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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Exclusive translation: The article that rocked Israel and Sweden

Swedish journalist Donald Bostrom caused an international incident with the publication of this article on allegations that Israel illegally harvested organs from Palestinians in the early 1990s. The Israeli reaction was predictably furious and indignant:
"The article was a shocking piece of blatant racism," Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told CNN on Wednesday.

"This kind of medieval blood libel cannot be tolerated in any society and the Swedish public and government have to condemn and reject this appalling [incitation] before it actually encourages someone to commit hate crimes."

Israel -- through its ambassador in Stockholm, Sweden -- is asking Sweden's government to condemn the article, Palmor said.
The Huffington Post, which did not bother to deal with the substance of the piece, also dismissed Bostrom's article as an anti-Semitic fabrication:
In Sweden, the article drew a critical editorial from a rival daily, Sydsvenskan, which said it followed the "usual template of a conspiracy theory."

Israel's ambassador to Sweden, Benny Dagan, said the piece did not indicate a climate of general hostility toward Israel.

"It's certain elements," he told Israel Radio. "It's not all Sweden or mainstream Sweden or the Swedish parliament."
That, in my view, is a rather condescending attitude.

Bostrom's article was, in fact, based on an event he personally witnessed, and on eyewitness testimony he gathered while on assignment in the occupied territories in 1992. He also drew heavily from a piece published in the Jerusalem Post, which nobody ever mistook for Der Stürmer. His observations coincide with material gathered by respected author David Yallop, who was also covering the West Bank at that time. An earlier Cannonfire post quoted and discussed Yallop's investigation.

I urge readers not to form an impression of Bostrom's piece based on misleading reports. Judge the original for yourself. If you do, you will probably agree with my view that Bostrom writes to a high journalistic standard -- higher, certainly, than is the case with much of what passes for "news" in this country.

To call his piece "anti-Semitic" is to stretch the meaning of that term beyond the limits of elasticity. Bostrom's article also accuses China of harvesting organs from prisoners. As a little Googling will reveal, any number of writers have made the same claim -- yet no-one ever accuses those writers of harboring racist attitudes toward the Chinese.

I've taken the liberty of preparing a translation of the article. I do not know Swedish (aside from a few words picked up during my Ingmar Bergman phase), and thus had to rely on a comparison of three machine translations, along with some rather laborious word-for-word translation. I believe that this version accurately conveys the meaning of each sentence in idiomatic English. However, it is not a professional translation, and on a few occasions I had to guess at the author's intent. Those guesses were based on context and common sense. (I must confess to being unsure about the Swedish word here translated as "incisions.")

If you are fluent in Swedish, I urge you to offer suggestions for improvement. I will re-write and re-publish accordingly.

The translation appears below the asterisks.

* * *

Palestinians accuse the Israeli army of stealing body parts from its victims.

Donald Boström describes the international transplant scandal -- and how he himself became a witness to an assault on a 19-year-old boy.

“I am what you might call a ‘matchmaker,’" said Levy Izhak Rosenbaum of Brooklyn, USA, in a secret recording with an FBI agent he thought was a customer. Ten days later, at the end of July of this year, Rosenbaum was arrested in connection with a large tangle of corruption uncovered in New Jersey: Rabbis and trusted elected officials had for years engaged in money laundering and the illegal organ trade, and now the network was being rolled up like the mob on The Sopranos. Rosenbaum’s matchmaking was not about romance but about buying and selling kidneys from Israel on the black market. According to his own statement, he would buy body parts from the needy people in Israel for $10,000 and sell them to desperate patients in the U.S. for $160,000. The waiting time for a legal kidney transplant is an average of nine years.

The accusations have shaken the American transplant industry. If this is true, it is the first time organ trafficking has been documented in the U.S., say experts quoted in the [online] magazine New Jersey Real-Time News.

Asked how many organs he has sold, Rosenbaum responded: Quite a lot. Many. And I have never failed, he brags. His business has been going on for a very long time.

Francis Delmonici, Harvard Professor of Transplantation Surgery, and a board member of the National Kidney Foundation's Board of Directors, told the same publication that similar organ trafficking also occurs in Israel and elsewhere in the world. Roughly ten percent of the world’s 63,000 kidney transplantations are done illegally, says Delmonici.

Hot countries for this illegal activity include Pakistan, the Philippines and China, where it is believed that organs are taken from executed prisoners. But Palestinians also strongly suspect that their captured young men have undergone involuntary organ harvesting, just as occurs in Pakistan and China. This very serious allegation has many asking whether the ICJ (the International Court of Justice) should open an investigation into possible Israeli war crimes.

Israelis has recurrently ended up in hot water for its unethical way of dealing with organs and transplantation. Some countries, including France, cut off organ cooperation with Israel back in the 1990s, and the Jerusalem Post writes that "other countries in Europe are expected to follow France's example soon."

Half of the new kidneys implanted by Israelis since the early 2000's have been purchased illegally from Turkey, Eastern Europe or Latin America. Israeli health authorities have full knowledge of the business, but do nothing to stop it. A 2003 conference revealed that Israel is the only Western country whose medical profession does not condemn the illegal organ trade or take any legal action against the doctors involved in this criminal process. On the contrary, the chief doctors at major hospitals are involved in most illegal transplantations, according to Dagens Nyheter (December 5, 2003).

In the summer of 1992, in an attempt to overcome an organ shortage in the country, Ehud Olmert – then Israel’s minister of health -- instituted a major campaign to induce the Israeli population to become organ donors. Half a million pamphlets were distributed in local newspapers, inviting citizens to register to donate their organs after their death. Ehud Olmert was the first to sign up.

According to the Jerusalem Post, the campaign proved successful within a couple of weeks. No less than 35,000 people had registered; the usual number was 500 a month. But, as journalist Judy Siegel went on to note, the gap between supply and demand remained high. Five hundred people needed kidney transplants, but only 124 could undergo surgery. Of the 45 persons in need of a new liver, only three had the opportunity to undergo surgery in Israel.

During this organ donation campaign, young Palestinian men disappeared, only to be returned to their villages five days later, dead and bearing large sewn incisions.

Word of the incisions terrified the population in the West Bank and Gaza. There was talk of a dramatic increase in young men who would vanish, their autopsied bodies later receiving nocturnal funerals.

I was in the area, working on a book. On several occasions, I was contacted by UN staffers who were concerned about these developments. Those who contacted me believed that organ theft actually took place, but felt unable to act. On behalf of a television company, I then went around and spoke to a large number of Palestinian families in the West Bank and Gaza, who indicated that the bodies of their sons had been desecrated when they were killed. One of the examples I saw during this eerie trip was that of a young stone-thrower named Bilal Achmed Ghanan.

The clock was approaching midnight when engine sounds from Israeli forces were heard on the outskirts of the northern West Bank village of Imatin. The village's two thousand inhabitants awakened and stood as silent shadows. Some were on rooftops, others were behind their curtains, houses or trees, which gave protection in the dark during curfew but still offered a clear view of what would become a graveyard for the village's first martyr. The military had cut off all electricity around the village and the area was under military control – not even a cat could move outdoors without risking its life. The darkness and the deafening silence were broken only by a quiet sob, and I cannot remember if it was the cold or excitement that made us shiver.

Five days earlier, May 13, 1992, Israeli special forces had set up a carpenter’s shop for an ambush. The person that the special forces had been instructed to kill was 19-year-old Bilal Achmed Ghanan, one of those young Palestinians whose stone-throwing activities had made life difficult for the Israeli occupying power.

Bilal Ghanan had been one of the leading stone-throwers for a couple of years. This meant that he, along with other wanted stone-throwers, lived outdoors in the hills above Nablus. To be captured meant death, and all the stories about torture did not improve matters. Thus they remained in the mountains. But for some reason, on one unfortunate day in mid-May, Bilal came down and wandered unchecked through the village, passing the carpenter’s house. Why he came down that day was a question that not even his older brother Talal could answer. Perhaps he needed food and supplies.

Everything went according to plan for the Israeli special forces. They put out their cigarettes and set down their cans of Coca-Cola cans as they calmly aimed through the broken window. When Bilal was sufficiently close, they pulled their triggers. The first shot hit in the chest. According to villagers who witnessed the incident, he was then shot in each leg. Then two soldiers ran out of the carpenter’s shop and shot him once again in the stomach. Finally, they took Bilal by the feet and dragged him up the 20 steps of the stone staircase leading to the carpenter’s shop.

Villagers said that nearby people from both the UN and Red Crescent had heard the shots and had gone to the spot to take care of the injured. An argument about who would take care of the victim ended when the Israeli forces loaded the severely injured Bilal into a jeep and drove off to the village's outskirts. A military helicopter was seen carrying Bilal to an unknown destination.

Five days later he came back in the dark, dead and wrapped in green hospital fabrics. When a military column came down from the Bilal Abu Kabir autopsy center outside Tel Aviv and stopped at Bilal Ghanan’s final resting place, someone recognized Israeli Group Captain Yahya. "The most difficult of them all," this person whispered into my ear. When Captain Yahya’s men unloaded the body and exchanged the green fabric for a light cotton fabric, a few male relatives were chosen to perform the job of digging soil and mixing cement.

Along with the sharp sounds of shovels, we heard occasional laughter from the soldiers who were trading jokes with each other. When Bilal was laid out in his grave, his chest was uncovered -- and suddenly the abuse that he had undergone became clear to the handful of onlookers. Bilal was far from the first corpse with an incision from the abdomen to the chin. Speculation about the reason for this incision began to spread.

The affected Palestinian families in the West Bank and Gaza were sure about what had happened to their sons. Our sons are used as forced organ donors, I was told by relatives of Khaled from Nablus, and by the mother of Raed from Jenin, and by the uncles of Machmod and Nafes from Gaza. All of these young men had gone missing for a number of days only to be returned at night, killed and dissected.

Nafes’ outraged uncle had many questions: “Why do they keep the bodies up to five days before we can bury them? What happens to the bodies in the meantime? And why do an autopsy against our will, when the cause of death is obvious? And why bring the bodies back at night? And why the military escort? And why are burial areas closed off? And why do they cut off the electricity?”

The families of the killed Palestinian men are no longer in doubt.

A spokesman for the Israeli army said that allegations of organ theft were Palestinian fabrications. All killed Palestinians are routinely subject to autopsy, he said.

Bilal Achmed Ghanan was one of 133 Palestinians killed by various means that year. According to Palestinian statistics, those deaths occurred in a number of ways: shot in the street, explosions, beatings, tear gas, deliberately hit, hung in the jail, shot in the school, killed at home, etc. Of the 133 persons killed, aged four months to 88 years old, 69 had autopsies – i.e., only half of the dead. The army spokesman’s claim that killed Palestinians are routinely autopsied does not hold true in the Occupied Territories. Questions remain.

We know that the need for organs in Israel is large, that an extensive trade in illegal organ transplantation is ongoing, and that this trade has existed for a long time. We know that it occurs with the blessing of the authorities and the senior doctors at the major hospitals involved. And we know that when Palestinian young men disappeared, they were returned five days later -- in secrecy, at night – their bodies cut open and sewn back together.

The time has come to shed light on this macabre activity. We must learn what is going on and what has occurred in the Israeli occupied territories since the intifada started.

Donald Boström
I don't know how many of these organ 'donors' were Muslim rather than Christian. But not allowing burial for 5 days is shitting on Muslim cultural and religious requirements.

Have you read about mass murderer Harold Shipman in England and how Mohammed al-Masari alleged he was Jewish? This provides an interesting comparison: the Board of Deputies of British Jews was involved in the Shipman inquiry (as one of many organisations). Why?

Presumably officially they advised on squaring burial according to Jewish cultural & religious requirements with the need to wait longer if there's a question mark over how someone died. But they're not a religious organisation as such.

There's been a huge hasbara effort in Britain since the Gaza massacre, involving e.g. Home Office support for the Community Security Trust, a 'physical security' outfit which receives info from the police about security threats.

Another example is the move towards the 'AIPACisation' of the Brit parliament through a change in the function of the Commons Speaker's office. See John Bercow's unprecedented 'manifesto', calling for a 'two-way' process of "engagement, communication and interaction" between the Speaker's office and "voluntary bodies". What's that got to do with stopping MPs fiddling? Nothing!

For more context on the changing role of the Brit parliament, not just in explicit connection to the ridiculous "MPs' expenses" scandal, see the London Declaration on Antisemitism of Feb 2009. Produced by an inter-parliamentary commission, it's about combatting "the resurrection of the old language of prejudice and its modern manifestations –
in rhetoric and political action - against Jews, Jewish belief and practice and the State of Israel".

Resolution 1 is that

"Parliamentarians shall expose, challenge, and isolate political actors who engage in hate
against Jews and target the State of Israel as a Jewish collectivity".

Get it? Another resolution is that:

"Education Authorities should ensure that freedom of speech is upheld within the law and
to protect students and staff from illegal antisemitic discourse and a hostile environment in
whatever form it takes including calls for boycotts;

So calling for a boycott is now 'anti-Semitic'! 'Illegal discourse' remains undefined.

And this was shortly before the Gaza massacre. Coordinated? Does the bear shit in the woods?

There's also a crackdown on comparing Israeli crimes with Nazi ones. That's called 'playing the Nazi card'. See this.

"The European Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism should produce a
model statement that refutes the Nazi card point-by-point so that it can aid and inform those who
seek to challenge it."

Meanwhile, the BBC call the wall a "separation barrier".

The way the wind's blowing is clear: those in parliament, the media, the education sector, etc., should be too scared to speak out.

One person who wasn't was Baroness Tonge, foreign affairs spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats. Sacked on the spot.

I know I've mentioned it before, but it's such a light-thrower: the declaration by the huge majority of US 'parliamentarians', during the Gaza massacre, that the Zionist entity had 'the right to defend itself'.

Next time there's a Gaza-style massacre, one could easily envisage a similar declaration by 'parliamentarians' in Britain.

Lastly: it's not simply that the propaganda helped the Gaza effort; nowadays, wars and massacres can be planned with a view to achieving propagandist goals. The amount of 'help' Israel gets abroad has risen since Gaza - which is what the above is all about. Offence, not defence.
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If this were going on why return the bodies? To terrorize the Palestinians so they leave? That's the only reason that could make any kind sense as why advertise you are stealing body parts and invite more terror attacks? One Israeli gets a kidney and five die in a suicide attack?
The other thing about organ transplants is that the donor be healthy, not only to survive the surgery but to ensure the organ isn't contaminated with some parasite, bacteria, or virus. Living in squalor eating and drinking contaminated food and water doesn't make for healthy organs.
incision is correct. "Uppskuren" is the past form of "skära upp" meaning cut up. Incision is more a medical term while the original (cut up) is "rawer" and doesn't indicate if the cutting has been stitched or not.
I must say I have some difficulties with that story, particularly with the case of the "incised" guy.

If ones want to collect organs on somebody, you don't start shooting the person with high-velocity ammunition at close range and specially in the chest and stomach. Unless you are after collecting limbs or eyes, but that would be very visible.

There would be a much smarter method by arresting the guy for some pretext, than pretend that he died in jail by "accident" or "suicide", and that you had to perform an autopsy to ensure there was no "foul" play. Which of course wouldn't be.

Go and prove the contrary unless one asks for a second autopsy by an independent practitioner, which cannot be very current in occupied territories. And even if organs had be found removed, one could always say that it was necessary for analyses.

An explanation for the case quoted could be simply that the body is used for educational purposes by military forensics and that's about all. The delay in giving back the body is a form of humiliation. Because I wonder in what state the internal organs of the guy were after the described shooting.

Then that there is a dark cloud above Israel regarding the question of organ trafficking is another story.
This comment has been removed by the author.
I just canceled a comment which violated rule number 1. I'm not paid for this gig and won't publish insults on my own damn site. The comment obviously came from what I have called "the megaphonies." They've popped up here before, as a little intra-site searching will confirm.

But the insulting comment did make one important point: There is no "Group Captain" rank in the Israeli army. This was probably a translation error on my part. Near as I could tell -- and remember, I was consulting Swedish-English dictionaries on a word-by-word basis in the tough patches -- the original used the phrase "captain" and indicated that he was leading a group.

The commenter also said that the article engaged in "occupation porn." What is pornographic is, of course, the obscene policies of the Israeli occupiers. At any rate, I note that no-one has seen fit to repeat the canard that Bostrom engaged in anti-Semitism.
I can't say that I am convinced by the evidence in this article, and I agree that shooting someone before removing a kidney seems unlikely. That Palestineans believe that the Israelis are taking kidneys from their people may be a story but I'm not sure it's true.
I think you're looking at it backwards, Gary. Maybe it's not a matter of "Shoot him, but try to avoid the kidneys." Rather, it's "Okay, we have the corpse -- now let's see if the kidney is still usable."
Even a first year student of journalism should be able to see that the report is far from an eye-witness account. Did the reporter actually witness (of the soldiers)...
"They put out their cigarettes and set down their cans of Coca-Cola cans as they calmly aimed through the broken window." ...
It's even bad when evaluated on the level of a cheap novel!
the part that he describes so "dramatically" is what he actually witnessed whereas the parts attributed to various locals were obviously witnessed by them.

the group captain part actually reads as "the commander of the group captaian yahya"

if you have any other questions post them in the comments and ill check back
A couple of comments about the translation. First, you seem to be missing the quote at the beginning of the article, which appears to be the title. The quote says:

"Our sons have been plundered of their organs."

"Rabbis and trusted elected" -> "Rabbis and trusted elected officials"

Thanks, I have been looking for a translation for a while. I can read Swedish, but it takes time and a lot of references to a dictionary for me.
Joe: consider the publication of this report in the context of overall Swedish-Israeli relations...

...Allegations are now surfacing in Russia that the guys who boarded the 'Arctic Sea' ship in Swedish waters were from Mossad.

This might sound ridiculous, but:

1) why did Russia send a naval force to Africa to seize this ship?

2) why did Shimon Peres go to Moscow a day after the ship was retaken by the Russian navy?

3) why were three huge military transporter aircraft used to bring the crew, the arrested men, and an investigative team to Moscow from Cape Verde?

Try 3) first. The aircraft were obviously bringing something else too. Military hardware has got to be top of the list of possibilities. Drugs take up hardly any space in comparison.

Those eight guys in detention in Moscow deny all charges of piracy, claiming they got in trouble because of the weather and sought assistance from the 'Arctic Sea'. If that's true, they're patsies.

What country could realistically seize a ship in Swedish waters, and provide eight patsies, and sail the ship through the English Channel? Only two come to mind: Israel and the US. I don't think even Boris Berezovsky could do it.

Traditionally Sweden (which as any Swede will tell you - if you ask - is owned by one family, the Wallenbergs) has been much less pro-Israeli than its neighbour Norway. They're bigger players than many might think in the weapons trade too. (Bofors).

This story's going to run and run...
I urged: consider the publication of this report in the context of overall Swedish-Israeli relations...

Donald Boström is said to have been trying to publish this since 1992. Why was he successful now?

Some have speculated that the ship was carrying cruise missiles. But here's a fact I've not seen mentioned in this context: Sweden manufactures cruise missiles.
The article was published on 17 August 2009, the same day as the Russian navy seized the Arctic Sea.

The ship had been under 'pirate' control after being boarded in Swedish waters.

The Daily Telegraph accurately comments that the eight men in custody in Moscow don't look like either an elite criminal gang or a group of ecologists. One's a building worker, another's a metal worker. A third, Andrei Lunev, is a fisherman who went missing three years ago.

If I may quote briefly:

When quizzed on Russian state TV last week, Mr Lunev said he was working with an ecological group, who approached the Arctic Sea for help when their own inflatable ran out of petrol. But when asked what the group's name was, he answered: "I don't know. It was some private organisation."

Even the suspects' extensive tattoos - normally a reliable guide to identifying different sub-tribes of the Russian Mafia - have caused bafflement. "It is clear they are not our criminals, said Alexander Sidorov, the author of Russian Criminal Tattoos book, after examining TV footage.

Patsies? I think so.

The relevant Mossad department won't make the tattoo mistake again.
Excellent article. I work with State Government, and translate many documents. This premise is do helpful. Thanks so much.

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