Palestinian family claims to be victim of organ trade by Israel

After Swedish journalist Donald Bostrom published an article claiming Israel has been harvesting the organs of Palestinians, one Palestinian family has been making headlines with claims that their child was a victim.

In 1992 Shahid Bilal was a nineteen-year-old Palestinian teenager. And like many his age, he spent his days throwing stones at soldiers. The last time he was seen alive he was being carried into an Israeli army helicopter. He was returned to his family a few hours later – in a coffin.

“There is a photo showing a bullet hole going right through his heart. There were plastic bags full of blood in the helicopter for some unknown reason, as well as bandages and other medical supplies. He was taken away to Israel, and an hour later the local authorities were asked to find cement and dig a grave,” recalls Shahid’s brother Jalal Ghanem.

Shahid’s family says the Israelis wanted him buried without any witnesses or publicity.

However, many years later Swedish journalist Donald Bostrom put an end to that. In a front-page article in a Swedish newspaper he claims young Palestinians disappeared, only to be returned by Israeli soldiers, days later, with their bodies ripped open.

“No one, not even the Palestinian families, told me that the army took the organs from their sons. But what they did say is that it was the kid, my son, they took him and brought him back with the autopsy and we believe the organs are missing,” Bostrom said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called on the Swedish government to condemn the article – which it has so far refused to do.

But while the Swedish Foreign Ministry says it supports freedom of the press, it does acknowledge hate crimes, such as incitement to anti-Semitism, are against the law.

In the last two days more than 10,000 Israelis have signed an online petition calling for the boycott of Swedish owned companies like Ikea. Israelis say the article is nothing more than anti-Semitism under the cover of freedom of speech

Israeli lawyer Guy Ophir has filed a 7.5 million dollar lawsuit against Bostrom and the paper. He says the allegations are anti-Semitic and nothing short of a racist blood libel against Jews and Israeli soldiers.

“It’s complete slander, it’s without any proof and it’s medically impossible what they’re implying in that article. Just think about it, it’s impossible to shoot somebody and transport him 200 kilometers and then take his organs out and then send it 7,000 kilometres to another country. It’s not only slander, it’s more than this, it’s intentional slander against a complete nation and it affects everyone of us including me,” Ophir believes.

Pro-Israeli blogger Russell Harris has taken the fight to cyberspace. He accuses the journalist not only of anti-Semitism, but of plagiarism.

“The article that was published in Sweden is identical to the article published on blogs in South Africa, everything, almost word for word, everything, almost all the supposed facts which are not really facts but were created by this anti-Semitic blog in South Africa have been reprinted in Swedish in Sweden by this journalist,” Harris said.

For Shahid’s family the debate is not a moment too soon. For nearly two decades they’ve been looking for answers, which they hope might now finally come to light.