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Countering Bias and Misinformation mainly about the Arab-Israel conflict

Judge Goldstone encountered no allegations of organ stealing

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If there had been any substance at all to the ghoulish allegations in the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet that Israeli soldiers stole organs from the bodies of Palestinians, they would certainly have been raised at the hearings of the UN Fact-finding Mission (FFM). Surprised that not a word on this subject is mentioned in the Goldstone Report; not even in Chapter XX, which deals at length with the treatment of Palestinians in the West Bank by Israeli security forces, I wrote to Judge Goldstone. In his response he gave me permission to publish his reply, which I quote, "During the Fact Finding Mission on Gaza we did not encounter any allegations of organ stealing."

 

As the FFM provided a unique platform to bring the allegations of organ harvesting to the attention of the UN, it is indeed strange that, despite the close cooperation of the PA and senior members of Hamas with the FFM, they failed to respond to the FFM's public call for submissions from all interested persons and organizations,

 

This lacuna must lead to serious doubts about the credibility, if not outright rejection of Donald Boström's inflammatory story, more so since it was published in August while the Goldstone Report was still in the course of preparation and when the FFM could have added, at least, a note on the subject.

 

So, how credible is Mr. Boström's story that won him instant international fame, including an immediate award for excellence from the National Federation of Algerian Journalists, where he gratuitously increased the harvested organ count to 1,000?

 

Boström's deviation from sound journalistic practice did not go unnoticed in Sweden. Two of the country's leading dailies, Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) and Sydsvenska Dagbladet (SDS) published editorials condemning the Aftonbladet article. Unsurprisingly, this valid criticism of the journalistic integrity of the Boström story has been ignored by the media that eagerly promoted the accusatory article.

 

Boström himself has admitted in several interviews that his allegations are based on mere speculation. For example, in a telephone interview published in MENASSAT on August 21, he admitted he has no conclusive evidence, "only a collection of allegations and suspicious circumstances."

 

Despite this caution, Bostrom's accusations were soon recklessly repeated in an article  by Allison Weir, who manages an anti-Israel web site IfAmericansknew, dedicated to persuading the USA to cut off aid to Israel and proclaiming that Israel promulgates policies of brutality, ethnic and religious discrimination and a doctrine of supremacy.

 

Boström's and Weir's articles are textbook examples of "Yellow Journalism" that prefers eye-catching headlines, exaggerations, scandal-mongering, and sensationalism over solid investigative journalism. They employ the practices of conspiracy theorists - drawing links between unconnected events and imputing guilt by association. For example, they attempt to link the IDF with the recent case in New York of Jews involved in trading organs for transplants even though, in an interview with the Jerusalem Post, Boström admitted, "I don't think there is a connection between the New York thing and what happened in the West Bank in the 90s."

 

Egregiously, both Boström and Weir distort by omitting relevant information. They refer only to Jews in the New York case, omitting to mention that only five of the 44 people arrested on corruption charges were Jews. Others included the mayors of Hoboken, Ridgefield, and Secaucus, Jersey City's deputy mayor, and two state assemblymen. One person was accused of buying organs from willing donors. There was no hint at all of forcible removal of organs.

 

Ignoring the fact that Israel has very stringent laws about organ transplants and prohibits payment of compensation for organs, Boström makes the absurd claim that Israel is the only western country with a medical profession that doesn't condemn the illegal organ trade,

 

Boström's description of Bilal Achmed Ghanan as just one of many innocent stone-throwers has been contradicted by Agence France-Presse, as well as by a UN report that described him as wanted for kidnapping and assaulting other Palestinians.

 

It is difficult to distinguish between third person reports and personal experience in Mr. Boström's story. He tells of meeting parents who told how their sons had been deprived of organs before being killed, contradicting his later claim that organs were removed during autopsies. It is strange that the editors accepted this gruesome detail without even questioning whether it would be technically possible to do what is alleged under battle conditions, and whether such organs would be transplantable.

 

Although he admits he was not there at the time, Boström provides minute details of the circumstances of the killing of Bilal. In emotive theatrical language, he writes, "The soldiers stubbed their cigarettes, put away their cans of Coca-Cola, and calmly aimed through the broken window."

 

In an interview with the well-known Arab journalist Khaled Abu Toameh, Bilal's mother Sadeeka said he was shot by an IDF sniper as he walked out of his home, the bullets hitting him directly in the heart. She denied that she had told any foreign journalist that her son's organs had been stolen.

 

Ghanan's younger brother, Jalal, said he could not confirm the allegations that his brother's organs had been stolen and Ibrahim Ghanan, a relative of Bilal, said that the family never told the Swedish photographer that Israel had stolen organs from the dead man's body.

 

Claiming to have attended the funeral, Boström writes that after the body was unloaded, the green fabric cover was changed for a light cotton one. It was close to midnight. The military had interrupted the electricity. The overpowering silence of the dark night was only interrupted by quiet sobbing. "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."

 

bilal1.jpg

Although Boström does not claim to have taken a photo during that brief sudden exposure in the dark, his article was accompanied by a photograph, purportedly of Bilal, showing stitches (not a slit) from the abdomen to the chin. Surely this would more likely to have been clearly seen earlier, while the green cover was being changed, rather than during the sudden unexpected exposure in the dark.
 

The uncovering of the chest in the photo appears to have been carried out carefully and deliberately to expose its condition, not accidentally as described by the author. One might even ask if the photo is indeed of Bilal.

bilal2.jpg

A further mystery about the photos deserves to be cleared up. An article on Al Qassam English forum about Bostrom's allegations, includes a photo purporting to be that of Bilal. Although similar stitches are seen, a cursory comparison shows that this is definitely not the same person as in the former photo.

http://www.almoltaqa.ps/english/showthread.php?t=12988

 

The latter photo also accompanies Allison Weir's article in several publications such as Muslim Media Network See http://muslimmedianetwork.com/mmn/?tag=berkeley.

The above journalistic transgressions could be treated lightly if the implications were not so dangerously inflammatory. The world would no doubt be a better place if responsible media would insist that their journalists adhere to the principles common to most Western codes of journalistic ethics, namely truthfulness, accuracy, objectivity, impartiality, fairness, public accountability and correction of errors.

 

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