Israelis arrested for human organ trafficking

Ten Israelis were arrested on suspicion of human organ trafficking.

Tuesday’s arrests of alleged participants in an international organ harvesting ring came after an undercover operation of several months.

The Israelis arrested allegedly recruited poor Israelis to sell their kidneys for relatively meager sums for use in surgeries in Azerbaijan, Kosovo and other countries. They are also expected to be charged with extortion and tax evasion.

Swedish FM cancels trip to Israel

Sweden’s foreign minister canceled a scheduled trip to Israel.

Saturday night’s cancellation of Carl Bildt’s trip scheduled for Sept. 11 comes on the heels of disintegrating relations between the two countries over the publication in a Swedish newspaper of an article alleging that Israeli soldiers harvested the organs of Palestinians they killed. Bildt has refused to condemn the publication of the article, citing freedom of the press. Israel calls it a blood libel.

Swedish officials told several media outlets that the visit was canceled until after the United Nations General Assembly later this month and would be rescheduled in the hopes that there would be more progress in the Middle East peace process. They denied the controversy over the article was the cause of the cancellation.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry told Ha’aretz the trip was canceled due to the Swedish government’s concern that Bildt would be shunned during his visit.

Sweden currently holds the European Union’s rotating presidency. The presidency is scheduled to be taken over by Spain, whose foreign minister on Saturday condemned an interview in a major Spanish newspaper with known Holocaust denier David Irving.

Swedish paper published modern-day blood libel

With the Palestinian family cited in the Swedish daily Aftonbladet now denying ever claiming that their son’s organs were “stolen” by the Israeli military, maybe the lurid and grotesque accusation published by the newspaper in mid-August will disappear.

Maybe the idea of an international Jewish conspiracy stretching from Israel to New Jersey harvesting the flesh of Palestinian innocents will be forgotten except as a 21st-century footnote to the odious blood libel tradition. It’s a tradition that dates back to Apion of Alexandria, a contemporary of Jesus who accused Jews of kidnapping non-Jewish captives to be fattened and eaten at the Sabbath feast.

But perhaps this screed is only a harbinger of a new epidemic of lies against Jews the likes of which we haven’t seen since the days of Hitler and Stalin.

During the Middle Ages, the libel of Jewish ritual murder was carved into the very stones of Frankfurt’s city wall. In 2009, it’s hard to see a difference between the virulent hostility toward the Jewish state by Sweden’s largest left-leaning paper and the newspaper of the country’s far right, the Svenska Motstandsrorelsen.

Sweden’s ambassador to Israel immediately denounced the obviously phony blood libel, but then had the ground cut out from under her by her own government’s assertion that it had to stand behind “constitutionally protected free speech.”

What a curious time to stand behind freedom of the press. During World War II, Stockholm took a different view when it censored newspapers to prevent publication of stories critical of “neutral” Sweden providing Nazi Germany with iron ore and ball bearings, as well as safe passage for German soldiers posing as Red Cross personnel.

Are the baseless charges splashed across a double spread in the style section of Aftonbladet anti-Semitic? Of course, but that’s not the worst of it.

Sweden’s government, through its defense of the indefensible, has sanctioned Aftonbladet’s trafficking in political anti-Semitism—a very different beast than the everyday kind of prejudice still experienced by Jews or African Americans and other minorities.

Historically, this virulent ideology not only has justified social and economic discrimination against Jews. In Europe, it also opened the door to ghettoization, pogroms, deportations, yellow stars and, ultimately, mass murder.

Make no mistake about it, there is an international conspiracy afoot in the 21st century, but it’s a not a secret Jewish plot out of the pages of “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” It’s an open coalition of Palestinian extremists and their collaborators in Europe and North America who don’t even try to hide their coordinated efforts to make Israel into a pariah state—“the Jew among nations”—as a prelude to elimination.

For 20 years, Palestinian extremists and their Mideast allies, including Tehran’s mullah-cracy, have been accusing Israelis and Jews of murdering non-Jewish innocents to profit from their blood. A few years ago, the Iran government’s TV channel Sahara aired a weekly drama titled “Zahra’s Blue Eyes” that portrayed “Zionist” doctors kidnapping little Palestinian children to harvest their organs.

These fantasies, increasingly marketed as fact, are part of a broader Palestinian hate literature claiming that the AIDS virus is an Israeli ethnic bomb designed to selectively murder Africans and Arabs. There is even the new charge in Palestinian media outlets funded by the governments of Denmark and the Netherlands that the swine flu is an Israeli/Jewish conspiracy.

Worthy of winning our new Ignoble Prize for this year’s vilest anti-Jewish libel, Aftonbladet has managed to mainstream a favorite Palestine libel, as well as update it, by accusing New Jersey rabbis arrested for money laundering of involvement with Israeli soldiers in an international Jewish organ harvesting ring.

The revived libel has now made the leap from medieval times, resurfacing in postmodern Europe.

(Rabbi Abraham Cooper is associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Historian Harold Brackman is a consultant to the Simon Wiesenthal Center.)

Donation of Organs Has Support of Most Rabbis

It was a decision based on a widespread misunderstanding in the Jewish community, locally and nationally. A young boy not yet 10 years old lay brain dead in a Los Angeles hospital after suffering a severe head injury in an accident. The attending physician explained to the parents that their son was brain dead.

Then a representative of the organization that arranges organ donations in the Los Angeles area approached the boy’s parents and discussed the possibility of having their son’s organs donated; by doing so, they were told, the lives of as many as eight people might be saved.

The parents gave their consent. Shortly thereafter, their rabbi paid a visit to them in the hospital. When they told him about agreeing to have the son’s organs donated, he quickly responded:

“Oh, absolutely not. You can’t donate organs. You’re Jewish.”

At that, the parents rescinded their offer to donate.

Now, as the chief executive of the organ procurement organization serving most of Southern California, I was distressed to learn about the parents’ change of heart. Not only did it mean that several people on waiting lists for organs might die; it also deprived the parents of the comfort that would come from having their son leave a legacy of generosity.

But their withdrawal of consent didn’t surprise me. While most Jews and Jewish organizations support organ donation, there are still some Orthodox groups that ardently oppose it.

Although I’m a non-Jew, I have become aware of nivul hamet, the biblical prohibition against the needless mutilation of a cadaver. According to the Halachic Organ Donor Society (HODS), this prohibition is the reason why autopsies should not be performed on Jews.

I’m also aware of halanat hamet, a biblical prohibition against delaying burial of a body, and hana’at hamet, a prohibition — some say biblical; others say rabbinical — against anyone benefiting from a dead body, such as selling it for medical research.

But as the HODS points out, a basic tenet of Jewish law — pikuach nefesh — overrides both of these prohibitions and commandments because it says: “Save one life and it is as if you have saved the entire world.”

HODS, on its Web site, goes on to note that rabbis who object to organ donation do not do so on the basis that a body must be buried whole. Rather, says HODS, “Their objection makes sense if they believed that organ donation was taking critical organs from a live person, and that would, in effect, be killing the person.”

But it is very clear in law and medical practice around the world that brain death is, in fact, “death,” a determination that was confirmed just a few weeks ago by the President’s Council on Bioethics.

And the distinguished Orthodox rabbis who support organ donation through HODS strongly agree that brain death is death and disagree with those who contend it’s wrong to take organs from a person who is brain dead but whose heart is still beating. In the Winter 2008 issue of the national publication, Jewish Action, HODS says these rabbis “all agree that brain-stem death [the medical requirement for a brain death declaration] is halachic death, even though the heart is still beating [because it is supported by mechanical ventilation] — and [they] support organ donation.”

(The six rabbis quoted by HODS are Shaul Yisraeli z”l, former dayan, Chief Rabbinate of Israel; Dovid Shloosh, chief rabbi of Netanya; Avraham Shapira z”l, former Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Israel; Shlomo Amar, Sephardic chief rabbi of Israel; Ovadya Yosef, former Sephardic chief rabbi of Israel; and Mordechai Eliyahu, former Sephardic chief rabbi of Israel.)

It is my fond hope that this discussion will clear up the misunderstandings harbored by some members of the Los Angeles Jewish community. At any given moment, there are some 100,000 people, many of them Jews, on those waiting lists for organs. A decision to donate by families who lose loved ones to brain death will enable many of those desperately needy people to live. 

Thomas D. Mone is chief executive officer of OneLegacy, the organ procurement organization serving Los Angeles County and six other Southern California counties. He is also past president of the Association of Organ Procurement Organizations (OPOs), which comprises OneLegacy and 57 other federally designated OPOs, and is a director of UNOS, the United Network for Organ Sharing.