A Bloodcurdling Libel (A Summer Story) Part 2


The last public discussion of blood sacrifice took place less than a hundred years ago. In 1911, in Kiev (now the capital of Ukraine, then a major city of the Russian Empire) Andrew, a 12-year old student of a church school was brutally and unusually murdered. There were 47 wounds on his body; his blood was drained off while his mouth was gagged. It appears the murder had a ritual character, as did the murder of the Torso boy in England of our days. It could have been done by a Satanist, by a fanatic, or another obsessed person. Could such a person be of Jewish origin? Yes. Could the murderer have been driven by some peculiar misconceptions of the Jewish faith? We have seen that the answer is ‘yes’.

However, 400 Rabbis wrote a letter to the authorities and to the court denying the very possibility of such a miscreant. In a mass paroxysm of hysteria, Russia was divided between believers and disbelievers in the ritual murders. The Liberal media accepted philosemitic thesis: Jews can’t kill. Certainly not in a ritual way. The Tsar wisely enquired how somebody can be as sure as the 400 Rabbis. He touched the most important point.

There is no crime that Russians, English, Americans, French or Chinese, or alternatively, Christians, Muslims, or Buddhists would say that their fellow countrymen or co-religionists were unable to commit. We know that humans are capable of both to highest inspiration and to basest cruelty. Human sacrifices were known to all nations, even to the Greeks (Iphigenia) and Hebrews (Jephtah). However, the Jews, whose religion contains the religious duty of genocide (Amalek), the religious duty to curse Gentiles, who actually practiced ritual murder of children (albeit their own), were ready to vouch for co-members of Israel: Jews could not do it. This extraordinary degree of tribal solidarity positioned Jews in a separate category. Not a nation, not a religion, but a mutual protection syndicate.

‘It is an accusation of the entire Jewish people’, the Rabbis wrote. It was a lie: only one man was accused, and later found innocent. But their approach was tactically useful: masses of Jews from New York to Moscow were mobilised to defend Beyliss. Liberal public opinion in Russia, Europe and America supported them.

Only one man of note, [9] Vasili Rosanov , a brilliant maverick, poet, writer and religious thinker, once forgotten but now rather popular in post-Soviet Russia, was convinced that Andrew was martyred by Jews, though not necessarily by Beyliss. (The Russian intelligentsia ostracised him) Previously an extreme philosemite (he had planned to convert into Judaism) he was touched by dreadful fate of young Andrew and upset that none of Beyliss defenders cared about the cruelly murdered child. He wrote an interesting [10] memoir , trying to prove that Jews actually practiced human sacrifices.

He dabbled with Cabbala, drew diagrams of Andrew’s wounds worthy of his contemporary Alistair Crowley, and quoted many verses from the Old Testament, Talmud and even New Testament dealing with blood. In his conclusions he referred to the Jewish custom of sucking the blood of a circumcised member, and to rather cruel Jewish [animal] slaughter rules (now banned in some European countries). His most interesting insight was quite surprising even for a lapsed Christian he was: he considered that Old Biblical Judaism, the forerunner of Christianity, knew and practiced human sacrifices; as otherwise, (he reasoned) Christ would not offer Himself as a supreme sacrifice. Rosanov saw in Isaiah, 53 (he was pierced for our transgressions etc) – not a prophecy of Christ’s Passion, but description of actual human sacrifice at the Jerusalem Temple. The worship in the Jerusalem temple of Yahweh was extremely bloody indeed, and Mishna tells of rivers of blood pouring forth from under its altar. It was condemned by prophets and made the Temple a living anachronism by the time of its destruction. It was probably a reason why the temple was not rebuilt, but Rosanov’s insights, whether true or false, have no direct bearing on the question of human sacrifices in 20th century.

Have no doubt: one can find many quotes in the Bible, Talmud and later Cabbalistic books in support of human sacrifices. Dahl, the 19th century Danish author of a short treatise on the murders, referred to Numbers 23:24 (‘drinks the blood of his victims’) and to many other verses. We are better equipped for such research than the contemporaries of William of Norwich or Andrew of Kiev, for we have better texts. For instance, in 1913 the experts would not have been able to find such a quote from [11] Talmud : “It is good to pierce a goy even on Yom Kippur if it falls on Sabbath day. Why ‘pierce’, instead of ‘slaughter’? Because slaughter demands blessing, while one can pierce without blessing.” Now we have it in print in new editions published in Israel. It is usual to view such quotes as a sign of the exaggerated hatred of Talmudic sages towards ordinary people. But there could appear a mystic, a black magician, who would see it as the instruction for Yom Kippur sacrifice, kapparoth.

However this is not a proof that such cases were numerous, or that this tradition was widely spread. Moreover, the scholars who have studied the phenomenon and came to accept it for a fact, concluded that such cases were rare, and remained unknown to vast majority of Jews.

Rosanov was as wrong as the Rabbis. They had no business to deny a priori a possibility of the crime being committed by a Jew. They were wrong in claiming that ‘all Jews’ were accused. Rosanov could not be as sure as they were, either. He did not have to turn blood sacrifices into the cornerstone of Judaism. However, while facing the united philosemitic front, he allowed his pugilist nature to take over his better self. We shall reject his attitude as unfair and prejudiced. Indeed, the idea of human sacrifice and of blood as atonement is well known to Christians and Jews; thus the ritual murder of Andrew could have been done by persons of Jewish or non-Jewish background. At best, Rosanov’s book might convince a Jewish mystic to try his hand at ritual murder and blood libation.

But the Jews took up the case as the case against all Jews. The Beyliss defence team tried to frame one of the key trial witnesses, Vera Cheberiak. She was offered a huge bribe by an advocate who admitted that he had met her at his initiative in dubious circumstances. Her own children were killed ‘by persons unknown’. In 1919, after the Bolshevik victory, she was arrested and roughly mistreated by the Jewish commissars of Kiev Cheka. She refused to retract her statements, insisted that she had spoken the truth and was executed after a 40-minute [12] ‘trial’

In the same year 1919, the Soviet Department of Education convened a commission to find the final truth about the blood sacrifices. It consisted of four Jews and four Christians. Simon Dubnov, a Jewish historian, participated in the commission, and in his memoirs he wrote: ‘the Russian members did not exclude possibility that there could be a secret Jewish sect practising ritual violence. The Jewish members of the commission were certain it could not happen at all.’

Alexander Etkind, our contemporary, a Russian Jewish scholar of religions, and an author of authoritative book on Russian sects, wrote in his [13] review : “We can be more open nowadays. I do not consider it is impossible that among Jews there were a cruel and secretive sect. I studied the Russian sects, some of them can be described as bloody, vicious, murderous. I am not aware of similar Jewish sects, but I can not exclude their existence a priori. Apparently, my feelings are more close to that of the Russian members of the commission than to the Jewish ones’.

In the long history of Blood Libel studies, this was the wisest remark ever made. Alexander Etkind was right, while David Aaronovitch was wrong. A well known Jewish cabbalist and mystic Yitzhak Ginzburg, the head of an Israeli Yeshiva Od Yosef Hai, actually confirmed it when he recently told the American newspapers, ‘a Jew is entitled to extract liver from a goy if he needs it, for life of a Jew is more valuable than the life of a goy, likewise life of a goy is more valuable than the life of an animal’. Such people won’t see a difference between animal and human sacrifice.


The question of ritual murders divides mankind, but it is not a division of Jews versus Gentiles. The real division is equally sharp: on one side, philosemites, Jews and Gentiles who a priori exclude a possibility of a Jewish guilt. If they find a dead body and a Jew with knife next to it, they would exclaim, ‘Not another blood libel!’ On the other hand, normal people, Jews and Gentiles who are ready to consider all circumstances of each case, without prejudice, as proposed by Alexander Etkind. A philosemite a priori excludes a possibility that a cruel or ritual murder was committed by a Jew; he is a naïve racist, at best. Mr Aaronovitch has no knowledge of the Damascus case. The murder occurred in 1840, a long time ago. He just presumes a Jew can’t be guilty, full stop.

The Damascus suspects were tortured, and therefore their confession is invalid, writes Aaronovitch. Torture is evil, but in Israel, suspects of ‘terrorist crimes’ are invariably tortured. According to Amnesty International and other Human Rights Watch bodies, tens of thousands of Palestinians, including children, have been tortured in the cellars of Shabak. However, Aaronovitch never tried to doubt any Israeli conclusions achieved by torture.

The murder victim was a priest, and it pushes Aaronovitch to classify the case as ‘antisemitic blood libel’. But priests, nuns and monks were killed by Jews. Hundreds were slaughtered in Antioch in 610, and thousands in Jerusalem in 614. Monks and priests are being killed even now in Israel. For instance, a few years ago, a settler Asher Rabo killed a few monks with an axe and splashed their blood on the walls. He was apprehended by a monk from the Jacob’s Well monastery, and was found insane by an Israeli court. Later, two Russian nuns were murdered with an axe in the St John the Baptist monastery. Practically all murderers of priests and desecrators of churches and mosques were found insane by Israeli judges, but there was a system to their insanity.

Aaronovitch presents the Damascus case as ‘libel against all Jews’. But it was just one person who was accused of the murder. At the same time, Farhi, a Jew of Damascus, had ‘more money than the Bank of England’, (wrote a travelling Englishman) and managed the treasury of St Jean d’Acre. If an accusation against one Jew is an accusation against all Jews, there is no way to correct small errors by small measures.

Indeed, the philosemites of Aaronovitch ilk brought incredible calamities to mankind and to Jews. They excluded a priori the possible guilt of Captain Dreyfus or Beyliss. Instead of standing aside and allowing the justice to take its due course, they created mass hysteria in France and Russia, thus obtaining acquittals but also undermining popular belief in the judicial system. After Dreyfus and Beyliss trials, Jews rose above the law. This caused the backlash of the 1930s, and the back-backlash of our days, and will probably cause a back-back-backlash of tomorrow.

In a better world, Dreyfusards and Beylissists would be sentenced for contempt of court; for their unspoken axiom was ‘a Gentile may not judge a Jew’. One should not believe or disbelieve ritual murders. The ability of men to commit crimes is well known, and there can be monsters like Dr Hannibal Lector of The Silence of the Lambs. Some of them are led by their peculiar interpretation of the Holy Bible. In our days the president of a superpower sent his shock troops to attack a small and weak country and killed thousands of men, women and children for he believed God wants it. (Yes, this God was Mammon, as the witty Polish [14] philosopher noted.) He would have done better to quietly sip the blood of babies.

Jews of our days rarely know they are supposed to eat matzo on Passover, let alone afikoman. They are blissfully unaware of the troublesome legacy of medieval Jewry. But a few things have survived from those times.

The thought to write this essay came to me as I watched the body count of massacred Palestinian children grow daily. Since the start of the Second Intifada on September 29, 2000, 2,237 Palestinians have lost their lives. This total includes 430 children who were killed; 228 kids were under age 15, and 202 others between 15 and 17 years old. This is more than all the children that Jews were accused of murdering since William of Norwich. Why should one think of the old accusations, when there is a fresh new and incontrovertible crime?

Because the new murderers enjoyed the traditional cover-up. The system of cover-up was not created yesterday, it was inherited from the Middle Ages, when the Jewish communities were ruled by the omerta code of loyalty. A criminal is not supposed ever to surrender a fellow criminal to justice. This approach was integrated into the inner life of Jewish communities. They even adopted a criminal label ‘moser’ (an informer), one who informs non-Jewish authorities of crimes perpetuated by Jews against non-Jews. Such a moser is ‘ben mavet’: he may be and should be killed by any [15] Jew , preferably on Purim or Passover, but Yom Kippur is also a suitable day. For instance, a Jew who learnt of a raving fanatic who committed ritual murders was not allowed under pain of death to inform the Gentile authorities of the crime. This medieval attitude is still with us, as it found its new life in the philosemitic concept of a priori innocence of Jews.

In other words, a philosemite who rejects the very idea of a crime committed by a Jew is a potential accessory to murder. Let us look again at the cutting from the Observer. Why did it cause no spurts of indignation? Does it mean ‘we can’t compare Jews and Schwartzes’? Or does it mean the Blacks have no sick and depraved need to stand up for every other [16] Black regardless of the gravity of the crime?

And now it is the time to disclose the real crime behind the allegations, for this crime is still with us. Hundreds of Jews knew of the satanic plan by the ‘Avengers’ led by Abba Kovner to poison millions of innocent German civilians, men, women and children – and not even one reported it to the police, let alone tried to stop it. On a minor note, just today the leader of the German Jewish community expressed his ‘wholehearted support’ for repulsive Michael Friedman, ‘the man who turned his Jewishness into useful tool’, in the words of Haaretz’ [17] Benny Zipper and was found sniffing coke in the company of Ukrainian whores. This inner quasi-criminal solidarity of Jews – standing up for Sharon, standing up for Mark Rich, standing up for Michael Friedman, and harbouring every evildoer if he happens to be a Jew or to be good for Jews, – that is the real crime behind the Blood Libel, for it has caused the murder of hundreds of Palestinian children, with the silent approval of philosemites.


Paradoxically, Jews tend to harbour criminals because their world view is so different from the Christian one. The deepest chasm between Christianity and Judaism is not located in the murky area of sacrifices. Jews believe in collective salvation, guilt and innocence, Christians – in individual salvation, guilt and innocence. That is why a sin committed by a Christian has no bearing for the rest of Christians. A Christian is free of guilt by virtue of Christ’s incarnation, death and resurrection, by virtue of his own baptism and communion. But Jews also bear no collective guilt in Christian eyes.

For a Jew, the admitted guilt of one Jew would turn all Jews into guilty ones. That is why for Jews, all Christians (or all Germans, all Palestinians etc) are guilty for an offence committed by some of them. That is why non-Jews are always guilty in Jewish eyes. Americans are guilty because their fathers did not collect all the Jews to their bosom in 1930s. Christians are guilty because their ancestors did not like to be cursed and occasionally mistreated the cursers. Germans and Palestinians, Russians and French – everybody is guilty towards Jews in Jewish eyes.

This Jewish idea of collective responsibility spreads nowadays into Christendom. The Germans are obsessed by their feeling of guilt, and in masochistic apotheosis buy the Goldhagen’s spew. The Catholic Church even asked forgiveness of the Jews. It is good for a wrongdoer to ask forgiveness from a wronged person. But acceptance of the Jewish paradigm of collective guilt is an error of judgement, as well as a theological error. We are free from guilt. The Church is free from guilt. And Jews – modern Jews – are free from guilt for whatever their ancestors did. Even if medieval Jews harboured a murderous child-killing sect, Jews – our contemporaries – are free of guilt.

Now, when the talk of the Blood Libel is used to induce guilt feelings in modern Europeans, one has to admit: the Christians were rather wonderful to this hateful group of my ancestors: they were always ready to receive them as equals, as beloved brothers and sisters. Just think of it: the Jews daily wished the Christians to drop dead, while the Christians wanted the Jews to join them and be saved. The generosity of the Church was fabulous – even Jews who committed cruel murder could save themselves through baptism.

I think of it when I read Goldhagen’s attacks on the Church, or other Jewish writing condemning the Church for its ‘antisemitism leading to the holocaust’. Gratitude is not a strong point within the system of Jewish moral values. In 1916 Weitzman promised to the British the eternal gratitude of the Jews, and they sent their soldiers to die in Gaza, Beersheba, Jerusalem and Megiddo for the Jewish national home. By 1940 the eternity was over, and Jews began to hunt and kill British soldiers. In the World War Two, the Russians took in all Jewish refugees, lost millions of their soldiers and saved the Jews. Instead of gratitude, they compared Stalin to Hitler, spoke of Russian pogroms, and demanded (successfully) to introduce sanctions against Russia. Lebanese Maronites allied themselves with Israel, only to be dropped like a hot brick at the time of withdrawal. But ingratitude to the Church was the most extreme case.

Christians perceived the Jews as people possessed by a demon, and they were indeed possessed by a demon of hate. It was not racial, but an ideological and theological group, and by giving up the ideas of hate a Jew could join mankind. The Jews were treated like Neo-Nazis in modern society: repulsive and hateful creatures to be kept at arm’s length but to be fully forgiven if they forsook their errors. Many Jews were received in the Church, and some became saints, like St Teresa, and some became bishops, and some became nobles, and some became teachers and scholars. But the most important thing they received from the Church was full release from the spirit of hate. They were released from doubt that people love them and they went on to love people – not only the chosen ones, but everybody.


However, we can offer another and more important reading of the ‘blood libel’. The pre-modern people were naturally Jungian: they used myth in order to convey their thoughts. Medieval Jews were harbingers of capitalism and globalisation, the tendencies that were to prove perilous for children and for the future of ordinary men. They were usurers, and usurers ‘suck the lifeblood’ of their debtors even in modern usage. Thus, an accusation of blood sacrifice was a powerful ‘scarecrow’, a metaphoric warning to potential borrowers to stay away from the usurers, and to be suspicious of burgeoning capitalism.

We use metaphoric scarecrows now, too. The government could say ‘do not use marijuana, for we are heavily invested in wine and liquors, and besides, we want you to relax by shopping and not by smoking pot’. But they scare the public with pictures of heroin addiction: destitute families, health hazards and social consequences. Marijuana is not heroin, but without frighteners people won’t heed the warning, the campaigners think.

Poor people of the pre-modern days had no teachings of Marx, and they used the language of myth. Indeed, all victims of ritual murder belonged to the working classes, and belief in the Jewish ritual murder was widespread among the poor who were the first to suffer from the advent of capitalism. On the other hand, the royalty and upper classes were usually supportive of Jews and punished those who complained of ritual murders. In some countries, the complainers were punished by death, while in Russia, the Tsar forbade even considering the possibility of ritual murder by a Statute of 1817 [18]. Indeed, the ruling classes were not afraid of capitalism and usury.

However, this warning scheme worked until Christians succumbed to the temptation of usury in the age of religious tolerance and ‘blood-sucking’ stopped being an exclusively Jewish occupation. Mme Bovary, this charming and all-too-human character of Flaubert, was ruined by a French usurer who trapped her by allaying her fears with soothing ‘I am not a Jew’. Then, the old frightening myth was put in abeyance for it ceased to be relevant.

The world became civilised, whole communities and countries became indebted, while citizens have gotten trapped into mortgage repayments and consumer credit. With the victory of capitalism and spread of globalisation, the chances for ordinary children of growing up, finding good satisfying work and living peacefully in their own home and community as their parents did, took a nosedive. The great danger to our children is not a marginal Jew on the fringes of society, but the very structure of society; and it calls for an altogether different cautioning myth.

[9] http://www.reec.uiuc.edu/srl/Rozanov/rozanov_program.htm
[10] Jewish attitude to smell and touch of blood, reprinted Moscow 1998
[11] Hesronot Shas, Pesahim mem tet 13 bet, Omar R Eliezer, am haaretz mutar lenochro byom kipurim shehal lihiot beshabat. Omru lo talmidav, Rabbi, emor “leshohto”! Omar lahen ze taun bracha, uze ein taun bracha.
[12] Memoirs of Chekist, Prague 1925, quoted from Solzhenitsyn, 200 years I:451 M 2002
[13] Kololol Nr 1, London – Moscow 2002
[14] Marek Glogoczowski
[15] See extensive study in Israel Shahak and Norton Medvinsky book , Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel. Hastily written and under-edited (for instance it refers to the Arc as ‘holy cupboard’!), it still provides much of valuable material.
[16] Save OJ
[17] Haaretz, 11 July 2003
[18] Beyliss case took place after reforms of 1905 which voided the old statutes and made the trial possible

What Israel Shamir describes above is not exclusively confined to the Jewish world. It has its counterpart among gentiles too, see:
‘The Power of Sacrifice: Then and Now’



Israel Shamir is a critically acclaimed and respected Russian Israeli writer. He has written extensively and translated Joyce and Homer into Russian. He lives in Jaffa, is a Christian, and an outspoken critic of Israel and Zionism.