Unfounded Claims of “Organ Harvesting” Reignite Embers of Decades-Old Hospital Scandal and Centuries-Old Trope

Gloved hands in operating room

Stock photo

Longstanding accusations of Israeli organ harvesting have reemerged in the aftermath of the October 7 massacres. This conspiracy theory plays on the blood libel trope, which dates to the Middle Ages and alleges that Jews use the blood of Christian children to bake their Passover bread. In the current Israeli-Palestinian context, organs are substituted for blood, and in some cases, activists are alleging that Israel purposefully kills Palestinians to harvest their organs.  

In recent weeks, the trope has been shared on social media – in late November, model and influencer Gigi Hadid reposted a video on Instagram which claimed that Israel harvests the organs of dead Palestinians – and among some pro-Palestinian activists. 


In 2009, Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet released an explosive article by Donald Boström implying that the Israel Defense Forces kills Palestinians to provide organs to Israeli hospitals and calling for an investigation into these claims. While he did not outright accuse Israel of killing Palestinians for their organs, he strongly implied that this was taking place.  

The article sparked enormous controversy, created a diplomatic rift between Sweden and Israel and spawned numerous conspiracy theories about Israel purposefully murdering Palestinians. Facing this deluge of controversy, Bostrom defended his article while admitting he wasn’t sure he had adequate evidence but hoped the article would elicit enough interest to start an investigation. 


In the 1990s, one Israeli facility (the Abu Kabir Forensic Institute) took organs from IDF soldiers, Israeli civilians, Palestinians, foreign workers, and others whose corpses came into the Institute, without seeking permission from the families of the deceased. Dr. Yehuda Hiss, the Institute’s chief pathologist, introduced and oversaw the practice. During Hiss’s tenure (which began in 1988), many scandals surfaced about how bodies were treated in the morgue, and he was eventually removed from his position in 2012.   

In a state inquiry report, Israeli authorities found “no evidence that Hiss targeted Palestinians; rather, he seemed to view every human body that ended up in his morgue, whether Israeli or Palestinian, as fair game for organ harvesting. The families of dead Israeli soldiers were among those who complained about Hiss’s conduct.” 

In 2010, Israel and the IDF confirmed that the Abu Kabir Forensic Institute had stopped harvesting organs without permission. Additionally, Israeli guidelines for obtaining organs from deceased individuals have been clarified.  

In the years that followed, anti-Israel activists embellished and exaggerated the initial information about lax procedures in a single Israeli research institute into a full-fledged conspiracy theory: that stealing the organs of dead Palestinians is a widespread practice in Israel. The U.S. State Department identified a case as late as 2022 of an alleged expert repeating the allegation on Palestine TV.  

Recent expressions of this libel include:  

  • December 6: Anti-Israel activist Abier Khatib reposted a Tiktok decrying Israel’s “skin bank”, comprised of skin harvested from Palestinians. These claims stem from old interviews with Hiss and others involved with the Abu Kabir incidents.   

  • November 11, 2023: Popular “news” account Land Palestine posted accusations that Israel steals the skin of Palestinians, which are also based on old interviews of Hiss and others involved with the Abu Kafir incidents.   

  • November 22, 2023: Swedish-Algerian Journalist Yayha Abu Zakariya invoked the trope on Yemeni-Houthi TV, claiming Jews used the blood of Christian children to make Passover bread. 

  • November 26, 2023: Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor expressed “concerns” that Israeli soldiers were harvesting organs of Palestinians killed in Gaza. They cited unnamed “medical professionals in Gaza” who acknowledged that the allegation was speculative and could not be proven with forensic evidence. 

image from "organ harvesting" video
  • November 30, 2023: TRT World, a Turkish public broadcaster, released a video with some inflammatory imagery, recycling Euro Med’s accusations.