Abraham H. Foxman
National Director of the Anti-Defamation League
This article originally appeared in The Cutting Edge News on January 25, 2010
In today's hyper-connected world, one individual's extremist rant on the Internet can quickly become fodder for a newspaper headline halfway around the world.
This was the case when a Seattle man posted an incoherent tirade on YouTube, making the preposterous allegation that the much-lauded Israel Defense Forces mobile hospital unit in Haiti might be involved in stealing organs for profit.
Identifying himself as "T. West" of "AfriSynergy Productions," he declared: "People have to be aware of personalities who are out for money. The IDF has participated in the past in steal [sic] organ transplants of Palestinians and others."
Several anti-Israel Web sites and Middle East news sources immediately picked up on and reported as credible the allegations made by "T. West" that Israel may be involved in stealing organs from earthquake victims. "Israel Harvesting Organs in Haiti?" asked a banner headline on the Web site of Press TV, a state-funded Iranian news channel. The answer was readily provided in the adjacent article, quoting directly from the "T. West" tirade.
Similar articles appeared on other anti-Israel Web sites in the Middle East, including that of Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, an armed wing of the terrorist group Hamas. In the United States, Alex Jones, an American anti-Israel conspiracy theorist, picked up on the "story" and reported it as fact.
All of these reports cited the YouTube video from "T. West" in Seattle as their source.
How does such an outrageous accusation, made by someone virtually unknown ostensibly sitting in his living room with no information other than what he has read on the Internet and seen on television, get broadcast around the world in nano-seconds as the truth?
The answer is technology. The Internet has made it easy for anyone to "broadcast yourself" – as the YouTube saying goes – and many do so with nefarious intentions and without fear of consequences.
The Internet's increasingly user-driven social-networking sites are a boon not only to those who put them to use for positive purposes -- for getting out news and video from the anti-government protests in Iran, for example -- but to those who spread incitement, malicious rumors, extremism and hatred.
We no longer live in the time when toxic anti-Semitic conspiracy theories spread slowly, through word-of-mouth, books, articles, or were contained within fringe groups and extremist activists. Today, within minutes, any spurious allegation posted online that casts a negative light on the Jewish state or Jews, no matter how dubious or untrustworthy the source, is repeated and spread and embraced as fact.
The allegations of Israeli or Jewish "organ harvesting" for profit are not new. While it is difficult to pinpoint the source of the rumors, the myths started spreading on the Internet following the July 2009 arrest of a New Jersey rabbi on charges of allegedly selling organs as part of a larger graft conspiracy involving public officials.
This prompted anti-Semitic "organ harvesting" rumors across the Internet and around the world. In August 2009, a Swedish newspaper published an article alleging that Israeli soldiers had targeted Palestinians and harvested their organs for profit. This false and malicious story was picked up in papers across the Middle East, and quickly mushroomed into a full-blown conspiracy theory alleging a Jewish plot to harvest organs from Algerian children, Ukrainian children and adults, and others.
Anti-Israel activists jumped on these reports, and further propagated this fabrication on blogs, in press releases and calls to action.
The rumors of organ harvesting for profit are a new and updated version of the ancient blood-libel, which alleged that Jews use the blood of Christian children to bake their Passover bread.
Enter "T. West," who has posted a number of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic videos on YouTube, including a six-part series of videos in August and September 2009 advancing the allegation of Israeli organ harvesting for profit.
With the world watching the images of the IDF field hospital saving lives in Haiti, this one individual turned the story of Israel's vital humanitarian assistance into a negative, and opened a new chapter in the already discredited Big Lie of Israeli organ harvesting.