At the end of July when 10 people, among them several rabbis, were arrested in New Jersey, USA, it was assumed that this was little more than a case of tax fraud by another charity. Charities often run foul of the law by failing, quite innocently, of fulfilling their legal obligations. But the New Jersey arrests pointed to something much bigger. There were not only politicians involved in corruption scandals — again not unusual for the US — but rabbis selling organs imported from Israel. One of them, Levy Izhak Rosenbaum from Brooklyn, described himself to an FBI agent whom he believed to be a client, as a “matchmaker”. The rabbi was not talking about romance; it was more serious: buying and selling kidneys from Israel. He admitted that he purchased kidneys from ‘poor people’ in Israel for $10,000 and sold them for $160,000 each in the US. And he had been in this business for decades
In addition to the tidy profit the learned rabbi and his fellow travelers were making was the more sinister plot of harvesting the kidneys of Palestinian youth shot and wounded by Israeli soldiers. Dragging their bodies away, their organs were removed at hospitals to be sold. Palestinian families have for years complained about the ripped bodies of their children handed over to them by Israeli soldiers who forced their burial in the middle of the night, but the full extent of the crime has just come to light.
Illegal trade in organs is nothing new but the New Jersey-Israeli connection points to something absolutely criminal. A report by Donald Bostrom in a Swedish paper on August 3 highlights the harvesting of Palestinian organs by Israeli doctors. He writes that at a conference in 2003, Israel was singled out as the only ‘Western’ country where doctors do not condemn illegal trade of organs or take measures against doctors who conduct such illegal operations, according to Dagens Nyheter (December 5, 2003).
Bostrom narrates the story of Bilal Ahmed Ghanem from the West Bank village of Imatin who was shot and wounded by the Israelis and then loaded on to a jeep and driven away. Five days later, his body, ripped across the front from the neck to below the navel was brought for burial in the middle of the night. His relatives were forced to dig the grave. Bilal was one of 69 youth out of 133 killed that year that had autopsies performed on their bodies. The relatives had no doubt: his organs had been removed. Why were Israelis interested in performing autopsies on the bodies of Palestinian youth?
The New Jersey rabbis’ organ sales business provides the answer.