Skin stealer: Occupy the Gazans' land, stole their skins and organs too?

HANI SHAMIRA SHAHRUDIN
HANI SHAMIRA SHAHRUDIN
14 Nov 2023 09:00am
Photo for illustrative purposes only. - 123RF
Photo for illustrative purposes only. - 123RF
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SHAH ALAM – The Zionists have constantly been condemned for their cruelty towards the Palestinians and for occupying the latter’s land.

However, if we dug deeper, the Israelis had also stolen skin, organs and corneas of Palestinians who had been killed without the consent of the victims' families in the 1990s and had what was called the ‘Skin Bank’.

This was revealed in an interview conducted in 2000 by an American academic who released it following the row between Israel and Sweden over a report in the Stockholm newspaper Aftonbladet.

Aftonbladet quoted Palestinians as saying young men from the West Bank and Gaza Strip had been seized by the Israeli forces and their bodies returned to their families with missing organs.

It was reported that in the 1990s, Abu Kabir Forensic Institute former head Dr Yehuda Hiss revealed that specialists at the hospital near Tel Aviv harvested skin, corneas, heart valves and bones from the bodies of Israeli soldiers, Israeli citizens, Palestinians and foreign workers.

“We started to harvest corneas... whatever was done was highly informal. No permission was asked from the family,” he said in the interview.

The interview with Hiss was released by University of California-Berkeley professor of anthropology Nancy Scheper-Hughes who had conducted a study of Abu Kabir.

Following the revelation, the Israeli military confirmed the practice took place in the 1990s but added that the activity ended a decade ago and did not happen anymore.

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Hiss was removed from his post in 2004, when some details about organ harvesting were first reported, but he still worked at the forensic institute at that time.

Israel's health ministry said all harvesting was now done with permission.

"The guidelines at that time were not clear. For the last 10 years, Abu Kabir has been working according to ethics and Jewish law,” the ministry said.

In 2008, the American network CNN published a report revealing that Israel was considered the largest global centre for illegal organ trafficking.

The report also revealed Israel’s involvement in the crime of killing Palestinians in order to steal their internal organs and benefit from them illegally and to trade them in an illegal international network.

Israel was the only country that held the bodies of martyrs and it followed this as a policy, in mass graves.

Despite Israeli’s denial that skin and organ harvesting did not happen, online news portal the Medium, quoting Arab portal Palghraph said “The discussion here is not only about organ theft, but also about the complete retention of bodies.

“This is one aspect among several in a media campaign to highlight a noble issue, which involves the detention of complete martyr bodies, not just organ theft.

“This issue has escalated over the past years, from 36 martyrs detained in occupation refrigerators in February 2019 to 72 martyrs in February 2021, and 93 martyrs in February 2022, reaching 105 martyrs in April 2022.

“The number of detained martyrs in cemeteries has reached 256, including nine children, three female martyrs and eight prisoners who died in occupation prisons.”

Another Israeli doctor and anthropology expert Dr Meira Weiss who had served at the Abu Kabir Hospital said that she saw how the organs were getting stolen especially from Palestinian corpses between 1996 and 2002.

She wrote this in her book ‘On Their Dead Bodies’.

“During my time at the institute, I witnessed how they would ‘take’ organs from a Palestinian body and not ‘take’ anything from the soldiers in return.

“They would take corneas, skin and heart valves, while noting that non-professionals would not notice the absence of these organs as they would place something plastic in place of the corneas and ‘take’ the skin from the back so that the family wouldn’t see it.

“In addition, the bodies of detained martyrs are used in medical colleges at Israeli universities for research purposes,” Weiss said.

She added that in the first Intifada, the army effectively allowed the institute to extract organs from Palestinians under a military procedure that required the autopsy of a Palestinian prisoner.

“The autopsy procedure was accompanied by organ removal, which was used by the Israeli Skin Bank established in 1985 to treat burns suffered by Israeli soldiers.

“This was after the Chief Rabbinate Council issued a ruling legitimising it, which led to saving the lives of many Israelis who were injured during attacks on Palestinian citizens, continuous assaults and wars — at the expense of Palestinian martyrs, according to specialised Israeli medical sources for burn treatment,” she said.

She also confirmed the use of organs stolen by other organ banks in the Israeli occupation state for transplantation, research and medical education, adding that many institute workers discussed during the interviews conducted by Weiss the period of the first Intifada, from 1987 to 1993, describing it as ‘good days’ when organs were harvested permanently and freely, compared to any other period.

The skins stolen were reportedly used to aid their injured military personnel while the organs would be up for sale.

On Nov 23, 2015, Medium reported that the Israeli Channel 2 aired an investigative report which revealed that the Israeli Institute of Forensic Medicine was involved in stealing organs from the bodies of Palestinian martyrs detained by the Israeli occupation.

It was unclear if the practice of harvesting skin and organs were still happening at the time, but claims have resurfaced that it could still be taking place.

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