January 17, 2007January 17, 2007
March 7, 2007March 7, 2007
The blood libel has always been a lie – and it remains a lie
Mar 1, 2007
The accusation that Jews practice a ritual in which they murder a
Christian child in order to utilize his blood has led to untold
suffering inflicted on innocent Jews from the twelfth century into
modern times. During the last several generations, all civilized people
came to realize that this is a hostile fantasy with no basis in reality.
Notwithstanding this consensus, virulent anti-Semites, from the Nazis
in Der Sturmer to a disturbing number of contemporary Arab enemies of
Israel, have maliciously continued to affirm its validity.
Now, a book by the Israeli professor Ariel Toaff has provided aid and
comfort to such anti-Semites by implying that a small group of late
medieval Jewish extremists might have actually engaged in such behavior.
Toaff has withdrawn the book and insisted that he never meant to say
this, but his work has been widely understood to suggest such a
possibility. Readers of news reports naturally wonder whether he has
really discovered evidence that should lead to a reassessment.
It is extremely important that everyone understand that he has uncovered
nothing—absolutely nothing—that calls the utter falsity of the blood
libel into question. His argument rests essentially on the following:
Some medieval Europeans—Jews and Christians– believed that blood had
curative powers; a few of them traded in medicines containing blood;
Jews had reason to be hostile to Christians who persecuted them, and
they sometimes expressed this hostility in their religious texts; Jews
interrogated under torture confessed to ritual murder; some of these
Jews supplied accurate texts of the Passover haggadah to their
interrogators, though the texts themselves lend no support whatever to
the accusation in question.
It is an insult to the intelligence to affirm that these considerations
generate even a minuscule degree of support for the proposition that
Jews murdered Christians for their blood. Internal Jewish texts contain
not a scintilla of evidence for such a practice. They flatly forbid
murder, and the legal principles they embody render unthinkable the
practice of blood rituals of the sort that the torturers report. Jews,
Christian scholars, even the vast majority of Jewish converts to
Christianity through the ages affirmed that such charges are entirely,
outrageously false. Indeed, Adriano Prosperi, a distinguished non-Jewish
Italian historian, described Toaff’s book as a “carnivalesque joke in
the worst taste.” Jew-haters have no interest in truth and will both
embrace and inflate reports purportedly confirming their fabrications.
It comes as no surprise that their websites have gleefully disseminated
the imagined findings of Toaff’s book. But people of good will should
not be confused. The blood libel has always been a lie—and it remains a