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: (CLICK)
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 homentashof 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?”
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, 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 memoir , trying to prove that Jews actually practiced human sacrifices.
He dabbed with Cabbala, drew diagrams of Andrew’s wounds worthy of his contemporary Alistair Crawley, 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 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 ‘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 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
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 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 mas-sacred 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.
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.
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 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 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’ 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. 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.