Blood Libel History

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.

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