blood libel?

A knee-jerk accusation of blood libel enjoys a presumption of guilt. I'll confess that I knew little about the concept until Joe raised it, though thie affair certainly motivated me to find out more (and what I found, was horrifying). Any attempt I make in my own defense against the charge is nothing but fodder for the circular logic that dominates the mindset of the Israel partisans. Worse, I feel it would be disrespectful to those Jews who have sufferred from true blood libel, to respond to accusations in a way that legitimizes the (spurious) charge.

The only way out is to impose on a blog brother, in this case Jonathan Edelstein, who I asked to provide an honest appraisal of the accusation. Anyone who reads his blog, The Head Heeb, already knows that his judgement is rigorous, so it was with confidence that I put myself in his hands. Here's his analysis:

There are two very simple reasons I think you were not guilty of a blood libel. First, lack of intent. A blood libel was traditionally a very deliberate thing, calculated to stir up murderous rage against Jews. It was a riot call - people who spread blood libels did so to lay the groundwork for a massacre or pogrom. In contrast, you ran across a story that wasn't self-evidently false, from a source that was at least superficially credible (the London Times) and quoted it in a non-inflammatory way (at least to the extent that such a quote can be non-inflammatory). There was no indication that you quoted the article in order to stir up anti-Semitism.

Second, blood libels are accusations of _ritual_ conduct. An accusation of Jews behaving badly isn't a blood libel unless they are accused of behaving badly _because they are Jews_. For instance, if you had followed your WMG quote with an Israel Shamir-style argument that "only Jews would develop someting as horrible as WMGs, because the Talmud teaches them that non-Jews aren't human beings," then it would have been a blood libel. However, you didn't connect the WMG to anything religious or to any perceived "Jewish" trait.

As I said, I still think you were way too quick to credit the WMG story. But it was a long way from being a blood libel.

Fair enough, though I'll have a post explaining my appraisal of the Times story later. Tacitus, another serious blogger whose judgement I trust, also addressed the accusation:

In brief (Judith Weiss links to this primer), the blood libel involved accusations of Jewish use of non-Jewish blood in various rituals and practices. It was a means of presenting the Jewish community as a unique threat that presumably required unique measures to combat. Equating the WMG line as stated by Aziz with the blood libel therefore requires the following: First, proving it to be a lie. Second, equating the state of Israel with the totality of the Jewish people. Third, presenting it as something to be uniquely feared and therefore requiring unique measures to combat.

The blood libel-WMG parallel therefore fails on two of three counts. It's definitely false, but I don't see the implicit equation of Israel=Jews, and as for a cause for fear, Aziz specifically states:

Do I fear a Israeli WMG? no. even if they had one, I doubt it woudl be much of a threat to the world
If this is an age-old and threatening slur, it's about as tenuously-connected and watered-down as I can imagine.

Joe disagrees of course, and in Tacitus' comments has a fairly lengthy series of posts detailing his objection. I can accept that in Joe's opinion, I'm guilty of blood libel. But my opinion is, that grasping at rhetorical straws to apply the blood libel charge only serves to dilute the power and seriousness of Jewish history and sufferring at the hands of those who really did have evil intent and hate. Like so many partisans of Israel, Joe needs to realize who his friends are.

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