Swedish photojournalist Donald Boström has really infuriated the Israelis and its supporters. On August 17, Sweden’s most widely circulated newspaper, Aftonbaldet, carried an article by Boström entitled “Our sons plundered for their organs.”1
The usual suspects immediately cried “anti-Semitism,” claiming that the old blood libel accusation has been brought to life again.2 The Israelis have even threatened to sue him. Such reactions were anticipated, however. Innumerable hate mails have found their way into Mr Boström’s inbox since the publication, including death threats. More surprising is that Sweden’s ambassador to Israel, Elisabet Borsiin Bonnier, issued a condemnation of the article. It was “as shocking and appalling to us Swedes as to Israelis,” the ambassador claimed in a press release that was later withdrawn, having attracted criticism from the Swedish foreign ministry as well as from the government.
On top of that, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has demanded that the Swedish government renounce the article, something which would be unconstitutional in Sweden. A statement from Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman managed to tacitly draw the attention to—you guessed it!—the Holocaust: “It is regrettable that the Swedish foreign ministry does not intervene when it comes to a blood libel against Jews, which reminds one of Sweden’s conduct during World War II when it also did not intervene.” (I would urge Lieberman, himself a hard-core racist, to read Lenni Brenner’s excellent 51 Documents: Zionist Collaboration with the Nazis.)
Lieberman’s Swedish counterpart Carl Bildt blatantly refuses to cave in: “As a member of the Swedish government, acting on the Swedish constitution I have to respect freedom of speech, irrespective of the personal views that I might have.” His boss, Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, also rejects commenting on the article. Bildt is expected in Israel in about a week’s time, but Israelis are threatening to cancel his trip.
Despite all the fuss, this isn’t the first time Donald Boström publicly vents suspicions about Israelis stealing organs from Palestinians. One chapter of the book Inshallah: konflikten mellan Israel och Palestina (“Inshallah: the Conflict between Israel and Palestine”), edited by Boström and first published in 2001, was an account of what happened to a 19-year-old Palestinian boy. It includes the photo now published in Aftonbladet. Donald Boström decided to shed new light on the affair following the mass arrest in New Jersey of people involved in illegal organ trade that included a shockingly high number of Rabbis.
This affair originates from a visit to the village of Imatin in 1992. Boström was witness to how 19-year-old Bilal was shot dead, his body abducted and five days later returned. The young man had been cut open – stitches were running from his abdomen up to his chin. The account below is quoted from Boström’s article:
I was in the area at the time, working on a book. On several occasions I was approached by UN staff concerned about the developments. The persons contacting me said that organ theft definitely occurred but that they were prevented from doing anything about it. On an assignment from a broadcasting network I then travelled around interviewing a great number of Palestinian families in the West Bank and Gaza – meeting parents who told of how their sons had been deprived of organs before being killed. One example that I encountered on this eerie trip was the young stone-thrower Bilal Achmed Ghanan. (…)
When Bilal was close enough they needed only to pull the triggers. The first shot hit him in the chest. According to villagers who witnessed the incident he was subsequently shot with one bullet in each leg. Two soldiers then ran down from the carpentry workshop and shot Bilal once in the stomach. Finally, they grabbed him by his feet and dragged him up the twenty stone steps of the workshop stair. Villagers say that people from both the UN and the Red Crescent were close by, heard the discharge and came to look for wounded people in need of care. Some arguing took place as to who should take care of the victim. Discussions ended with Israeli soldiers loading the badly wounded Bilal in a jeep and driving him to the outskirts of the village, where a military helicopter waited. The boy was flown to a destination unknown to his family. Five days later he came back, dead and wrapped in green hospital fabric.
A villager recognized Captain Yahya, the leader of the military column who had transported Bilal from the postmortem center Abu Kabir, outside of Tel Aviv, to the place for his final rest. “Captain Yahya is the worst of them all,” the villager whispered in my ear. After Yahya had unloaded the body and changed the green fabric for a light cotton one, some male relatives of the victim were chosen by the soldiers to do the job of digging and mixing cement.
Together with the sharp noises from the shovels we could hear laughter from the soldiers who, as they waited to go home, exchanged some jokes. As Bilal was put in the grave his chest was uncovered. Suddenly it became clear to the few people present just what kind of abuse the boy had been exposed to. Bilal was not by far the first young Palestinian to be buried with a slit from his abdomen up to his chin.
The families in the West Bank and in Gaza felt that they knew exactly what had happened: “Our sons are used as involuntary organ donors,” relatives of Khaled from Nablus told me, as did the mother of Raed from Jenin and the uncles of Machmod and Nafes from Gaza, who had all disappeared for a number of days only to return at night, dead and autopsied.
Boström took a picture of Bilal’s lifeless body. He was buried without being cut open a second time. Hence, there is no certain evidence that Bilal’s organs were stolen. So, are the Palestinians merely spreading baseless, anti-Semitic rumours? Circumstances suggest otherwise. In 1992, 133 Palestinians were killed by the Israeli army. Bilal was one of dozens of Palestinian victims to be cut open. The Israelis claim they are merely carrying out postmortem examinations in order to conclude how they died. But why, Boström asks, would autopsies be necessary when the cause of death is already known? After all, Bilal was shot dead by the Israelis just before they snatched his body. So why go through the trouble of a postmortem? The Israeli explanation doesn’t add up. Boström is perfectly right in calling for an investigation. Illegal organ trade is a highly lucrative business. It is not unthinkable that people in “the most moral army in the world,” as the Israelis like to call their army, were involved at some level in this trafficking.
Donald Boström has spoken to about 20 of the Palestinian families who had a loved one that ended up in the same conditions as Bilal. They have their suspicions as to what happened. It is hardly surprising then that Boström is not the only one to have come across suspicions of organ theft. Dr. A. Clare Brandabur, teaching at the Department of American Culture and Literature at Fatih University in Istanbul, Turkey, has lived and travelled extensively in Palestine. Upon reading about the affair, Dr. Brandabur commented:
This information resonates with reports from Palestinians in Gaza which I heard during the first Intifada. When I interviewed Dr. Haidar Abdul Shafi, head of the Red Crescent in Gaza, I mentioned to him reports of shootings of Palestinian children at times when there were no “clashes” going on — a solitary 6 year old entering his school-yard in the morning with his book-bag on his back. The soldiers abducted the wounded child at gunpoint, then his body would be returned a few days later having undergone an “autopsy at Abu Kabir Hospital.” I asked Dr. Shafi if he had considered the possibility that these killings were being done for organ transplant, since (as Israel Shahak notes in Jewish History, Jewish Religion, it is not allowed to take Jewish organs to save a Jewish life, but it is allowed to take the organs of non-Jews to save Jewish lives. Dr. Shafi said he had suspected such things but since they had no access to the records of Abu Kabi Hospital, there was no way to verify these suspicions.3
And there’s more. Palestinian journalist Kawther Salam, living in exile in Vienna, says she is volunteering to testify on Boström’s behalf if the Israelis go through with their threats to sue. “The issue of stealing the Palestinian organs is known to everybody in Palestine,” she writes. Having worked as a journalist under Israeli occupation for 22 years, she has seen a lot. Salam continues:
I personally was witness of the Israeli soldiers and military vehicles kidnapping the bodies of dead Palestinians from the emergency rooms of hospitals, in some other cases I saw the soldiers following the Palestinians to the cemetery, to steal the body from the family before the burial. This vile practice became so widespread that many people started carrying the bodies of the murdered to be buried at home, in the garden, under the house or under trees, instead of waiting for the ambulance to take them to the hospital.4
Palestinian sources now claim they have solid evidence of organ theft.5 Whether their claims are accurate remains to be seen. However, these suspicions are far from new; they have been voiced for decades. When Boström wrote about Bilal and the suspicions as to what had happened to him in his book eight years ago, it was met with silence. Further, he doesn’t say there’s a direct link between the murdered Palestinians and the wicked New Jersey Rabbis (there probably isn’t one, given the time line). However, following the mass arrest, people were more open to the idea that Israelis might be stealing organs from Palestinians after all. Boström was hoping Bilal might get some justice even after all this time.
Ostensibly, Israel is using the article to get a message across: Sweden is an anti-Semitic country. They are set to pressure the Swedish government until it condemns the ‘blood libel accusation’. All of a sudden everyone is discussing good old anti-Semitism instead of Israel’s state terrorism and its apartheid policies towards the Palestinian people.
An online petition is now circulating in Israel, calling for a boycott of IKEA. 10,000 Israelis have signed it so far. Needless to say, IKEA has nothing to do with this. But what can possibly be more Swedish then IKEA? In the short term, Israel might be able to divert attention from the more serious issues. In the long term, Israel is only making enemies. There was a time when the entire Western World supported Israel. Those days are long gone.
- English version available here. [↩]
- Don’t forget the old anti-Semitic accusation that Jews poison wells, which is now reality in Palestine. [↩]
- Some of Dr. Brandabur’s articles are available here. [↩]
- “The Body Snatchers of Israel.” [↩]
- “Palestinian news agency ‘confirms’ organ snatching story,” Jerusalem Post online, August 23, 2009. [↩]