According to a recent article in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, after nine members of the Knesset signed a petition initiated by the NGO Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting (I serve as DAFOH’s executive director), the Chinese Embassy in Israel issued a formal complaint. The embassy’s complaint then led the Speaker of the Knesset and a few other Israeli officials to ask those who had signed to retract their signatures. Three did so.
Thou shall never, but never, be a bystander.
—Yehuda Bauer, professor of Holocaust Studies, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
One feels genuine compassion for the pressure these officials and the nine members of the Knesset who signed the DAFOH petition must have been under. They must have felt a conflict between what conscience demands and what is perceived to be in the national interest.
However, what would remain of the national interest if it required betraying ones conscience? The nation is constituted by the people, and the nation is best served by each parliament member following his or her own conscience.
In fact, while the Chinese Embassy has criticized the nine members of the Knesset for signing the DAFOH petition, one might rather wonder why the remaining 111 members of the Knesset did not sign as well. Not long ago, the Knesset passed a new transplant law that aimed at stopping transplant tourism to China for exactly the same reason that the petition addressed: unethical organ harvesting in China.
In the 21st century, the existence of a state-sanctioned system that detains and kills prisoners of conscience for their vital organs is an issue upon which Israel, of all nations, could take a strong moral position.
By taking such a stand, Israel would gain respect and support from all over the world, including the 1.3 billion Chinese people who, if they knew about it, would condemn the forced organ harvesting of their own people, as would people around the world.
Keeping Crimes Hidden
The diplomatic situation Israel has experienced with the Chinese Embassy in the past week is not unprecedented, but is a standard element in the Chinese regime’s strategy to exert power in other countries and to keep its organ transplant crimes hidden.
For more than a decade, Chinese embassies around the world have spread misinformation to incite hatred toward practitioners of the meditation practice Falun Gong, tried to block information from coming to light, and used diplomatic pressure to persuade political leaders and citizens to censor themselves and their fellow citizens on this issue.
In the case of transplant abuse, some medical doctors from abroad have been invited to China, given first-class treatment, and, upon return to their country of origin, have praised the transplant situation in China. These doctors have avoided taking a stand on the evidence about the organ harvesting that has been compiled by researchers such as David Matas and David Kilgour.
From the victim’s perspective, calling for the respect of basic human rights is in essence never a provocation.
By dehumanizing and vilifying the victims, in particular Falun Gong practitioners, while at the same time suppressing any request for investigation, the Chinese regime has been able to harvest organs from wrongfully detained, peaceful citizens for over a decade.
We understand that pressure from the Chinese Embassy caused Israeli officials to choose to pressure the nine members of the Knesset—MKs who did nothing else but exert their right to freedom of expression, as ensured by the basic law of Israel.
The facts support the judgment of those MKs. There are irrefutable facts that neither medical professionals nor citizens can turn away from. Further investigation is essential.
David Matas, a human rights lawyer who spent many years bringing Nazi war criminals to justice, and Hon. David Kilgour, former Canadian secretary of state, conducted an in-depth investigation into the allegations of forced organ harvesting in China. Their findings were published in 2006 as a report titled “Bloody Harvest” (revised in 2007 and published as a book in 2009).
This groundbreaking report provided overwhelming evidence of China’s state-sanctioned system of harvesting organs from detained, living Falun Gong practitioners. It is a malpractice that is reminiscent of the crimes against humanity committed by Dr. Mengele and other Nazi doctors.
Currently, hundreds of thousands of Falun Gong practitioners are detained in China, anonymously and without sentence, subjected to targeted medical examination and categorization, and in many instances, killed at will when their organs can be matched to a buyer.
Human Rights as Provocation
DAFOH is an organization of highly respected medical doctors from around the world. Many of them teach at universities or are leading members in medical organizations. Several of our members have contributed their work to the book “State Organs: Transplant Abuse in China” (2012). Our petition is addressed to the United Nations and simply requests an investigation into unethical organ harvesting practices in China.
The Haaretz article quotes MK Yoel Hasson’s feeling that his signature was being used to “provoke the Chinese government.” From the victim’s perspective, calling for the respect of basic human rights is in essence never a provocation. However, from the perpetrator’s side, it is always perceived as provocation.
The Jewish people know better than anyone else that speaking up for basic rights is tantamount to saving lives. The testimony of Jan Karski before U.S. Chief Justice Felix Frankfurter about the Holocaust would also have been perceived as “provocation” by Nazi Germany.
Yet, if Jan Karski’s call for help had been recognized immediately, it would have saved many people’s lives. Now, the DAFOH petition’s call for investigation can bring an end to crimes against humanity and can save the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.
The petition’s basic request for further investigation generated a disproportionately extreme reaction from the Chinese Embassy in Israel. If one is innocent, one should welcome any investigation to foster the impeccable reputation of one’s national transplant medicine. Yet, the reaction of the Chinese Embassy in Israel suggests that there is actually more to hide.
Though the first conclusive evidence of China’s organ transplant crimes was released in 2006 through the Kilgour-Matas report, to date the Chinese regime has not provided any evidence to disprove the allegations nor provided any accounting for the sources of the approximately 10,000–15,000 organs that are transplanted in China each year.
In their 2011 reports on human rights, both the U.S. Congressional-Executive Committee on China (CECC) and the U.S. Department of State acknowledge reports that practitioners of Falun Gong are subject to organ harvesting. CECC’s chairman Rep. Chris Smith published a commentary on the issue in the Washington Times on Sept. 18, 2012.
In October 2012, 106 members of the U.S. Congress co-signed a letter that implores the U.S. Department of State to disclose information on organ harvesting in China.
On Nov. 5, 2012, Member of the Scottish Parliament Mr. Bob Doris, who signed the same petition as did the nine members of the Knesset, published his own press release on unethical organ harvesting in China.
The call for basic rights is deeply rooted in humankind. The nine members of the Knesset who signed our petition were following their conscience, as were the more than 130,000 people from around the world who also signed.
Will the Chinese regime seek to exert pressure on the remaining signatories to withdraw their signatures as well? Exerting pressure to withdraw signatures doesn’t alter reality. If the Chinese regime feels wrongly accused, a thorough, international investigation would likely be a better measure to correct the allegations than pressuring people to withdraw their signatures.
Never Be a Bystander
The words of Yehuda Bauer, professor of Holocaust studies at the Avraham Harman Institute of Contemporary Jewry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, serve as a reminder for us all: “I come from a people who gave the Ten Commandments to the world.
“Time has come to strengthen them by three additional ones, which we ought to adopt and commit ourselves to: Thou shall not be a perpetrator; thou shall not be a victim; and thou shall never, but never, be a bystander.”
A look at the documentary “Killed for Organs” , recommended as “must see” by Eamonn Fingleton, former editor of Forbes and the Financial Times, will show why these nine members of the Knesset thought it right to sign a petition investigating this atrocity.
The documentary will also serve as a reminder for the Chinese communist regime that pressuring people to withdraw their signatures from a petition is not much different from pressuring people to believe that “2+2=5.”
Torsten Trey, M.D., Ph.D., is executive director of Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting and co-editor, with David Matas, of “State Organs: Transplant Abuse in China.”
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