Sunday, November 25, 2007

Urban Myths , Rumors , Anti-Semitism & "The Blood Libel "

One of the most grotesque & bizarre accusations made against Jews by Anti-Semites was that the Jews were engaged in ritual sacrifices of Christian children which is referred to as " The Blood Libel".

At Religious Tolerance.Org Article:Blood libel & host desecration myths Christian myths against Jews 1144 CE to now

In 1144 CE, an unfounded rumor began in eastern England, that Jews had kidnapped a Christian child, tied him to a cross, stabbed his head to simulate Jesus' crown of thorns, killed him, drained his body completely of blood, and mixed the blood into matzos (unleavened bread) at time of Passover. The rumor was started by a former Jew, Theobald, who had become a Christian monk. He said that Jewish representatives gathered each year in Narbonne, France. They decided in which city a Christian child would be sacrificed.

The boy involved in the year 1144 hoax became known as St. William of Norwich. Many people made pilgrimages to his tomb and claimed that miracles had resulted from appeals to St. William. The myth shows a complete lack of understanding of mainline Judaism. Aside from the prohibition of killing innocent persons, the Torah specifically forbids the drinking or eating of any form of blood in any quantity. However, reality never has had much of an impact on blood libel myths. This rumor lasted for many centuries; even today it has not completely disappeared.

Pope Innocent IV ordered a study in 1247 CE. His investigators found that the myth was a Christian invention used to justify persecution of the Jews. At least 4 other popes subsequently vindicated the Jews. However, the accusations, trials and executions continued. In 1817, Czar Alexander I of Russia declared that the blood libel was a myth. Even that did not stop the accusations against Jews in that country.

"Holy shrines were erected to honor innocent Christian victims, and well into the twentieth century, churches throughout Europe displayed knives and other instruments that Jews purportedly used for these rituals. Caricatures of hunchbacked Jews with horns and fangs were depicted in works of art and carved into stone decorating bridges. Proclaimed by parish priests to be the gospel truth, each recurrence of the blood libel charge added to its credence, thus prompting yet more accusations. This vicious cycle continued to spiral."

And that "there are 150 recorded cases of the charge of ritual murder, and many led to massacres of the Jews of the place."

1870's: "With the rise of the modern antisemitic movement in the late 1870s, the traditional blood accusation merged easily with the new scientific racial arguments, serving as a lowest common denominator to unite its secular (and often anti-Christian), Catholic, and Protestant members." 3 Roman Catholic Bishop Martin of Pederborn, Germany, wrote that Jews ritually murdered Christian children.
1881: A Roman Catholic journal, Civilta Cattolica, started a series of articles which attempted to prove that ritual murder was an integral element of the Jewish religion. They argued that the ritual murders occurred at Purim rather than Passover. "It is in vain that Jews seek to slough off the weight of argument against them: the mystery has become known to all." (Not quite all. Historians have rejected the stories of blood libel as myth.)

And as the article continues incredulous as it may seem it appears that even in the 1930's such stories were circulated as if they were irrefutable facts for instance :

1930's Hitler re-used the blood-libel myth as justification for the Holocaust. The Nazi periodical, Der Stürmer, often published special issues devoted to allegations of ritual murder by Jews. Hitler had asked that a propaganda film be made of the 1840 Damascus case. World War II ended before it could be made.

And even in recent years such stories continue to be spread by those who wish to discredit the Jews to further their own agenda as the article goes on to report :

2000's: The Jewish blood-libel myth continues to circulate among many Muslim countries.

2007: Ariel Toaff, an Israeli historian of Italian origin, published a book that has revived the blood libel story. It is titled: "Bloody Passovers: The Jews of Europe and Ritual Murders." Toaff suggests that several crucifixions of Christian children occurred from 1100 to about 1500 CE. He wrote:

"My research shows that in the Middle Ages, a group of fundamentalist Jews did not respect the biblical prohibition and used blood for healing. It is just one group of Jews, who belonged to the communities that suffered the severest persecution during the Crusades. From this trauma came a passion for revenge that in some cases led to responses, among them ritual murder of Christian children."

He bases his book on the testimony given under torture. Twelve of Italy's chief rabbis issued a press release stating:

"It is totally inappropriate to utilize declarations extorted under torture centuries ago to reconstruct bizarre and devious historical theses. ... The only blood spilled in these stories was that of so many innocent Jews, massacred on account of unjust and infamous accusations."

Sergio Luzzatto, in an article in the Corriere della Serra wrote:

"Even if the author should manage to prove that a deviant sect existed for centuries...clearly it could never be identified as a Jewish group, or as part of a Jewish community. This would be comparable to saying that the rabbis who were present at [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad's Holocaust Denial Conference in Teheran represent mainstream Judaism."

Once a story is told often enough it begins to be accepted as fact or that it must be based on some actual incident & in this case the proponents of anti-Semitism seem all too willing to pass on such stories without any objective investigation of the incident to determine what did or did not occur . For the anti-Semite given their " paranoia " & dark fantasies & projections such accusations as the Blood Libel & the desecration of the Host which are made against Jews are seen as reasonable . In the same way anti-Semites blamed the Jews for every occasion of a natural disaster or an outbreak of disease or failures of crops or the loss of a battle or a nation going to war or losing a war - all the calamities which are visited upon us in the Anti-Semites view are the work of the Jews . And so the Jews are accused of poisoning wells & spreading diseases such as the Black Plague and of using Black Magic & of being traitors by selling out the country in which they " reside " As we have seen anti-Semites believe that the Jews are only loyal to other Jews & have little regard for the countries in which they live.

These improbable stories are given added credence when those in positions of authority repeat the accusations & infer that they have some validity such as the Catholic Church or other Christian Churches or representatives of the various Churches or secular authorities such as monarchs or political authorities or even secular scholars & intellectuals -

There is inherently great difficulty in disproving such fantastical myths about the Jews or about other groups such as Freemasons , the Illuminati or The Skull and Bones since any denial of these accusations are seen as further proof that a " conspiracy " exists. Any evidence to the contrary which suggest that the Jews do not sacrifice children or desecrate the Host or poison wells or spread disease or are involved in a world wide conspiracy to destroy Christianity or other religions or to rule the world is seen as more propaganda on the part of the Jews for instance and that all those who defend the Jews in such cases are either willing participants in the " conspiracy " or have been fooled by the Jews whom the anti-Semite believe control just about everything from behind the scenes.

How Urban Myths & rumors become facts

Once a story is told often enough it begins to be accepted as fact or that it must be based on some actual incident & in this case the Catholic Church seems all too willing to pass on such stories without any objective investigation of the incident to determine what did or did not occur.

" Blood Libel " - Jews killing Christian children & sometimes Christian adults for their secret rituals :

For instance as David Kertzer in his book The Popes Against The Jews explains how damaging such lies are when those in authority lend credence to them :

1840 -In Damascus Father Tommaso supposedly murdered by Jews to use his blood & flesh in secret rituals

" In 1869 there appeared the first important publication on ritual murder since the Damascus affair, a work by the French Catholic scholar Henri Gougenot des Mousseaux titled THE JEW: JUDAISM AND THE JUDAIZATION OF CHRISTIAN PEOPLES- which develops " the image of Jews as Demons seeking Christian blood. The story was a familiar one: Jews required the blood of Christian children for their Passover bread...The Talmud readers were told " not only permits the Jew, but commands him and urges him to cheat and to kill the Christian whenever he finds an occasion to do so." (p. 128 Kertzer )

And the Pope believed this was an important book revealing the true nature of the Jewish people & Judaism and so Pope " Pius IX praised the book and its author, offering Gougenot his benediction and awarding him the Cross of Commander of the Papal Order for his efforts "( p. 128 Kertzer )

" The charge that Jews secretly murdered Christian children first began to spread in the 12th century. Jews were accused of crucifying their innocent prey in demonic re-enactment of what their ancestors had done to Jews ." p. 152 Kertzer )

" The notion that they ( the Jews ) murdered such children to get their blood only began to surface later. By the thirteenth century such accusations had become so common that the German Emperor Frederick II convoked a committee of scholars and Jewish converts to Christianity to determine if Jews indeed did require Christian blood for their rites ." p. 152 Kertzer

For instance in 1475 - a Christian boy named Simon was found dead and his murder was blamed on the Jews of Trent and some 15 Jews were executed but Simon was probably murdered by a Christian Yet Pope Sixtus V in 1588 formally declared Simon a Christian Martyr and a Saint ( pp. 155- 156 Kertzer

Then in 1485 there is the case of " The Ritual Murder of Lorenzino of Marostica - the five year old boy was supposedly grabbed by some Jewish children who then nailed him to a tree crucified the child draining him of blood p. 128 Kertzer

Though this may seem like a dark fantasy proving the gullibility & ignorance of the people of an earlier age- Yet again Pope " Pius IX's decree, in 1867, affirmed the official Church status of the cult- 1870 declared the second Sunday after Easter each year to be the sacred holiday devoted to celebrating the little martyr" ( p. 128 Kertzer )

It is remarkable and disturbing that accusations for such ritual murders continued through to the 19th century so it was not merely a phenomenon of the Dark Ages but persisted into the Modern Age and the accusations were often made by Catholic authorities & became part of the Catholic Church's official view of the Jews -

" In 1887-1891 alone , at least twenty two different ritual murder accusations were widely reported in the press ( that is the Catholic press) ( p. 156 Kertzer )

again in 1903 in Kishinev Moldavia a boys dead body was found and the death was blamed on the Jews leading to a Pogrom in which some 49 Jews were killed , 500 injured and left 2, 000 Jewish families homeless (p. 156-158 Kertzer )

" In 1871 an Austrian Catholic Priest, August Rohling, published The Talmud Jew. Among its main themes was the claim that Jews were bound by their religion to murder Christian children for their blood ." ( p. 158 Kertzer )

" 1881 article in Civilta cattolica claimed " The Talmud commanded the Jewish race kill Christians ." ( p. 159 Kertzer )

" 1899 another article appeared about " a new ritual murder in a Hungarian town where a poor seven year old orphan had been killed

" Between March and April 1892 forty four articles on the subject appeared ..." and " the priests of L'Osservatore cattolica proclaimed that " to fight the Jews- " It is a ( matter ) of act of patriotism, of charity , of religion ." ( p. 165 Kertzer )

" as late as 1933 the Vatican was still insisting that the Jews had committed ritual murders throughout the centuries ..."(p. 220 Kertzer )

So given the attitude of the Catholic Church (or other Christian Churches or those in positions of authority or those are otherwise respected as scholars or as intellectuals ) towards the Jews over the centuries & even into more recent times it is therefore more understandable why such negative attitudes & the persistence of myths such as the Blood Libel & Desecration of The Host & other such nonsense has continued . And this is a further concern about why it is important that the Catholic Church & other institutions make a full & sincere apology about such accusations & do so publicly & officially without any hesitation or obfuscation. The Catholic Church like many institutions find it difficult to admit when they have done wrong since it shows that they are no " Infallible " but were created & are operated on a daily basis by mere mortals . It is like the sex-scandals that have plagued the Catholic Church in recent decades the Catholic Church's response is one of denial & defensiveness & at times belligerence & at times attacking the victims all of which does not help its reputation. If the Catholic Church were to be honest & straightforward & sincere in trying to discover the truth in each instance & punish those who have done wrong by sending them off to live in seclusion or handing them over to the local authorities and to apologize & find ways to make amends through reparations or what have you its reputation would be restored but acting as if the Church were the victim & that it is being once again besieged by evil secular forces does not help its case at all.

also see:

Religious Tolerance .Org

Other References:

A Moral Reckoning :The Role of the Catholic Church in the Holocaust and Its Unfulfilled Duty of Repair by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, pub. 2002

Constantine's Sword : The Church & the Jews by James Carroll, pub. 2001

The Catholic Church By Hans Küng -Translated by John Bowden, pub. 2001

The Popes Against The Jews: The Vatican's Role in The Rise of Modern Anti-Semitism, By David I. Kertzer pub. 2001


The Horizon History of Christianity, by Roland H. Bainton pub.1964.

Warrant For Genocide : The Myth of the Jewish World Conspiracy and the Protocols of The Elders of Zion, by Norman Cohn 1967 & revised 1996.

also see Jewish-Christian
& of particular interest at this website on anti-Semitism in the New Testament see the article Removing Anti-Jewish Polemic
from our Christian Lectionaries: A Proposal by Norman A. Beck

see On Martin Luther's Anti-Semitism
Martin Luther's dirty little book:On the Jews and their lies A precursor to Nazism by Jim Walker

and also see:
Medieval Sourcebook: St. John Chrysostom (c.347-407) Eight Homilies Against the Jews

And from the website Catholic Answers: Just War Doctrine

and for more in depth coverage of the Holocaust & Anti-Semitism see the following websites:

The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)
Dedicated to 12 million Holocaust victims who suffered and died
at the hands of Adolf Hitler and his Nazi regime

Antisemitism Research Resources
This Web site provides annotated links and original material about antisemitism and the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Protocols of the Elders of Zion website Thousands, perhaps even tens of thousands, of Jews have died because of this infamous forgery.Rabbi Joseph Teluskin Jewish Literacy

Anti-Semitism of the "Church Fathers"


take care,

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