The controversy triggered by a Swedish newspaper report about Israel’s harvesting of Palestinian organs has salted the wounds of many Palestinian families haunted by the memories of loved ones who suffered the same fate.
“They claimed they came to arrest him, but in truth they came to murder him, which they did,” Walid Masalmeh, a resident of the small West Bank town of Dura, 10 kilometer west of Al-Khalil (Hebron), said about his relative Bassam.
In 1995, Bassam was killed by the Israeli army at the village of Beit Awwa, located near the former armistice line between the West Bank and what is now Israel.
“But 24 hours later they returned the body with a huge scar running from the chin to the lower abdomen,” Walid remembers.
“They took all the vital organs, including the heart, kidneys, Liver. Then they stuffed the empty cavities with garbage before sewing him up.”
Several other Palestinians gave a similar narrative, recounting how they received the bodies of their murdered relatives, mostly men in their early twenties, with vital organs taken away by the Israeli authorities.
Israeli occupation authorities don’t deny that the bodies of victims were returned to their respective families minus the internal organs, but claim that the organs were disposed of as part of routine autopsy operations.
“I am not a medical doctor, but I do know that an autopsy is performed to establish the cause of death,” says Walid.
“In Bassam’s case, and hundreds of similar cases, the cause of death is known too well since the victims were killed by the Israeli occupation army.”
The Swedish mass circulation Aftonbladet published last month a report accusing Israeli troops of killing Palestinians and then harvesting their organs.
Israeli officials have dismissed the report as anti-Semitic and have been piling up pressures on the Swedish government to condemn it.
Stockholm has so far remained steadfast, insisting it was in no position to interfere with its free media.
Majed Abu Dush was assassinated by Israeli death squads west of Al-Khalil in 2002.
But Israeli authorities are still keeping his body.
"I don’t know for sure why they are refusing to hand him over to us to bury him,” his tearful father Fawzi told IOL.
This makes me think that there is a foul play."
Fawzi has been petitioning Palestinian Authority (PA) officials, including Premier Salam Fayyad, to press the Israeli government to release the detained bodies of hundreds of Palestinians.
Over the years, the Israeli occupation army killed thousands of Palestinians, hundreds of them children, and in many cases the bodies were buried in unknown graves or remained “imprisoned” in refrigerators.
Israel has also been detaining the corpses of Palestinian fighters killed in combat with its forces to inflict maximum emotional pain on their families.
Mustafa Shahin suspects that Israeli authorities might have harvested the organs of his son, whom they killed in 2003.
"What would prevent Israel from doing the worst thing that comes to your mind,” he fumed.
“These people have no morality, save the morality of murder and lies."
According to Shahin and Abu Dush, Israel is detaining the bodies of at least 48 young Palestinians killed by its army in recent years, all of them from the al-Khalil region alone.
The overall number of detained corpses of Palestinian victims is believed to be in the hundreds.
Indeed, the Aftonbladet report was by no means the first revelation of its kind concerning Israeli violations of bodies of Palestinian victims.
In January 2002, an Israeli cabinet minister, Nessim Dahan, tacitly admitted during a routine questioning in the Knesset that certain organs from the bodies of Palestinians might have been used for Jewish transplant patients without the knowledge of the victims’ families.
Dahan said he couldn’t confirm or deny that organs taken form Palestinian victims were used for transplant or in scientific research.
Arab Knesset member Ahmed Teibi, who questioned Dahan at the time, told IOL the Israeli minister of health “was hedging and wouldn’t give a clear answer.”
Late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat had openly accused the Israeli army and medical authorities of harvesting the organs of Palestinian victims.
"They murder our kids and use their organs as spare parts,” Arafat told Al-Jazeera in 2002, showing pictures of the bodies of Palestinian children killed and badly mutilated by the Israeli army.
In 1998, Israeli medical authorities brashly stole body organs from a Scottish tourist named Alistair Sinclair who died under mysterious circumstances at the Ben Gurion Airport.
Sinclair’s family reportedly sued Israel upon finding that their son’s heart and other organs were missing.
According to one report, a heart and organs were sent to his mother who didn’t believe that these were her son’s.