Recycling the blood libel

Christians introduced the blood libel to the Islamic world, where it is alive and well. Prof. (emeritus) Raphael Israeli tells the story.

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Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld ,

Anti-Semitic Fatah cartoon
Anti-Semitic Fatah cartoon
Palestinian Media Watch

“In the Arab political world, classic extreme anti-Semitic motifs are used as political tools. These slanders originate in many countries, come even from scholars, and appear in leading media. One such slur is the blood libel. This fabrication originally claimed that Jews abduct and murder Christian children to make matzos (unleavened bread) for the Passover holiday. The first time the blood libel surfaced was in 1144 in the British town of Norwich. Since then it has recurred in various European locations.

“Furthermore, Christians introduced the blood libel to the Islamic world. In 1840, the French consul in Damascus and some of the monks, falsely claimed that a Christian priest in that city, Father Thomas, was murdered by Jews who used his blood. The blood libel was also promoted by the Nazis. Its anti-Semitic publication Der Sturmer, published a special issue in 1934. The front page featured an illustration of a German boy lying on a table surrounded by Jews with long beards and earlocks. They were sucking the blood out of his body through long tubes.”

Raphael Israeli is an emeritus professor of Islamic, Chinese and Middle Eastern history at the Hebrew University. He has authored over 25 books including, Blood Libel and Its Derivatives: The Scourge of Antisemitism and Poison: Modern Manifestations of a Blood Libel.

“The Arab use of the blood libel manifests itself partly through the recycling of the Damascus case. For instance, Mustafa Tlas, who was Syrian Defense Minister from 1972 to 2004, lent credibility to the blood libel by writing his doctoral dissertation about it, as if it were a fact of history instead of an anti-Semitic fabrication.

“Some cartoons use the blood libel motif. In 1990, the Bahrain paper, Al-Bayan, showed two ugly Zionist soldiers hacking a (presumably Arab) child to death. In the cartoon, Mrs. Shamir, wife of the then Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir exclaims, “Pity that you are wasting the blood of the child.  I need it to bake matzoh.”


In 2010 Hamas TV broadcast a cartoon video entitled, “Settlers drink Palestinian blood.” It portrayed Palestinian children in a puddle of blood and a stereotypical European Jew licking his red lips after killing them.
“In addition new variants are also promoted. In 1992 the Egyptian paper Al-Ittihad depicted a Jew drawing the pouring blood of the American people with a straw. In 1994, the Jordanian daily Al-Dustur, showed an ugly Jew who presents a bottle of Palestinian children’s blood to a lady (who personifies Zionist fanaticism), declaring that it was a present for Mother’s Day to the ‘most precious mother in the world.’

"In the same year the Kuweiti paper Sawt al Quweit showed a Jewish cannibal after he consumed the bodies of Arabs, the bones of which are left on the table. It is important to note that even when such Arab papers are privately owned, they come under government control which censors their contents.

“In 2010 Hamas TV broadcast a cartoon video entitled, “Settlers drink Palestinian blood.” It portrayed Palestinian children in a puddle of blood and a stereotypical European Jew licking his red lips after killing them. Hamas TV also interviewed Dr. Salah Sultan, the founder of the American Center for Islamic Research. He resuscitated the Damascus blood libel by saying that Father Thomas was slaughtered along with his nurse. Thereafter the matzos were kneaded with their blood.

“A Saudi scholar, Dr. Umayma al-Jalahma of King Faisal University in Damam, invented a new variant of the classic Christian blood libel by focusing on the Purim holiday rather than Passover. He claimed that during this holiday the Jews must prepare special pastries. The Jews must obtain human blood for their clerics to bake these pastries. Al-Jalahma stated that the victim must be a mature adolescent, either Muslim or Christian. He furthermore went into a variety of details regarding the method of killing and how the blood is prepared. A report on this ‘scholarship’ was published in the Saudi government daily Al-Riyadh.

“One of the most prestigious Arab papers, the Egyptian Al-Ahram al-Iqtisadi, published an article by a ‘scholar’, Dr. Lutfi abd-al-Adhim, titled “Arabs and Jews: Who will annihilate whom?” It included the following passage: ‘The only difference between various Jewish circles is whether to kill their Arab victim under anesthesia or attack him ferociously and drink his blood outright… On this goal all Jews are agreed.’

“Not only Muslim Arabs promote the blood libel. The well-known Christian Lebanese poet, Marwan Chamoun, describes vividly the use of the blood of the Christian priest in 1840 in Damascus for matzos, as if he were present at the event himself. Chamoun says that instead of chocolates, he gives books about this to newlywed couples.

“All the aforementioned examples should be seen as part of the efforts in the Arab and Islamic world to create an atmosphere in which Jews are not considered to be fully human. Turning a blind eye to this endeavor only encourages the most extreme elements of these societies to flourish unchecked and increase their political influence. There are rare voices of sanity in the Arab world. Occasionally, American pressure has also been brought to bear. Yet neither of these have had a lasting impact.”