If you think the title of this article is an early April fool or if you are Jewish and think this story is a Purim shpiel, you will be disappointed.
British Baroness Tonge, also known as “Jihad Jenny,” has been bellowing to the world that Israel must clear its name after being accused by a Palestinian newspaper of making its way to earthquake-hit Haiti in order to harvest organs. Over Valentine’s Day weekend the Liberal Democrat Party sacked the baroness, who is also a physician, as shadow health minister. Since then there has been talk of her being sacked as party whip. Her comments were published in the Jewish Chronicle of February 12 after the Palestine Telegraph, of which she is a patron, ran a story about Israel harvesting organs. She said to the JC: “The IDF and the Israeli Medical Association should establish an independent inquiry immediately to clear the names of the team in Haiti.”
Okay, I can already hear the jokes about Israel harvesting passports for junkets to Dubai, but the concept of body-plundering is a throwback to the murderously anti-Semitic blood libel legacy of British and European history, when Jews were accused of harvesting Christian blood for use in religious rituals. (Jew-hatred reached a fever pitch after the York massacre and they were expelled from England in 1290 until readmission in the seventeenth century.)
Some background on organ harvesting is in order: In December 2009 Israel’s Channel Two television broadcast a special in which Dr. Yehuda Hiss, the former head of Israel’s Abu Kabir Forensic Institute, was interviewed. He was quoted on the program as saying, “We started to harvest corneas. … Whatever was done was highly informal. No permission was asked from the family.” In turn the program was the result of accusations in the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet in the summer of 2009 that Israel harvested organs from the dead. In the Channel Two documentary no proof was provided, but it was reported that in the 1990s, forensic specialists at Abu Kabir indeed harvested skin, corneas, heart valves, and bones from the bodies of Israeli soldiers, Israeli citizens, Palestinians, and foreign workers, often without permission from relatives. To make matters worse, in September 2009 a group of American Jews in New Jersey had been accused of harvesting body parts; the various news stories collided and fueled the fury of the Palestinian media.
Notwithstanding these revelations, the Tonge comments provoked outrage. She has a long history of offending the small and decorous Anglo-Jewish community. In 2004 she said she could understand the motivation of a Palestinian suicide bomber and suggested she would become one if she had to live under the conditions found in the West Bank and Gaza. She cited “the violence and the humiliation and the provocation” suffered by a people whose land had been occupied by Israel. In 2006 she said the “pro-Israeli lobby” had gotten its grips on the Western world, financial and otherwise. She refused to apologize despite the former archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, saying she was resuscitating a “classic anti-Jewish conspiracy theory.” She stood by her comments by citing Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer’s screed about the undue influence of the Zionist lobby on world affairs.