Tuesday, December 22, 2009

News or Antisemitism

JTA carries a story about how Yehuda Hiss, the former head of Israel's forensic institute at Abu Kabir, admitted to using organs from cadavers without permission. He seems to have been an equal opportunity crook -
Hiss told an American academic in the interview, parts of which were broadcast on Israel's Channel 2 over the weekend, that the institute used corneas from bodies, including Israeli soldiers, Palestinians and foreign workers. Channel 2's report said that corneas, heart valves, skin and bones were used from the corpses without families' permission.
Avigdor, who signs as Victor at this blog, has some important comments and links:

I don’t know how many of you are in the medical field, or follow medical ethics, so let me say that what happened in Israel, and what apparently stopped “a decade ago”, is actually quite common. Countries like Sweden, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland and France (and soon the UK) have all passed “presumed consent” laws with respect to organ donation. “Presumed consent” means that, unless you specifically dissent from organ donation in your lifetime, you are presumed to consent to organ harvesting upon clinical death.

This is why the Abu Kabir forensic institute did not discriminate between Jews, Arabs, or foreign workers. It appears there was simply a lack of clarity in law, policy or the implementation of that policy as it concerns “presumed consent”.

Presumed consent is the law in Israel. However, it’s not a simple as that. The law is different in various countries. Let’s say someone did not dissent during their lifetime. Upon death, should their spouse be allowed to make that decision? Should their kids? Should their cousin, third removed? Their friend? In some countries, practically anyone with any close connection to the deceased can dissent on their behalf, the idea being that they would know the wishes of the deceased.

Remember, also, that medical professionals in the field of organ transplant face a ghastly task of watching a substantial portion of their patients succumb to organ failure. In a country like Israel, with one of the lowest organ donation rates in the world (8 donations for every million people, compared to 34 in Spain), the administration may have felt that fudging already unclear laws or policies in order to save lives, or restore sight or mobility to living human beings was a simple moral choice.

The most important point that all of us should understand, is that despite our personal feelings about the state of Israeli law or medical ethics policy, or the improper actions of the Abu Kabir institute’s administration (people were disciplined, after all), this story has nothing to do with the vile accusations hurled, without any substantiation, by a Swedish newspaper some months ago, that the IDF was murdering people in order to harvest their organs. That’s NOT what this particular case was about.

Antisemitic allegations almost always start from some grain of fact. What makes them antisemitic (or even merely slander) isn't the original grain of truth but the edifice built on it. In the Rostom blood libel earlier this year the slander was that IDF forces were regularly killing Palestinians so as to harvest their organs. The grain of truth uncovered here (which actually isn't news at all, it has been known in Israel for years, which is one reason Hiss no longer heads the Abu Kabir institute) has nothing to do with those allegations, and doesn't substantiate them in any way.

Actually, what we've got here is a fine litmus test to discover antisemites. Anyone who spins the true story in the direction Rostom took it are essentially setting themselves up. They need to be asked why they took that particular grain of truth in that particular direction.


Anonymous said...

I was reading some articles on the Alder Hay scandal in Britain (thanks to “John” at CiF Watch), use of the term ‘harvesting’ is noticeably missing; sometimes ‘removal’ or ‘stripping’ or ‘retained’, but not so far ‘harvesting’.
It might be interesting to go through the anti-Israel blogs, I'm pretty sure the first time I heard about Hiss was contemporanious with the Aftonbladet story.

Victor said...

Here is the transcript of the interview with Dr. Hiss.

Menachem Mendel said...

This post might be of interest.

Bonde said...

The german equivalent to the Guardian´s CiF is here (german language):


The article fits exactly to Yaacov´s description of how antisemites would twist this story, and the commentators are just outraged in their hatred of jews, while proclaiming in every single post, that they of course are not antisemites. Disgusting.

heplev said...

Steven Plaut at Zionist Conspiracy has some clear words on the topic: