Lonely Man of Cake

February 8, 2007

BREAKING: Blood Libels

Filed under: Academia,Judaism,Religion — lonelymanofcake @ 6:16 pm

I caught the tail end of an interview on Israel’s Channel 1 where it was revealed that an Israeli scholar has published a book in which he contends that there is historical basis for the blood libels of the Middle Ages.

There is, of course, the infamous article of Yisrael Yuval which places the blame for the blood libels on the graphic post-Crusades Jewish literature. But this is a whole different ballgame.

UPDATE: A did a little digging around, and the scholar in question is Professor Ariel Toaff of Bar-Ilan University. The title of the book is Easter of Blood (according to the Telegraph; according to The Washington Post, the title is Bloody Passovers: The Jews of Europe and Ritual Murders).

Have a look at the following articles: here, here, and here. The purpose of academic tenure is precisely to facilitate the publication of these types of controversial works, while protecting the security of the professor’s job in light of fierce criticism. As is often the case, I don’t think that any conclusions should be drawn from three newspaper articles. I would like to see members of the academic community reading and reviewing the book, and either verifying or rebutting its purported claims.



  1. That is one of the more disturbing things I have read recently. It would not surprise me if references to both the author and the book start cropping up on all the usual sites.

    Given how dubious the evidence, how tenuous the assertion, what purpose is served including this material in a book? Can one not safely rely on all the usual sources for all the matzos ha dam sensationalism?

    Comment by Martin — February 9, 2007 @ 2:32 am | Reply

  2. Martin,

    Thanks for your comment. I’m not a medievalist, and in my academic training I’ve studied the blood libels only peripherally. Additionally, I have not yet seen the book (the newspapers cannot even agree on the correct title!). Toaff (incidentally, the son of the chief rabbi of Italy) defends his assertion by claiming that the persons in question were zealous fundamentalists far from the mainstream. Their actions, undoubtedly, would have been condemned by the masses.
    Every age in Judaism has had its religious zealots. And there always seems to be an oscillation when it comes to zealotry as to who will be affected by the zealot’s actions. Mattathias, the Hasmonean, for example, is said to have killed Jews who offered pagan sacrifice. On the other hand, we have the rabbinic dictum to be killed rather than kill if coerced to violate one of the three major sins. Rabbinic zealotry demands self-sacrifice. But there was certainly always a current of militant-zealotry in Judaism which vested itself with the power to kill others.

    Comment by lonelymanofcake — February 9, 2007 @ 9:32 am | Reply

  3. “It would not surprise me if references to both the author and the book start cropping up on all the usual sites.”

    Refrences to both the author and the book have started cropping up on all the usual sites..e.g., the neo-Nazi “Ziopedia”

    Comment by Schmorgel — February 11, 2007 @ 12:39 am | Reply

  4. One of the main flaws of the book which we’ll get to assess in greater detail when it is released to the public is the author’s admitted reliance on confessions extracted from Jews under torture.
    As noted, it is unfortunate that the author did not consider–before publication of his book–the ramifications of his theory for members of the anti-Semitic community. Such theories are most appropriate for academic conferences and esoteric journals, not books.

    Comment by lonelymanofcake — February 11, 2007 @ 8:08 am | Reply

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