July 31, 2009
(Note: This is a major story. Although I've done no original "in the field" research, I've stitched together published material in a way that reveals the true authorship of this crime. You won't learn about the complicity of the Israeli government anywhere else.)
Where do the kidneys come from?
I'm talking about the kidneys offered by an "organist" named Izzy Rosenbaum. The FBI scooped him up in a corruption probe that focused on pay-offs to New Jersey pols (nothing surprising about that) and money laundering by prominent rabbis:
The probe also uncovered Levy Izhak Rosenbaum of Brooklyn, who is accused of conspiring to broker the sale of a human kidney for a transplant. According to the complaint, Rosenbaum said he had been brokering sale of kidneys for 10 years.Marra is a US attorney involved with the case. News accounts like the one quoted above have led the public to believe that the "donors" were both willing and compensated, and that this operation was purely private. But good evidence indicates that the matter is far, far more troubling.
"His business was to entice vulnerable people to give up a kidney for $10,000 which he would turn around and sell for $160,000," said Marra.
The kidneys were "donated" at gunpoint by unwilling victims.
The Israeli government directed Rosenbaum's grisly scheme.
Major American hospitals wittingly participated in the plot.
Before we get to that evidence, let us confront two simple questions: Whose kidneys, exactly, were taken? And what kind of doctor would extract a kidney from a healthy patient?
"I am what you call a matchmaker," the complaint quotes Rosenbaum as telling the undercover agent.
Had the transaction been real, federal authorities said, it would have been the most recent chapter in Rosenbaum's 10-year career as an illicit middleman. In each case, he would take a blood sample from a prospective recipient and give it to an associate at an insurance company who could analyze it at a lab without arousing suspicion. The sample would then be shipped to Israel, and the necessary people paid off to find a match.
"He prayed on vulnerable people, " said assistant US district attorney Mark McCarron.
Rosenbaum would then arrange the donor's flight to New York, including obtaining a visa, authorities said. Once the donor arrived in the US, Rosenbaum would help fabricate a relationship between donor and recipient -- a story both would repeat during interviews with medical professionals. The two might pretend to business associates, for instance, or close friends from a religious congregation.As we shall see, we should take that last statement with a grain of salt roughly the size of Lot's wife.
"The hospitals seemed to be in the dark," McCarron said.
A close reading of the actual indictment of Rosenbaum (pdf) is troubling. Rosenbaum spilled his guts (so to speak) to an undercover informant posing as a prospective organ purchaser. During these interviews, an FBI agent posed as the purchaser's secretary.
Let's look at some excerpts from the indictment. "UC" refers to the informant, whose real name is Solomon Dwek.
The UC asked defendant ROSENBAUM how defendant ROSENBAUM could obtain a kidney on behalf of UCís uncle, and defendant ROSENBAUM explained that defendant ROSENBAUM could send a blood sample from the UCís uncle to Israel to find a matching prospective donor. Defendant ROSENBAUM added that "if you want to arrange it faster, then I, I bring the donor over here... The hospital is the authority who decide it's a match or not. Not me, not you, not him, not nobody."
Defendant ROSENBAUM then explained that it would be necessary to fabricate some sort of relationship between the donor and the recipient. Defendant ROSENBAUM stated that "we put together somethingĖ-the relationship. The hospital is asking what's the relationship between" the donor and the recipient. Defendant ROSENBAUM continued, "So we put in a relationship, friends, or neighbor, or business relations, any relation."
Defendant ROSENBAUM explained that he was not a surgeon and that once he had brought a willing donor to this country, "it's beyond my control." He did add that "I take care of [the donor] after, after the surgery also." When pressed on this last point, defendant ROSENBAUM explained that "I place him somewhere," to look after the donor. Defendant ROSENBAUM further stated: "You have to babysit him like a baby because he may have a language problem, maybe not." Defendant ROSENBAUM explained the process of finding a donor in Israel and stated that "[t]here are people over there hurting . . . One of the reasons it's so expensive is because you have to shmear (meaning pay various individuals for their assistance) all the time."The only evidence that the donor would be willing came from Rosenbaum, who had the following motives for lying:
11. Defendant ROSENBAUM indicated that among those who would need to be paid were the donor and the doctors in Israel who would examine the donor, and further added that there would be expenses incurred for preparing the Visa work and paying the donor's expenses while in the United States.
1. He needed to ease the conscience of the prospective recipient.
2. He needed to justify the large amount of cash involved.
3. He needed to protect the hospitals and doctors involved with his operation. Rosenbaum understood that he was engaged in a risky business, and that even if he got caught, he would still need to provide cover for any hospital or surgeon connected to this wretched business.
Do we have evidence of that the donors were coerced? Yes. In fact, we have the testimony of an "insider" witness:
Nancy Scheper-Hughes of the University of California, Berkeley, was and is very clear as to Rosenbaum's role in the ring.(Moldava, incidentally, is a small country bordering the Ukraine.)
"He is the main U.S. broker for an international trafficking network," she said.
Her sources include a man who started working with Rosenbaum imagining he was helping people in desperate need. The man then began to see the donors, or to be more accurate, sellers, who were flown in from impoverished countries such as Moldova.
"He said it was awful. These people would be brought in and they didn't even know what they were supposed to be doing and they would want to go home and they would cry," Scheper-Hughes said.
The man called Rosenbaum "a thug" who would pull out a pistol he was apparently licensed to carry and tell the sellers, "You're here. A deal is a deal. Now, you'll give us a kidney or you'll never go home.'
Scheper-Hughes, who is writing a book on this topic, went to the FBI in 2002. They dismissed her evidence. The State Department issued a 2004 report which labeled organ trafficking an "urban legend." By contrast, authorities in other countries acted on her leads and made arrests.
Scheper-Hughes had better luck in Brazil and in South Africa, where law enforcement corroborated her findings and acted decisively.We must now pause to re-think Rosenbaum's statements to the FBI informant. How could any rational person working for a hospital buy the story that the recipients -- American Jews -- attended services with Brazilians and Africans?
But the ring kept operating elsewhere. Scheper-Hughes visited villages in Moldova where, "20% of the men were siphoned off to be kidney sellers in this same scheme."
You can see a lecture by the heroic Nancy Scheper-Hughes here. The video also gives her resume, which is extremely impressive. Her testimony to a House subcommittee is here.
NPR's Brian Lehrer interviewed Scheper-Hughes yesterday morning. An excerpt:
I had begun to unravel a huge network -- a criminal network that really looks like, smells like, kind of a mafia. The head office of the pyramid scheme originated in Israel, with brokers placed in Turkey; in New York City; in Philadelphia; in Durban; in Johannesburg; in Recife, Brazil; Moldova -- all over the place. And I used my ethnographic investigative skills to just go country-hopping and try to connect the dots.A cynic might posit that Mr. Peri has what Mossad calls "a horse" pulling for him. (A "horse" is an Israeli slang term for a big shot offering covert aid.) Although he has left a very scant public trail, Mr. Peri and his operation are mentioned in this 2004 story.
Eventually, it brought me to Isaac Rosenbaum being the head broker for Ilan Peri in Israel, who is the don, basically, of the operation, and who is a slippery guy. The Israelis tried to nail him and arrest him. They tried to get him on tax evasion and he escaped to Germany. I think he's back in Israel.
This fascinating article from Agence-France Presse offers blockbuster information. A retired Israeli army officer named Geldaya Tauber Gady was arrested in Brazil for his participation in this international organ trafficking ring. (I suspect that the information from Scheper-Hughes -- which was taken seriously in Brazil -- led to Gady's arrest.)
He told the court that the Israeli government financed the operation. Not only that:
Gady told the court that an Israeli government official, identified only as Ilan, put him in touch with an intermediary in Brazil...Gady's courtroom testimony puts the Rosenbaum case in an entirely new light.
The American media's coverage has led the public to believe that Rosenbaum's kidney trafficking was purely a matter of private enrichment. But a former Israeli officer has said under oath that the Israeli government runs this ring, and that the master of the ring -- "Ilan" is obviously Ilan Peri -- functions as an agent of that government.
(Now I'm wondering: Was the Israeli government involved with the money laundering conducted through New Jersey synagogues?)
Frankly, I suspect that Scheper-Hughes knows all about Gady's testimony and its implications for the Rosenbaum case. She probably has chosen to keep mum about it in order not to lose credibility with the American media.
The Lehrer interview with Scheper-Hughes goes on to deliver more details about her findings in Moldova. In villages there, many young men reported that they had been told that they expect to find work in other countries (including the United States) as house painters. Once in the new country, they were forced to give up their kidneys.
According to Scheper-Hughes' informant within Rosenbaum's organization, confused and disoriented Russians would be flown into New York City by Israeli brokers who forced them at gunpoint to "donate" kidneys.
Scheper-Hughes: They told me the names of the hospitals, and they were our best hospitals!She goes on to name Mount Sinai hospital, against whom she has videotaped evidence. She brought the videotape to the attention of 60 Minutes, which did not broadcast it. Later in the interview, she refers to operations done at Albert Einstein Medical Center. Mount Sinai says that its kidney donors "undergo an extensive evaluation to provide for their safety and well-being."
Brian Lehrer: And did they know, professor, that they were performing kidney surgery on people who were unwilling participants and were being exploited and threatened?
Scheper-Hughes: My sense is, how could some of them not have known? The people that arrived, some of them didn't speak the same languages, they were poor, they were disoriented...
We have rules. We have transplant coordinating committees. We have ethical guidelines. And you don't just let people walk in off the streets.
Over the years, many have accused Israel of trafficking in the organs of Palestinians. The Palestinians themselves have no doubt that the practice is common.
Unfortunately, many of the websites trumpeting charges of Israeli organ theft often display an undeniable anti-Semitic bent. Some of the allegations I've looked into do indeed appear to be spurious. (I would, for example, dismiss any claim that traces back to so notorious a source as La Voz de Atlan.) But before you categorize all such accusations as fantasies, consider: As recently as 2004, the State Department officially denounced as mythical the claim that organ trafficking occurs in the United States. As we now know, that "myth" had a basis in reality.
Knee-jerk accusations of anti-Semitism should not deter us from conducting candid and unbiased research into Israel's record. I would note that those who discuss organ trafficking in India and China are not accused of racial animosity toward the Indians or the Chinese.
This online book is written to a high standard and cites responsible sources, including Scheper-Hughes. The endnotes attribute the following story to the respected author David Yallop:
West Bank, 8th of February 1988Yallop is also the source for the following:
Nineteen years old Khader Elias Tarazi, a Christian Palestinian, went shopping for groceries in the Gaza. Upon returning with two bags on his bicycle he crossed a road near a demonstration where stone throwers were fleeing Israeli Army soldiers. The soldiers grabbed Khader and beat his head and body with truncheons. Shopkeepers shouted that Khader wasnít involved but soldiers broke one of Khader's arms and a leg. They continued the beating then threw him onto the bonnet of their jeep handcuffing the now unconscious Khader to the front crash bar. They drove off continually braking hard whereupon he sustained further injuries including a broken back, skull injuries and his face kept banging against the bonnet.
The Israeli doctor at the Military Prison in Gaza refused to attend Khader because of his serious injuries and inadequate paperwork. He was taken to Ansar Two prison and thrown into a prisoner tent holding thirty to forty prisoners. The other Palestinian prisoners screamed that he must be taken to hospital and the guards responded by forcing them to strip naked and stand outside in the winter cold. Khader died in the tent and later was taken to Soroka Hospital in Beer Sheva and pronounced dead.
Khaderís mother was outside the prison where Israeli officials denied they had a prisoner by his name inside. Later, they admitted he was inside but said he must have been very sick when he went out shopping because he was now dead.
Israeli officials refused to hand over the body and it was transferred to Abu Kabeer hospital, officially for a post-mortem. Mrs Tarazi told David Yallop that during this time many of his organs were illegally removed from his body.
No inquiry was made into the death and the Tarazi family were told if they continued to ask for an inquiry they would be looking for trouble. Five months later soldiers and secret police visited the Tarazi house at midnight, beat up Khaderís brother and father and threw the former into Ansar Three prison.
West Bank, 30th of October, 1988Mary Barrett, identified as a Boston-based photo-journalist (I know nothing else about her) wrote this piece in 1990.
When Roman Catholic Palestinians were leaving mass they were confronted by the Israeli Army and began throwing stones. Nineteen-year old Iyad Bishara Abu Saada was killed by a plastic bullet that cut an abdominal artery. The same grim chase for the body entailed. The mourners eluded the Israelis and Iyad was buried a few hours later. Somewhat predictably the Israelis fired teargas canisters into the family home four days later. Mrs Saada told David Yallop the practice of removing organs was common and named Arab and Israeli hospitals where she said organs were removed. She said doctors, accompanied by soldiers, offered large amounts of money to parents of the killed.
Dr. Abu Ghazalch attributes the widespread anxiety over organ thefts which has gripped Gaza and the West Bank since the intifada began in December of 1987 to several factors. "There are indications that for one reason or another, organs. especially eyes and kidneys, were removed from the bodies during the first year or year and a half'. There were just too many reports by credible people for there to he nothing happening. If someone is shot in the head and comes home in a plastic bag without internal organs, what will people assume'? The doctor went on to state that there were "fewer incidents which point in that direction" as of 1990. Incidentally, the story mentions Dr. Yehuda Hiss, more recently accused of harvesting organs from fallen Israeli soldiers without permission.
According to a story which was published in Ha'aretz (a source not open to charges of anti-Semitism), Romanian authorities have accused an Israeli adoption agency of being part of a global organ theft conspiracy.
The Romanian Embassy in Israel has asked for, and received from the Labor and Social Affairs Ministry, a list of all children born in Romania who have been brought to Israel for adoption in recent years. The Romanian officials are trying to ascertain if all such children arrived in Israel with all organs in their bodies. Let's close with a tale about a willing Palestinian organ donation.
In 2005, in the town of Jenin, the Israeli Defense Forces shot and killed a Palestinian child named Ahmed Khatib. His grieving father allowed the child's various organs to be used to save the lives of other children, both Jewish and Arab. A generous and humane offer. Nevertheless, the father of a Jewish girl whose life was saved said that he would never allow his daughter to befriend an Arab -- for fear of "bad influence."
(I hope my readers will help draw attention to this story. Normally I do not ask others to link to one of my articles, but in this case I must.)