This is a cross post from ModernityBlog
Yes, that is a sensationalist title and although the Guardian did not use it, it might have, had Brits been Israelis.
In another example of dodgy journalism coming out of the Guardian, they originally chose to run a by-line of “Israel admits harvesting Palestinian organs.”.
It was subsequently changed, but the Guardian’s original headline was rather revealing of the prejudices found at that newspaper. In the article you will notice that the pathologists took organs from nearly everyone.
But that alone would not make a sufficiently dramatic headline, nor does it point out that the Israelis themselves brought up this issue and investigated it in a TV programme. The evidence is a bit obvious as the sources are written in Hebrew, and I am sure that even Guardian journalists realise which nation has that as its language?
The problem is, that the Guardian did not make any effort to give this story any context because that would require a degree of objectivity and journalistic competence from the Guardian, which it does not have around the subject of Israel or Israelis, so instead the article is used to slate Israelis.
It could have simply said, that there were insensitive and clumsy pathologists extracting organs from dead bodies that crossed their paths, including Israelis, IDF soldiers, etc.
However, that would not have been enough to make it into an issue for a national paper, so it was dressed up to have a quick swipe at Israelis along the way.
This is territory where we have been before.
Older readers will remember that British doctors did this very same thing, but with children.
Even though the activities at Alder Hey children’s hospital in Liverpool caused outrage, I doubt the Guardian would have run an article entitled “British harvest organs of young children”.
That is the type of headline more suitable for tabloids or other rags.
In fact, the Guardian has a section dealing with the Alder Hey issue, but contrast their carefully considered language there, as opposed to the startling by-line that sought to indict Israelis and only Israelis for this practice.
Rather than merely criticise pathologists involved the Guardian attempted to widen the accusation against all Israelis.
That is the problem, the Guardian can write considered and thoughtful articles on the Alder Hey scandal, but when a similar situation arises in Israel it is used as a political stick to beat Israelis with, and any notion of thoughtful journalism is thrown out of the window.
I do wish the Guardian would ditch these prejudices and go back to quality journalism.
Anyone interested in the history of Alder Hey children’s hospital and the organs removed from children, without permission, should read the Royal Liverpool Children’s Inquiry Report summary of key findings and the main recommendations, with the fuller findings here.
Update 1: Organ removal and the illegal storage of the body parts are still an issue in Britain, as the Torygraph reports:
“More than 200 hospitals have been instructed to account for all the organs and human tissue being held in mortuaries and pathology labs, because of concerns that body parts are being stored illegally, without the consent of bereaved relatives.
The HTA has ordered the probe after finding five cases in which bodies which had been examined for post-mortem were released for burial or cremation without their brains.”
Update 2: A section at the Scotsman newspaper shows how important this issue is as an on-going problem and the natural distress that it causes parents and families.
Update 3: The BBC news site has a piece from 1999 concerning Bristol hospital:
“The Bristol Childrens’ Heart Action Group, a parents’ campaign group, says the hospital removed and retained the hearts of at least 170 hearts from children who died in operations over a 12-year period.”
Also, Organ removal: the legal background from 1999 too.
Update 4: I came across a version of this story on msnbc, but it seems that the feed could have come directly from AP. It is possible that the Guardian “tidied” it up before publishing. Astute readers will notice the wording here, compared with the AP story:
“Israel has admitted pathologists harvested organs from dead Palestinians, and others, without the consent of their families – a practice it said ended in the 1990s – it emerged at the weekend.”
The Guardian could have written “a practice that ended in the 1990s”, but rather they chose “…a practice it said ended in the 1990s…”. Insinuating that it is not a fact, just that it was “said”. Same old tricks.
Update 5: If you want to see how the racists come out and use this topic you need to look no further than this Anthony Lerman article.
Update 6: Yaacov Lozowick has more:
“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.”