Friday, August 17, 2012

The Blood Libel Again

One of the reasons that I do my best to explain the blood libel in Western Civ is because, unfortunately, it is not just ancient history:

Saudi cleric Salman Al-Odeh, a well-known scholar revered by millions globally, went on a lengthy tirade against the Jews during an interview Monday in which he stated that “the role of the Jews is to wreak destruction, to wage war, and to practice deception and extortion,” according to a translation of his remarks by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).Al-Odeh ranted about the use of human blood in Jewish religious rituals, a notorious anti-Semitic smear commonly referred to as a “blood libel.”“It is well known that the Jews celebrate several holidays, one of which is the Passover, or the matzos holiday,” he said.“I read once about a doctor who was working in a laboratory. This doctor lived with a Jewish family. One day, they said to him: ‘We want blood. Get us some human blood,’” Al-Odeh explained.“He was confused. He didn’t know what this was all about,” Al-Odeh says as the interviewer nods along. “He found that they were making matzos with human blood. They eat it, believing that this brings them close to their false god, Yahweh.”Jewish people “would lure a child in order to sacrifice him in the religious rite that they perform during that holiday,” Al-Odeh adds.
What's really fascinating is that even before medieval Europe became fascinated with the blood libel against the Jews, there was another group that suffered the blood libel...Christians in the early Roman Empire.  Somehow, the Roman authorities had heard a scrambled version of Communion, and were convinced that Christians were cannibals.


  1. Re the early Christians: claiming to drink the blood of Christ could easily lead to that confusion.

    But where on earth did the yarn about the Jews come from? Could it be that they continued to slaughter large numbers of large animals in Temple rituals long after other peoples had given up the habit on anything like that scale? But it's a stretch to get from that to human blood. All very rum.

  2. Heck,I don't know. I just keep thinking of the line in Woody Allen's Love and Death. "So, is that a picture of a Russian Jew?" "No, that's a Polish Jew. The Russian Jews have horns and a tail." Or perhaps I have the countries backward.

  3. "Temple rituals long after other peoples had given up the habit on anything like that scale?"

    The temple was destroyed in 70 AD. The Jewish blood sacrifice ended with it. There were plenty of groups that had blood rituals long after that. There are blood rituals performed today in India and various Himalayan countries.

    The blood libel is particularly odd considering the foundational Hebrew story rejects sacrifice of humans in general and of children in particular. Moreover, the Jewish dietary laws specifically forbids the drinking of blood or even meat that still contains blood.

  4. patrokov, you miss two points. First, you ignore "on anything like that scale", secondly you refer to places with no bearing on the issue of the blood libel of the Jews as it emerged in Europe.

  5. @dearieme

    1. Perhaps you're right about scale, but certainly not about blood sacrifice in general.
    2. My point is that the temple sacrifice was long gone before any European Christian dreamed of the blood libel. As the Jewish scriptures inform both the Christian scriptures (and the Koran), it is doubly unlikely that a reading of them brought about the blood libel.

  6. Well, after the Second Temple was destroyed, the Mithraists sacrificed bulls with an adherent in a pit below the bull so the blood of the bull drenched him (or her, presumably) I don't know how much the weasel-word "on anything like that scale" comes into play here. Part of how blood libel can gain traction is through ignorance over how widespread animal sacrifice was in the ancient age, just as people today don't understand just how often the Romans used crucifixion to execute criminals, and think that it was somehow reserved for Christ.

  7. WW: Are you sure people don't realize that? Even in the Gospels, Christ was executed with others, in a place that was reserved for crucifixions. In popular novels, and even movies, sush as Sparticus, you see mass crucifixions.