Jerusalem Post published an article against me on August 17, 2009 which is full of incitement and accusations which aim at creating negative preconceived ideas about the author.

The question here is why the Jerusalem Post article ignored mentioning the Swedish foreign minister Anna Maria Lindh who I mentioned with Mary Robinson in my article, and who also took honorable stances in support of justice in Palestine, was arrested several times by Israeli occupation forces in the West Bank and was then assassinated in ambiguous circumstances.

This means that official circles in Israel divert attention from an atrocious crime committed against unarmed civilian Palestinians for over sixty years to a mere article which causes a diplomatic standoff. The same circles instruct the Jerusalem Post to attack my article which calls for honoring honest leaders of the world, like Mary Robinson, for defending justice.

Has the world read about how Israel interrogates Palestinian women prisoners after stripping them naked in order to humiliate them? Is writing about them and defending their dignity a form of anti-Semitism and hostility towards Israel and the United States? And why do Israeli media implicate the United States in such crimes?

Despite the ferocious official Israeli campaign to silent free and honest individuals, the circle of those who believe in justice and freedom is getting wider. These are not only politicians, academics and journalists who are targeted by Israeli death or defamation squads who assassinate or muzzle them; they are the vanguard of a global movement to liberate the Palestinian people from this ugly barbarianism. The great thing is that they come from all religions and nationalities; and they will be remembered by history as the first to dare carry the torch of supporting freedom and justice for Palestinians. And surely, no one will remember those who fabricate charges and wage cheap propaganda against human beings, human rights, human dignity and freedom.

VIDEO: Swedish Journalist on Israeli organ harvesting + Our Sons Plundered for Their Organs

Palestinian Mothers interview of the Swedish Journalist Donald Bostrom about the Israeli organ harvesting, threats on his life, and ethics of journalism and democracy


Our Sons Plundered for Their Organs
You could call me a ‘matchmaker,’ said Levy Izhak 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, from poor people. He then proceeds to sell the organs to desperate patients in the States for $160,000. 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 war crimes.

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 5, 2003).

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 post mortem 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 open.

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 Achmed 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 Achmed 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 past 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 Machmod and Nafes from Gaza, who had all disappeared for a number of days only to return at night, dead and autopsied.

“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?” Nafe’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 Achmed 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 etcetera. 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 is a Swedish photojournalist, graphic artist and writer. He is a contributor to the Social-democratic evening paper Aftonbladet. He contributed this article (originally published in Swedish, August 17th, in Alfonbladet) to PalestineChronicle.com.