Organ theft accusations are ‘cheap and harmful journalism’
There has been a flurry of accusation following the publication by the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet of an article claiming that the Israeli army has harvested organs for transplantation from Palestinians.
In truth it was a lousy article. It should never have been published. Among other things, it confuses alleged events in 1992 with the arrest of a Rabbi in New York earlier this year over involvement in organ trade that, by all published accounts, has nothing to do with dead Palestinians. Press TV inflated the story, reporting quite erroneously that ‘organs from dead or dying Palestinians… were sold on to a New York rabbi behind the human organs trafficking operation’.
The story has given rise to accusations of antisemitism, of evoking the blood libel and it has indeed generated some grossly antisemitic responses (e.g. an awful stereotypical Belgian cartoon of a hooknosed Jew with a knife and star of David on his back saying that with Palestinians ‘Kidneys, liver, eyes – all are good’)…
There is no doubt that unsubstantiated allegations, as in the Bostrum article, do not do the Palestinian cause any good whatsoever. And there was a genuine story here – about unauthorised autopsies – which is unlikely now ever to be investigated. (Though since we originally posted this article Jonathan Cook’s The Missing Link in Israeli Organ Theft? The Autopsy Surgeon Aftonbladet Forgot has appeared and takes up some of these issues.)
However, there have been some very good contributions, putting the whole story in context, and commenting on the awful journalism that generated it. The first two explain exactly what Israel thought it could gain by attacking Sweden, current holders of the EU Presidency: Matthew Cassel’s Baseless organ theft accusations will not bring Israel to justice on The Electronic Intifada, 24 August (standfirst ‘Baseless organ theft accusations are a propaganda gift for Israel, and deflect attention from its well-documented war crimes in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.’); and Adam Keller’s Netanyahu’s Swedish theatre and the reality of the occupation, 26 August from Gush Shalom.
The Jewish Telegraphic Agency carried an news story including an interview with the leader Sweden’s Jewish community: The organ harvesting controversy: Did Sweden fumble or Israel overreact?
Finally, Gideon Levy has a powerful account in his Haaretz article of how the Swedish article on organ harvesting was cheap and harmful journalism:
“Serious journalism’s task is to document, investigate and prove – not to call on others to investigate, as the Swedish tabloid did. One may, for example, accuse the Swedish reporter of a crime, writing that he rapes little boys or girls, all based on suspicions and rumors, and call on the Swedish police to investigate. That’s what the reporter did with his claims of trafficking in Palestinian organs.”