Blood Libel History

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The media world is in a frenzy this morning over Sarah Palin’s use of the term “blood libel” in defending herself against people who have connected her to the horrific shootings in Arizona this past weekend. Just looking at Twitter, “Blood Libel” is the #2 trending topic in the United States right now.

I’m not here to hate on Palin. I’m no fan of the lady but I’ve never thought of her as an anti-Semite. In fact, I’d check off “Friend of the Jews” as one of her positive traits. That being said, her use of the term “blood libel” was unfortunate, because it shows a general lack of understanding that she, and I assume most people, have of the term.

So I decided that I needed a bit of a refresher course on the term and have been reading up on it this morning. You can read our site’s full article here, but I’ll just cover the main points.

Blood libels are made up accusations against Jews that around Passover, a Christian child is kidnapped to use his or her blood either to make matzah or to drink as wine. Pretty messed up stuff.

While the first recorded blood libel was from Egypt in 40 BCE, they really came to prominence in Europe in the Middle Ages. The first European blood libel was recorded in the year 1144 in Norwich, England, when a little boy named William went missing. Since there was no proof that the Jews of the community took him, the police of the town actually protected them. That did stop a mob a short time later entering the town and forcing the Jews to flee.

Throughout history, there have been thousands of blood libels, usually made as an excuse to attack Jews. While they are less pervasive today, the blood libel accusation does still come up occasionally.

We shouldn’t expect politicians and others to know Jewish history like the back of their hand (maybe they can write it on their palm–okay, only one Palin swipe!), but times like these are always a good opportunity to give a little history lesson.

Posted on January 12, 2011

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

5 thoughts on “Blood Libel History

  1. Stephen Wolper

    This incident only confirms the evil nature of Sarah Palin. She not only is disruptive to the political discouse in this country, but she now proves herself to be anti-semitic. In addition, the weak statement released by the ADL and called “a defense of Sarah Palin” by the New York Times is shameful.

  2. Julane

    I believe calling names, blaming, no personal responsibility ,
    Greed, narcissism , and political corruption (PC)
    Will be the down fall of this country.
    Easy to point and blame.
    Harder to listen, stift through for the truth, and
    build off of that.
    I’m just saying, the hate on all sides has to stop.

  3. Yankel Gorokhofskij

    Jeremy, first I want to compliment you for your blog and what you are doing. Bravo. OK, now for my comment:

    Are you aware that Sarah Palin wears often wears a small pin that is an Israeli flag next to an American flag? You are correct, she is unabashedly a supporter of Israel, WITHOUT APOLOGY. Like most Jews should be but are not. They must QUALIFY their support. She said “blood libel” on purpose, to create controversy, to bring attention to her point, and because the use of the word blood libel is used every day in Arab textbooks and teachings, as well as all neo-nazi websites. She has done the Jewish people a great service. She put it out there for everyone to look at and talk about. She did not do it out of “stupidity.”

  4. Jeremy Moses Post author

    Haha. You give her (and all politicians) too much credit. You really think she did it on purpose to bring attention to the term? That is beyond a stretch in my mind.

  5. Yankel Gorokhofskij

    Jeremy, Sarah Palin has been hanging out with a lot of Jews lately! I bet it was said to her and resonated with her. I understand your skepticism, but she really likes supporting Israel for a number of reasons. I say good for her! Better we should always vote for Democrats like Obama who every year move further and further away from being supportive of Jews and Israel’s interests? I dig what you are doing, Jeremy, it is great, but don’t get too liberal on me now! Keep up the good work!

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