There are many times here when I’ve begun a post saying something along the lines of “Israel has gone well and truly mad.” This is one of those nights. A popular Israeli TV presenter, Tzvi Yehezkeli, posed this question to his Facebook followers:
“Tell us what you think: should an organ donor be allowed to decide who should receive their donated organ? Just to Jews? Or to anyone in need, including Arabs?”
These bizarre, racist questions sent a collective shiver through social media platforms. The comparisons to Nazi Germany were obvious and readily noted. What specifically makes a Jewish organ different from a non-Jewish one? Or a Jewish body different from a non-Jewish one? Where in the Torah or Talmud does it say that Jewish bodies are fundamentally different from non-Jewish ones? Where does it say that saving a life should be restricted to saving only a Jewish life?
The question raises other issues as well: what about the recipient? If he’s Jewish may he restrict organs transplanted into his body only to Jewish donors? I’d be willing to bet a hefty sum if one of the Israeli Jews who admit to the camera they wouldn’t give an Arab an organ would be happy to accept an Arab organ themselves if it would save their lives. Thus the hypocrisy abounds.
In the video preview of the program (the full program was aired a few hours ago in Israel and is not yet available online), a medical doctor clearly declares that this entire notion is not only ridiculous but a complete violation of medical ethics. Even further, permitting donors or recipients to determine who will receive or give an organ defeats the entire purpose of the transplant protocol, which is based solely on medical considerations. When you get an organ and from whom you get it should be solely determined by traditional medical protocols developed over decades relating to the health of the recipient and the likelihood the transplant will significantly improve quality of life. It is truly an abomination to mingle religious considerations with anything else. I hesitate to even write the words “religious considerations,” because these racist notions are not part of my Jewish religion. And I am disgusted they would be part of any Jew’s considerations.
Can you imagine a white organ donor telling the transplant facility he will only give his organ to a white man? Or a Catholic saying he would only donate to a fellow Catholic? In what sort of society is this acceptable behavior, or even permissible?
Channel 10 later offered a disclaimer saying that the viewer poll featured on its Facebook page shouldn’t have been understood to have represented the views of Yehezkeli. Instead, they were merely questions posed to those interviewed for the program itself. Which begs the question: who thought that these were proper questions that should be presented to an Israeli viewing audience? The station has also removed the one-minute video preview featured above, perhaps out of embarrassment. If anyone here has the full program, please be in touch.
Further, a Haredi rabbi interviewed on the program, who runs a transplant service for Orthodox Jews, explicitly says that permitting donors to make such restrictions vastly increases the number of organ donations. In other words, this racist practice is already in effect in Israeli medicine. I don’t know enough about Israeli medical practice to know if there are specific hospitals in Israel which honors these demands. Perhaps there are hospitals in largely Orthodox communities which follow such procedures. If so, it is a perversion of real medicine.
It also reminds me of infertile couples who need a sperm or egg donor to conceive, and who demand donors with genius IQs or Ivy League degrees. When my wife and I faced a similar decision, I asked her what she thought we should look for. Her reply was: a healthy donor. That’s all. As for all the rest, who cares? And she was right. White, Black, Christian, Muslim–what does it matter?
I’ve often quoted the Talmudic dictum: if you are told you must kill a man or be killed, you cannot kill another. Then it adds: “For is your blood redder than his?” In other words, you are both human beings. You are no better than him. You cannot put yourself above him and decide your life is more worthwhile than his. The same is true of organ donation. As far as bodies are concerned, you are human beings. Not Jews, not “Arabs.”
I’ve often featured reports on polls indicating the deep well of racism in Israeli society. This TV show offers a perfect exemplar of this problem. Something most Israelis wouldn’t even see as a problem: and that too is part of the problem.