A Bloodcurdling Libel (A Summer Story) Part 1
By Israel Shamir
Summer heat presents a great challenge to the non-air-conditioned world. When thermometers soar into the roaring forties (or into triple digits for Fahrenheit adepts), mankind slows down and seeks salvation in watery and shady places. Families with children depart for seashore, and elegant couples perambulate to the mountains. But the most sophisticated defence against sticky sweat and discomfort was discovered by the inventive Japanese. On the hottest summer nights, they gather around and tell bloodcurdling horror stories, chilling spines and sending goose pimples to their silky smooth skin. In July, all Tokyo cinemas screen favourite horror movies, from Kwaidan with its host of ghosts to Godzilla meting out vengeance on New York. After such films, the Japanese bravely face the suffocating heat.
This summer, the Japanese example was emulated by David Aaronovitch in the British weekly, The Observer. In order to chill blood of his English readers, he turned to “Blood Libel”, recurring story of Jews kidnapping Christian children, killing them and “using their blood in arcane rituals. We had a spate of these tales in England in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, and many Jews lost their lives as a result”, he wrote. “So what on earth is the blood libel doing in a column in the respected Egyptian mass daily paper Al-Ahram, in a book by the Syrian defence minister and in broadcast sermons from various Palestinian mosques?” asks Aaronovitch. He explains that “the libel in question is the 1840 Damascus case, in which several Jews (including a David Harari) 'confessed' to the Ottoman authorities - under torture - to kidnapping a priest and stealing his blood.”
The priest murdered in Damascus was hardly a child, but it does not stop Aaronovitch. He knows nothing of the case, but it does not stop him either. He just KNOWS a Jew has to be innocent. Aaronovitch is not alone. Jackie Yakubowsky in Sweden and a plethora of his brethren from New York to Moscow remind their readers the sins of Damascus. If you ran an internet search, you would find this expression used extensively whenever a Jewish scribe is unhappy with an accusation levelled at a Jew: be it Marc Rich escaping with his billions from the tax authorities, George Soros impoverishing Malaysia, Ariel Sharon accused of mass murder before a Belgian court, or Muhammad ad-Durra shot in the eyesight of millions of TV spectators, it is always a case of Blood Libel. It does not have to be connected to children and blood anymore. Whatever Jews do not like is ‘antisemitism’. But if a truly unpleasant accusation is aired, the best defence is to roll your eyes to heaven and proclaim, ‘It is Blood Libel’, as Shimon Peres did when the world condemned the Jenin Massacre.
‘Blood Libel’ is the Jewish battle cry, on a par with the ‘Montjoie St Denis’ of the French chevaliers and ‘St. George for merry England’, of the English knights. And whenever it is used, Jews are mobilised into action, and Gentiles are horrified by the accusation and silenced.
When the toll of murdered Palestinian children rose into the hundreds and began to attract attention of international organisations, the spirit of the blood libel was promptly ushered forth as the ultimate defence for the killers. It helped, even though the head of Shabak, the Israeli Secret Service, wondered in a prime-time TV interview why so many children were being gratuitously murdered by Israeli soldiers.
The scaring expression can be used against disobedient Jews as well. When Edward Herman, the author of Manufacturing Consent , wrote of “the powerful pro-Israel lobby in the United States, which advances Israeli interests by pushing for U.S. aid and protection to Israel, and, currently, by pressing for a war against Iraq, which again will serve Israeli interests. This lobby has not only helped control media debate and made congress into `Israeli occupied territory’, it has seen to it that numerous officials with ‘dual loyalties’ occupy strategic decision-making positions in the Bush administration…”, a Jewish American filmmaker David Rubinson wrote to me and called Herman’s words ‘the ultimate blood libel’. My own reference to murdered Palestinian children was described as ‘blood libel’ by The Jerusalem Post, the far-right daily published by Conrad Black
The frequent and tendentious use of the horrifying label (together with ‘antisemitism’ and ‘protocols of the Elders of Zion’) brought a certain depreciation of its value, but it is still going strong. You can’t ever-ever consider that there might be some truth to the Blood Libel, the accusation of ritual murder of children. Or can you? The Blood Libel was recently aired by the Observer, the weekly that published Aaronovitch, and nothing happened. Here is the press clipping:
Now you have recovered your breath. Now you are relaxed. It’s Blacks who commit ritual murders, not Jews. Who cares? In Raymond Chandler’s Farewell, My Lovely, a news-hawk enters the scene of a crime literally awash in blood, learns from a policeman that the carve-up was done by Harlem dwellers, exclaims: ‘aw, hell, shines’, and drives away. For some reason an accusation of ritual murder by Blacks is not called ‘Blood Libel’, just as genocide of Blacks or Armenians is no ‘Holocaust’.
"If Palestinians were black, Israel would be a pariah state subject to economic sanctions led by the United States," The Observer editorialized after the outbreak of the Second Intifada. Oh no, if Palestinians were black (and only some are), slavery would be re-established in the United States, and the great Jewish sage Maimonides’ maxim  ‘Blacks are less than human’ would be embossed in gold on the US dollar. Indeed, Afro-American ‘Israel’, Liberia, for 160 years of its existence received less US aid than the Jewish ‘Liberia’, Israel, in a month.
Why accusation of Blacks in ritual murder is taken so easily, while accusation of a Jew creates waves in the conscience? Can we deal with the accusation of Jews in the same straightforward, unattached and businesslike manner The Observer and the Scotland Yard dealt with similar accusation of Blacks? For if not, our self-declared anti-racism is not worth a penny.
Jews do not mind some blood-libelling. Palestinian parents are habitually blamed by Jewish scribes of ritually sacrificing their own children by exposing them to the justifiable fury of Israeli soldiers. In an article called Child Sacrifice, Palestinian Style a Reuven Koret (Capitalism Magazine, November 13, 2002) marks:  “the Palestinians started sacrificing their own sons and daughters as a matter of policy, as a sacred ritual” The Jerusalem Post wrote of Palestinian  “parents and leaders who proudly send children to die in attacks against Israel and resort to targeting Israeli children as well” , while the singularly malicious Cynthia Ozick wrote: ‘But the most ingeniously barbarous Palestinian societal invention, surpassing any other in imaginative novelty, is the recruiting of children to blow themselves up with the aim of destroying as many Jews as possible in the most crowded sites accessible’
For some reasons, practically none of the Jewish readers  wrote to these publications and protested ‘blood libel’ or ‘wholesale accusation of the entire community nefariously used to spread hatred and inflame racial animosity to the point of murder and massacre’, as David Rubinson protested both Herman’s essays and mine. Apparently it is OK to accuse a whole community as long as it is not a Jewish community. Blood Libel is also OK as long as Jews are the accusers, not the accused.
However, it is the belief in Jewish (not Palestinian) ritual child murders that was widespread and persistent. The old Jewish Encyclopaedia, Vol. III, 266, lists the following cases, beginning with William of Norwich: 5 other cases given for the twelfth century, 15 for the thirteenth, 10 for the fourteenth, 16 for the fifteenth, 13 for the sixteenth, 8 for the seventeenth, 15 for the eighteenth, and 39 for the nineteenth, going right up to the year 1900 (total 113). There have been more cases in the  20th century . What is the reason for this belief? Was there a world-wide and centuries-spanning conspiracy to implicate innocent Jews in heinous crime or is there a crime behind accusations?
This question was tackled by fearless Professor Israel Yuval of Hebrew University in Jerusalem in his seminal  book , available in Hebrew. Its English translation was supposed to appear a few years ago in California University Press, but for variety of reasons this has not happened yet. It is certainly sheer coincidence that some American Jewish scholars objected to this book being published and called to ‘erase it from public conscience’
Yuval discovered actual irrefutable child murder beyond the Blood Libel. During the First Crusade, impatient folk tried to forcibly baptise Jews of Rein Valley in order to save their souls from the satanic cult of hate, as they saw it. Their refusal to be baptised was seen as stubborn adherence to Satan: for the pre-modern people, our present religious indifference was unacceptable. They saw a direct connection between faith and behaviour, and felt the need for communal worship, for unifying communion. A Jew permanently residing in a Christian land created a complicated situation: he was free from duty of brotherly love and could (and often did) act in anti-social way, for instance he practiced usury and sorcery. The Christians were particularly worried by the well-attended Jewish custom of cursing Gentiles. Every day Jews asked God to kill, destroy, humiliate, exterminate, defame, starve, impale Christians, to usher in Divine Vengeance and to cover God’s mantle with blood of goyim. Israel Yuval’s book offers its reader a good selection of bloodcurdling curses.
The Crusaders were non-racists. They did not think the Jews were irredeemably evil, but they rejected the ideology of hate and vengeance expressed in the curses. They also feared the curses, as much as Jews did. (In modern Israel, cursing is a criminal offence punishable by prison). Indeed, for Jews and for Christians of that time the curses were not just silly offensive words, but potent magic weapon. They offered Jews expulsion or conversion, this old-style equivalent of our modern psychological treatment meted out to adepts of totalitarian sects. At that time, the Slavs and the Scandinavians were also forcibly baptised, and it made eminent sense to baptise the Jews living in the Christian lands as well.
However, the Jews did not take the attempt to bring them into New Israel lightly. Whenever the ‘danger’ of baptism became imminent, many of them murdered their own children and committed suicide. It is not deniable: Jewish and Christian chroniclers of the period describe these events at length, with Jews glorifying this Waco-like behaviour, and Christians condemning it. Did they murder the children in order to save them from Christ? Well, not exactly. That would be bad, but the reality was worse. The murder was performed as ritual slaughter followed by victim’s blood libation, for the Ashkenazi Jews believed that spilled Jewish blood has a magic effect of calling down Divine Vengeance on the heads of the Gentiles. Others used the victim’s blood for atonement. In Mainz, Yitzhak b. David, the community leader, brought his small children into the synagogue, slaughtered them and poured their blood on the Arc, proclaiming ‘Let this blood of innocent lamb be my atonement for my sins’. It happened two days after the confrontation with Christians, when the danger passed by.
The picture of Jews slaughtering children for cultic reasons exerted huge impact on the Christian peoples of Europe. This behaviour was not comparable to Christian martyrdom. While Christian martyrs allowed others to kill them for their faith, they never committed suicide, and certainly never murdered their (or anybody else’s) children for such purpose. It enforced an image of Jewish cruelty and ruthlessness. Over the years, the actual circumstances of the child murders were forgotten, but the picture of a Jew slaughtering children remained imprinted in the European matrix. (Yuval uses the thesis of Robert Graves, who explained many traditions of the Church by its misreading of old images.) This was the source of the idea that Jews murder Christian children, while in fact, Jews murdered their own children, writes Professor Yuval.
Indeed, Blood Libel accusations appeared soon after the murder of children in Germany. Yuval speaks with horror about these accusations, completely missing the point: a ritual murder of a child is a ritual murder of a child. If some Jews committed this heinous crime in Mainz and Worms, and other Jews exalted this crime as exemplary behaviour even in Israeli historical books written in 1950s, is there any place left for indignation and horror concerning similar accusations in Norwich or Blois, or indeed in Damascus or Kiev? If Yuval thinks that a Jew can use only Jewish blood for libation to wake up af Adonai (the fury of Yahweh), in some cases, the kidnapped child was circumcised before being murdered, i.e. ‘made a Jewish child’. And for atonement, even lamb’s blood will do.
Numerous medieval stories about Jews killing their children for visiting a church or for considering baptism do not surprise. Parents and relatives of converts went into full mourning for converts. Even in the 20th century, gentle Tevye the Milkman, an ideal hero of Sholem Aleichem’s Fiddler on the Roof, mourned his baptised daughter. The mourning rite for a person alive is a traditional magic means to kill the person. Greater believers in the power of magic probably died of it, as Frazer tells us in his enormous collection of lore. If you try to kill somebody by magic means why restrain yourself from more mundane killing?
Over a period of eight hundred years Jews were convicted in more than hundred cases of ritual murder and blood sacrifice Jews were found guilty of. It is a reasonable amount if we think in terms of religious maniacs. Probably any religious community of similar size would produce similar amount of deviants like [the 15th-century marshal of France] Gilles de Rais or Comorre the Cursed [a 6th-century Breton chief]. It would be strange if all the cases were ‘libel’. The concept of the magic powers of blood was embedded in the Jewish thinking. Blood was used for atonement libation. Yes, it was lamb’s blood, but in the Mainz case, it was children’s blood that served in its place. In the Christian world, there were people who practiced black magic and human sacrifices in a perverted ‘Christian’ ritual. They would substitute human blood for wine of communion that is the blood of Christ that is the blood of Paschal Lamb. Is it reasonable to think that the Jews never ever produced magicians and sorcerers who would use human blood to wash off sins or to hasten Salvation?
On the other hand, it is possible that the connection of blood sacrifices and matzo of Passover or homentash of Purim is but a popular belief. The mystic idea of libation could be misunderstood by simple people. Yuval explains it by a combination of different traditions and their misinterpretation.
Jews hated Christianity with all their hearts and had many magic ceremonies at the time of Easter, Purim and Passover, directed against Christ and Christianity. They made dolls attached to a cross and burned them or defamed them in various ways; they desecrated host and parodied communion. The custom of ‘leaven eradication’ on the Passover morning was also meant to symbolise and to lead magically to the eradication of goyim, writes Yuval. Occasionally they killed priests and nuns. Prayers of Passover were full of anti-Christian references, some of which have survived to the present day, namely Shepoch Hamatha, a prayer demanding God’s vengeance upon goyim, and Aleinu Leshabeyach, a prayer describing Christ and His Mother in most blasphemous terms.
The Christians mentally bridged these phenomena, writes Yuval. If Jews hate Christ and Christians, desecrate host and were seen murdering their own children in a ritual way, probably they murder others’ children in connection with Easter or Passover, as well, thought the Christians according to Yuval. But in his opinion, though the basic facts were right, the conclusion was not. Jews did not use blood for matzo, he writes.
However, the belief of Jewish usage of blood for matzo can be explained better than by general hatred to Christians. In Jewish Passover rites, a small piece of unleavened bread, afikoman was the symbol of the Paschal Lamb. It was hidden at the beginning of the Passover Seder. One can imagine a mystic who would give a direct literal meaning to the metaphor of Afikoman as the Paschal Lamb. It was claimed by many Jews who left the fold and joined the Church, and they also noted that afikoman was baked secretly and separately. Some of them explained that blood was not added directly into dough, but burned and its ashes are used in a ritual reminiscent of the Red Heifer purification.
For Israel Yuval, a believing Jew, any evidence given by a convert is ‘suspicious’ and ‘doubtful’, but it is part of longstanding Jewish tradition to discredit non-Jewish evidence. Likewise, the Israeli ‘New Historians’ have just confirmed the data obtained by their Palestinian colleagues, but their confirmation of 1948’ horrors made a big impact in the West, as non-Jewish research was considered ‘suspicious’ and ‘doubtful’ in the Jewish-dominated discourse. For non-racists, there is no reason to doubt evidence given by non-Jews or ex-Jews. For if the objection to converts is based on rejection of renegades per se, one should object to evidence of the authors of Darkness at Noon (Arthur Koestler) and Homage to Catalonia (George Orwell), or even David Aaronovitch, for they gave up their communist faith for another one.
The converts knew what they said, and Yuval confirms it. For instance, a convert in Norwich explained that ‘Jews believe that without human blood shed they can’t regain their land and their freedom’. It is, according to Yuval, a correct interpretation of the Ashkenazi idea of Vengeance as the path to Salvation. “Jews actually believed that their Salvation depends on Extermination of Gentiles”, he writes. Yes, they hoped God and/or their Messiah will do the work, but does this caveat amounts to an alibi?
If I hope and pray that John will kill my enemy Harry, and Harry is indeed found dead, don’t my hopes and prayers serve as a strong reason for suspicion against me, rather than a full alibi? ‘Oh no, he hoped John would do it, so surely he could not have done it himself?’
This recalls an immortal line by  Raymond Chandler . His private eye Marlowe discovers a handkerchief with fitting initials on the scene of murder. The suspect, a well-bred young lady on intimate terms with the victim, indignantly rejects his suspicion. Marlowe ironically calls out: “This hanky bears your initials, and it was found under victim’s pillow, but this rag stinks of cheap synthetic sandalwood, and you wouldn’t use a cheap scent. And you just never keep your hankies under a man’s pillow. Therefore this has nothing to do with you! Isn’t it too elaborate?”
 Co-authored with Noam Chomsky
 More Nevochim, or Guide to Perplexed, 3:51 “Chinese and Blacks are less than human but above monkeys”.
 Here and elsewhere we shall bear in mind an important exclusion of our wonderful comrades, Jews supporting the cause of equality in Palestine.
 See Medieval Sourcebook http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/sbook.html for details. It offers the following list of saints and martyrs: William of Norwich, d. 1144, Richard of Pontoise or of Paris, d. 1179, Herbert of Huntingdon, d. 1180 -, Dominic of Val, 1250, Hugh of Lincoln, d. 1255, Werner of Oberwesel, d. 1287, Rudolf of Berne, d. 1294, Conrad of Weissensee, d. 1303 , Louis or Ludwig of Ravensburg d. 1429, Anderl of Rinn, d. 1462, Simon of Trent, d. 1475, Lorenzino Sossio, d. 1485
 Two Nations in Thy Womb, or Perceptions of Jews and Christians, Tel Aviv, Am Oved 2000
 The Lady in the Lake
Last updated 08/06/2004