Israeli Organ Harvesting: The New Blood Libel

Mark Van Doren wrote in Liberal Education in 1943, “Respect for the truth is an acquired taste.” When it comes to anti-Semitism, there is little respect for the truth and taste is never something that has been acquired by its practitioners. These notions have become alarmingly true with the anti-Semitic canard circling the world today, the fiction of Israeli organ harvesting.

On August 17, 2009, Aftonbladet, the Swedish daily newspaper, published a story, alleging that a campaign began in 1992 to harvest organs of Palestinians because of a severe shortage of available organs for transplant in Israel. “While the campaign was running, young Palestinian men started to disappear from villages in the West Bank and Gaza,” wrote Donald Bostrom. “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.” The paper soon published a second story on the subject.

Soon the story spread to allegations of Algerian students being kidnapped off the streets for their organs. Aljazeera covered it as fact, as did other Arabic language newspapers. Once printed, it spread like a forest fire across the Internet on websites like the Palestinian Think Tank. Kawther Salam, writing there on August 25, 2009 provided further details of the supposed practice. As the story goes, a Fatah peace activist Salman Hussein Al-Zamaareh, was arrested by Israel’s security service, the Shin Bet, in the village of Halhoul near Hebron.

Soon afterward, Al Zamaareh was said to have been murdered. Salam wrote further, “The family of Al-Zamaareh buried him in a grave in the cemetery of the village. A few hours after the burial, the IDF criminals went to the cemetery and opened three graves until they found his body, because they were not sure where he had been buried.” Salam concluded his article detailing, “The body of Mr. Al-Zamaareh was returned to his family stuffed with cotton.”

The Palestinian Authority took action on these falsehoods. According to a September 10, 2009 statement by WAFA , the official Palestinian Authority News Agency, “The Arab League Council publishes resolutions supporting the Palestinian issue and demands an investigation into the theft of the organs of our Shahids (Martyrs). At the conclusion of its assembly in Cairo a short time ago, the Council of Arab Foreign Ministers published a series of resolutions in support of the Palestinian people. In addition, they demanded an investigation of Israel’s crimes of stealing organs of Palestinian Shahids (Martyrs). They demanded the establishment of a UN Fact-Finding Mission in order to confirm that Israeli government gangs have stolen the organs of many Arab inhabitants, and to provide Arab and international aid to the [Palestinian] national committees that would be set up to investigate these crimes.”

In November 2009, Allison Weir continued the story in the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs by writing quite blithely, “The fact is, however, that Israeli organ harvesting—sometimes with Israeli governmental funding and the participation of high Israeli officials, prominent Israeli physicians, and Israeli ministries—has been documented for many years. Among the victims have been Palestinians.”
Finally, on November 26, 2009 at a pseudo academic conference in Kiev, philosophy professor Vyacheslav Gudin, boldly claimed that Israel had brought 25,000 Ukrainian children into the country for the express purpose of organ harvesting. A right-wing group in Ukraine that blames the 1930s era Soviet-imposed famine on the Jews sponsored the conference Gudin spoke at.

Anti-Semitism is about conspiracy and blame spread by small minds. The accusations laid at the Jews throughout history never had to be true, they just had to be repeated enough and they were accepted as fact. Accusations of organ harvesting by Israel, seen now as the “collective Jew,” is a modern-day equivalent of the infamous Blood Libel, whereby Jews were accused of killing Christian children for their blood either to drink or to make matzah with it. There are other versions of the slander as well. When I was in Saudi Arabia in 2007 in my capacity as the US Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, I was asked if Jews made their pastries with blood.

It is amazing that such absurdity continues to abound. The more ridiculous the claim, the more readily the lie about Jews seems to be accepted. What makes this ancient practice of anti-Semitism all the worse is that it is so aided by the Internet where it spreads virally around the planet to wanting believers of anti-Semitism like the fiction of Israeli organ harvesting.

Cutting Edge contributor Gregg J. Rickman served as the first U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism from 2006-2009. He is a Senior Fellow for the Study and Combat of Anti-Semitism at the Institute on Religion and Policy in Washington, DC; a Visiting Fellow at The Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut; and a Research Scholar at the Initiative on Anti-Semitism and Anti-Israelism of the Institute for Jewish & Community Research in San Francisco.