January 6, 2010 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 823

Arab Reactions to Aftonbladet Report Accusing Israel of Trafficking in Palestinians' Organs

January 6, 2010 | By L. Barkan*
Palestinians | Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 823


In mid-August 2009, Swedish journalist Donald Bostrom published in the newspaper Aftonbladet
an investigative article in which he accused the Israeli army of abducting and murdering Palestinians with the aim of harvesting and selling their organs . The article sparked a wave of reactions throughout the world, including in the Arab countries and the PA. Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayadh demanded the establishment of an investigative committee to determine the truth of the allegations, consisting of the PA's foreign, interior and health ministers,[1] while the Arab League demanded the establishment of an international investigative committee.[2]

The following are excerpts from some of the reactions to the affair in the Palestinian and Arab press.

Palestinian Reactions:

PA Prisoners Affairs Minister: Legal Action Must Be Taken against Israel

PA Minister of Prisoners Affairs 'Issa Qaraqe' claimed that Israel kept the bodies of Palestinians in order to experiment on them and remove their organs, and later buried the bodies in secret cemeteries. He called for legal action against Israel, saying, "The Palestinian government's decision to form an investigative committee on this issue is an excellent and correct one, in light of the many testimonies and considerable evidence indicating that Palestinian shahids were returned to their families with organs missing.

"In light of this decision, it is important to begin taking testimonies and collecting information, proof, and medical records in preparation for the next step, which is taking legal action against the Israeli government at international courts, [and suing it] for the inhuman war crimes it is committing even against the dead... The Palestinians have the right to accuse Israel of holding corpses for the purpose of harvesting organs or performing medical experiments upon them. Burying these corpses in secret cemeteries is an attempt [on Israel's part] to conceal the evidence of the crime and avoid a [criminal] investigation. Israel returns the bodies many years later when they have turned to dust, and nobody knows what the bodies underwent [immediately after] death... Israel is the only country in the world that has secret cemeteries... It is forbidden to visit them or investigate them, which strengthens the assumption that serious [crimes] have been and are still being perpetrated against our Palestinian shahids...

"I call to establish a special judiciary body whose sole task will be to [gather] proof of all the Israeli actions that amount to war crimes, including the issue of concealing corpses and stealing organs, as well as [carrying out] field executions, etc."[3]

Official in PA Prisoners Affairs Ministry: Israel Stole Organs and Concealed Bodies

'Abd Al-Nasser Farwana, director of the department of statistics in the PA Prisoners Affairs Ministry, who is himself a former prisoner, stated that Israel had stolen organs from the bodies of hundreds of detainees who had been killed in custody for this very purpose, and then buried in secret graves to hide the evidence of murder and organ harvesting. He stated that Israel had returned the bodies with incisions from the neck to the abdomen, and had forced the families to bury them without examining them, during the night curfew and under armed guard, with only a few people allowed to attend the burial.[4] Farwana called on the Palestinians to flood the media with reports and investigative articles confirming the claims of Bostrom's report, and to condemn the Israelis for their crimes against the Palestinians.[5]

Gaza-Based Organization: Organs Are Stolen for Medical Experiments

Nashat Al-Wahidi, coordinator of the Gaza-based Movement for the Defense of Palestinian Prisoners and member of the Gaza Popular Committees secretariat, stated that Israel performed experiments upon the bodies of deceased Palestinians, and stole their organs in order to transplant them in the bodies of sick settlers. Israel, he added, has been keeping bodies in unbefitting conditions for thirty years, and refusing to return them to the families, though it denies these facts.[6]

Palestinian Columnist in Syrian Daily: Israel Uses Palestinians' Organs because Jewish Law Forbids the Removal of Organs from the Bodies of Jews

Palestinian columnist and former prisoner Tahsin Al-Halabi, who resides in Syria, explained that Israel stole Palestinian organs because the Jewish religious law forbade taking organs from the bodies of Jews. "The rabbis in Israel," he wrote, "forbid the Jews in Israel and in the world to give up their organs when they die, and based on the tenets of their faith, [which appear] in the Talmud, they believe that removing organs from the bodies of Jews is a violation of the religious laws. That is why the [Israeli] hospitals, and especially the commanders of the Israeli army, call to obtain organs in another way, not from Jews... The hospitals recognize the need to change the rabbis' outlook, [and convince them] to permit the religious and traditional Jews to donate organs... Some rabbis who are considered relatively moderate have permitted to transplant organs taken from a non-Jew in the body of a Jew...

"With the advent of advanced medical machinery, surgery [procedures] and medications, organ trafficking has become a prevalent [phenomenon] in the world, and that is why Israel can traffic in organs at the Palestinians' expense, and thanks to the presence of the occupation army among [the Palestinians]."[7]

Writer in Hamas-Affiliated Website: The Jews Used to Butcher Christian and Muslim Children to Use Their Blood for Passover Matzos; Now a New Crime Has Been Exposed

Wael 'Abd Al-Razzaq Al-Mana'ama, who writes on a Hamas-affiliated website, implied that the Jews stole Palestinian organs just as they had butchered Christian children in Europe in order to use their blood to bake matzos: "History has probably seen hundreds of cases in which Jews kidnapped and butchered Christian and Muslim children in order to take their blood and mix it into the dough from which they made their Passover matzos. It happened in Britain, France, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, Italy and other countries, where the Jews lived in isolation out of fear of mixing with the other nations. This caused all the world's peoples and governments, without exception, to hate them for their crimes...

"The colonialist countries, led by Britain, wanted to get rid of the Jews, and therefore worked to build them a national homeland on Palestinian soil... an entity that was doomed to die from the moment it was born...

"Now a new crime, which is not unlikely, has been exposed, to join the long roster of the Zionists' crimes against our jihad-waging Palestinian nation, [namely the crime of] stealing the organs of Palestinians that have been killed... [This act] contravenes all the international charters that defend human [dignity] in life and in death...

"Let's think back to the first intifada, which started in 1987... Usually, when [the occupation forces] managed to get their hands on a body [of a Palestinian], they would take it to the Abu Kabir pathological institute, on the pretext of doing an autopsy to ascertain the cause of death. The body then stayed [there] for a few days or even a week before the family could retrieve it and bury it. In that period, dozens of family members testified that when they received the bodies of their sons, [they found] them to be stuffed with cotton wool after the enemy had sutured them from top to bottom and from side to side."[8]

Reactions in Arab World

Egyptian, Jordanian Doctors' Unions Condemn Israel

Following the publication of Bostrom's article, the Egyptian Doctors Union announced that it would organize an Arab and international campaign to condemn Israel's "stealing of Palestinian organs." Union official 'Abd Al-Qader Hijazi explained that the removal of organs, which could only be performed by medical experts, contravened every international and humanitarian norm, as well as the ethics of the medical profession. He added that the Jordanian doctors union had approached the Egyptian union with a request to coordinate their actions in condemning the Israeli doctors who were committing these crimes.[9]

Bostrom Receives Algerian Courageous Journalism Award

In mid-September 2009, Donald Bostrom visited a series of Arab countries that wished to honor and encourage him. The first stop on his tour was Algeria, where he received a warm welcome from 'Abd Al-'Aziz Balkhadem, representative of President Bouteflika. Algeria's journalists union awarded him the Courageous Journalism Award and a $5,000 prize.[10]

Syrian Columnist: The Zionists Are Thirsty for Murder and Terrorism

Hussein Saqer, columnist for the Syrian daily Al-Thawra, wrote: "These reports... prove to what extent the Zionists thirst and yearn for murder, destruction and terrorism. They also prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the history of our enemy, the [Zionist] entity, is based on the destruction of the other and of his life-spirit."[11]

Saudi Daily: The Swedish Government Is Worthy of Praise and Emulation

In an editorial, the Saudi daily Al-Watan called to praise the Swedish government for refusing to condemn the publication of Bostrom's article:

"The courageous position taken by the Swedish government, which champions [the cause of] free speech, especially when it comes to Israel, is [a position] worthy of support... One of the important steps in the struggle against Israel is breaking the global media legitimacy that [Israel] has gained, and [utilizing] the option of criticizing and attacking it in the media... [so as to] double the impact of reports [like Bostrom's]. The Israeli-Arab conflict has clearly become a media conflict, and there is no denying the considerable influence that the media and world public opinion have in determining the direction taken in resolving the conflict... The crucial thing is to subject Israel to intense [public] pressure. The Arabs lack many of the tools necessary to generate this pressure, but the West does it for us from time to time, and we must take advantage of such opportunities."[12]

*L. Barkan is a Research Fellow at MEMRI.


[1], September 4, 2009.

[2] Al-Watan (Syria), September 28, 2009.

[3] Al-Quds (Jerusalem), September 6, 2009.

[4] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), September 6, 2009.

[5] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), August 25, 2009.

[6] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), August 20, 2009.

[7] Al-Watan (Syria), August 25, 2009.

[8], August 31, 2009.

[9], September 7, 2009.

[10] Al-Arabiya,, September 17, 2009. It should be noted that there were no reports on the rest of Boston's tour. However, during a visit to Syria he expressed his disappointment that the Arab governments, and especially the PA, had done nothing to help the families of the Palestinian victims, even though they had known about the phenomena described in his article. Al-Watan (Syria), October 12, 2009.

[11] Al-Thawra (Syria), September 18, 2009.

[12] Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), September 3, 2009.

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