Sunday, February 11, 2007

Toaff's libel

I still haven't found a real review of Ariel Toaff's book about the blood libel, but the little bit I've been able to learn suggest that Toaff hasn't uncovered anything new, and perhaps has even committed a libel of his own.

Everyone is saying Toaff relied almost exclusively on the confessions of torture victims. If that's true, his book is worthless. Though this small fact seems to escape the notice of our own ruling Republicans, the average person will say anything, and tell any lie, if enough pain is inflicted. I've made a small study of the Damascus Affair of 1840, and I recall reading that suspected Jews were beaten, strangled, and thrown into pools of frozen water and clubbed when they emerged for air. They were dragged across the floor by their genitals and the soles of their feet were whipped into shreds. Before liberals in places like Austria were able to impose on the local authorities to call off the atrocities, the Jews of Damascus "confessed" to all sorts of crimes. They admitted to ritual murder, and swore bottles of Christian blood were hidden in their houses where it was used for Matzoh, and humantachen. These confessions were seized upon by the church, and later used by official newspapers to slander Jews and spread anti-Semtism.

During the Damascus Affair, the cardinal secretary of state came into possession of a small pamphlet said to be written by a Moldavian Rabbi who had converted to Catholicism. The author claimed to be revealing old Jewish secrets, and wrote in great detail about a Jewish cult of Christian blood. Among other things, he said Jews treated circumcision wounds with Christian blood, and used it for various other ritual items including matzot and humantachin. To date, scholars haven't positively identified the author, but a rare copy of the book exists in the Vatican Secret Archives, along with correspondence between the cardinal secretary of state and various other church administrators, in which they discuss political uses for the tract.

I've only been able to discern the vaguest contours of Toaff's book from the published reports. I don't know exactly what he says, or what he puts forward in the the way of evidence. All I have are the published reports, and those accounts of the book contains unmistakable echoes of the Moldavian forgery. If this new book is nothing but a rehash of those lies, rounded out with the desperate confessions of tortured Jews, Toaff has done his people and the cause of honest scholarship a great disservice.

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