Why do Israel's enemies claim it harvests Hamas terrorists' organs?

Israel has not confirmed the latest comment in the terrorist organization Hamas's latest attempt to besmirch Israel.

 Surgeons in operating room (illustrative). (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Surgeons in operating room (illustrative).
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)

The bodies that the IDF returned to Gaza on Wednesday were missing vital organs, according to foreign media outlets citing the Hamas-run Gaza Government Media Office. 

The Palestinian Health Ministry on Wednesday confirmed the receipt of 80 bodies of Palestinians killed in Gaza and taken to Israel.

Gaza's GMO said the bodies were "mutilated" and that Israel had removed "vital organs from them," according to Al Jazeera.

The IDF claimed to be "unfamiliar," and no Israeli official source has confirmed such an accusation. These sorts of remarks have been immediately refuted and shot down in the past, but that has not stopped them from arising time and time again.

Who is making the claims?

Turkish media outlets Politicstoday.org and Anadolu further claimed the GPO criticized "the silent position of the international organizations operating in Gaza, including the International Committee of the Red Cross, towards such an awful crime by the [Israeli] occupation." This quote was also included in The Palestine Chronicle's account of the GPO report. 

Several Middle Eastern media outlets, including the Chronicle, Al-Mayadeen and Al-Jazeera, claimed that Israel was illegally harvesting organs from the bodies and that this was only one in a series of Israeli organ-harvesting incidents.  

 Bodies of Palestinians killed in Israeli strikes are seen at Abu Yossef Al-Najar hospital, in Rafah (credit: REUTERS)
Bodies of Palestinians killed in Israeli strikes are seen at Abu Yossef Al-Najar hospital, in Rafah (credit: REUTERS)

NGOs Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor and the Qatari-run Middle East Monitor claimed that this is not the first time Israel has wrongfully taken parts from Palestinian bodies in Israeli custody.

Euro-Med further stated that, in recent years, Israel has exhumed bodies from cemeteries designated for "enemy casualties" (this often refers to terrorists shot and killed during terror attacks) for the purpose of organ theft. 

"Israel," according to the human rights advocate, "is thought to be the biggest hub for the illegal global trade in human organs." This assertion was made citing a 2008 CNN investigation seemingly based on the case of Dr. Yehuda Hiss, who was accused in the late 1990s of stealing and illegally selling organs to universities and medical schools. 

Euro-Med also cited anthropologist Dr. Meira Weiss's book The Chosen Body: The Politics of the Body in Israeli Society to make the point that the Israeli military and government have misused corpses for nefarious purposes in the past. 

The Al-Jazeera report on the recent return of bodies made significant use of Euro-Med's information and also maintained that Israel was one of the largest centers for the "illicit trade of human organs" in the world. 

This isn't new

False allegations that Israel illegally harvests organs are not new. This past August, it was revealed that Jsbir Puar, a teacher at Princeton University, included in one of the course syllabuses a book that claims that IDF had been harvesting Palestinian organs.

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS) has regularly falsely claimed that Israel harvests organs of Palestinians killed by the IDF. In 2019, they claimed that organs were harvested from Palestinian children.

Prior to that, in 2018, a senior executive of one of Belgium’s main trade unions, Robrecht Vanderbeeken, wrote a column for the news website De Wereld Morgen claiming that Israel poisons Palestinians and kills their children for their organs.

These types of claims resurface regularly in the anti-Israel camp. The UN Human Rights Council, in 2010, shared a statement by an NGO on their official website which claims that Israel harvests organs.

The International Organization for the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination [EAFORD] accused Israel at the time of “ethnic cleansing and massacres” before it moved on to the issue of what it called “dead, kidnapped and killed Palestinians.”

“Their [Palestinian] human organs, as reported in the press, can be a source of immense wealth through illegal trafficking in the world market,” wrote EAFORD.

“Israeli physicians, Medical Centres, rabbis and the Israeli army may be involved,” it stated.

These false allegations do not claim that Israel targets Palestinians alone; that same year, 2010, in the UK, Baroness Jenny Tonge was removed from her position as health spokeswoman after calling for the IDF to investigate allegations of organ "harvesting" by medical teams giving humanitarian assistance to victims of an earthquake in Haiti.

Israel's statement regarding the 80 corpses 

Israel said it was returning the bodies after confirming that they were not Israeli hostages taken by Hamas during the October 7 massacre in which at least 1,200 people were murdered and 240 taken hostage.

An Israeli military spokesperson said that during the war, bodies have been transported to Israel "for an identification procedure as part of our effort to locate the hostages and the missing persons."

"The difficulties in identifying those murdered make it necessary to transfer those bodies to Israel for forensic identification," the spokesperson said, adding that it was in line with "routine analysis that complies with internationally accepted forensic standards" in order to rule out their identification as Israeli hostages.

Gigi Hadid and out-of-context information 

Supermodel Gigi Hadid came under fire in November for claiming that "Israel has been harvesting organs from dead Palestinians for years without their consent."

She referenced a decade-old news investigation that aired on Israeli television in the early 2000s. A particular clip includes the investigators interviewing Weiss and discussing the practices of Israel's Forensic Medicine Institute. 

The author did claim that Israel was illegally harvesting the organs of Palestinians, but the video Hadid shared claimed that she was a health official rather than an independent researcher. 

Hadid later apologized for her post, which also claimed that Israel had abducted, raped, and tortured Palestinians for years "before October 7."

“I shared something that I did not fact-check or deeply think about prior to reposting,” Hadid wrote. “I was trying to highlight how Palestinian children who are arrested by the IDF are often not given the same rights as an Israeli child accused of the same crime would. Unfortunately, I used the wrong example to make that point, and I regret that.”

Reuters contributed to this report.