International Middle East Media Center
Thu, 08 Apr 2010 20:06 EDT
According to Israeli police reports, six suspects were arrested in a sting operation of the organ trafficking ring on Wednesday, including two lawyers and a retired Brigadier General from the Israeli military who was the recipient of a Medal of Valour in the 1967 war.
"We ran an undercover investigation and we were shocked by the proportions of this", said Israeli police superintendent Ahron Galor. The six suspects arrested in the raid have had their remand extended for an additional six days, according to the Magistrate for the District of Nazareth in northern Israel.
The lawyers involved in the scandal allegedly forged documents, including Israeli medical records and travel documents, in order for desperate Palestinians with Israeli citizenship to travel abroad to have a kidney or other organ removed. The trafficking ring would then sell the organ in Israel or abroad for $140,000. This meant quite a profit for those involved, as the person would be paid as little as $20,000 for their organ.
Several victims were named in the case, including a 50-year old woman from Nazareth who was flown to Azerbaijan to have her kidney removed, and was promised $100,000, which she never received. An 18-year old teen was flown to the Philippines, and offered $80,000, which he never received.
This is not the first time an Israeli organ-trafficking ring has been uncovered - despite Israeli claims that such allegations are 'blood libel' and 'anti-Semitism'. When the Swedish paper Aftonbladet published an article in August 2009 quoting Palestinian sources who claimed that loved ones who were killed during Israeli military operations sometimes had their bodies returned with missing organs. The article raised an uproar, including calls for censorship by the Israeli government, petitions for the removal of the article's author signed by the heads of major Jewish organizations, the recall of the Israeli ambassador to Sweden, and numerous op-eds asserting that the article was indicative of a trend of 'growing anti-Semitism' in Sweden and throughout Europe. But months afterward, when a video surfaced documenting Israel's chief pathologist confirming the claims made in the Aftonbladet article, few media outlets reported it.
When the US Federal Bureau of Investigation busted a major crime ring in New Jersey in July 2009, including Rabbis, Mayors and Congressmembers, one of the most shocking parts of the crime ring was the exposure of an international organ trafficking trade between Israel, the US and other countries around the globe, led by Levy Itzak Rosenbaum of Brooklyn. At that time, the leading expert in organ trafficking in the US, Professor Nancy Scheper-Hughes, said that she was not surprised by Rosenbaum's arrest, adding that she had told law enforcement agencies about his involvement in organ trafficking way back in 2001. But according to Scheper-Hughes, although most of the trade originated in Israel, "It was a public secret," she said, "It was normalized in Israel."