JERUSALEM - Israel has admitted that in the 1990s, its forensic pathologists harvested organs from dead bodies, including Palestinians, without permission of their families.
The issue emerged with publication of an interview with the head of Israel’s Abu Kabir forensic institute at the time, Dr. Jehuda Hiss. The interview was conducted in 2000 by an American academic, who released it because of a huge controversy last summer over an allegation by a Swedish newspaper that Israel was killing Palestinians in order to harvest their organs. Israel hotly denied the charge.
Parts of the interview were broadcast on Israel’s Channel 2 TV over the weekend. In it, Hiss said, “We started to harvest corneas . . . Whatever was done was highly informal. No permission was asked from the family.’’
The Channel 2 report said that in the 1990s, forensic specialists at Abu Kabir harvested skin, corneas, heart valves, and bones from Israeli soldiers and citizens, Palestinians, and foreign workers, often without permission from relatives.
In a response to the TV report, the Israeli military confirmed that the practice took place. “This activity ended a decade ago and does not happen any longer,’’ the military said in a statement quoted by Channel 2.