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Jewish World Review March 18, 2002 / 5 Nisan, 5762

Michael Long

Mike Long
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Worlds Away

A snapshot of anti-Semitism in the Moslem world | There are in this world, as Mark Twain observed, lies, damned lies, and statistics-but the most damaging calumny is the vengeful smear. Cheerily untethered to either evidence or common sense, the smear serves the complementary purposes of demonizing an enemy to others while justifying one's own hatred.

For example: In the March 10 issue of Saudi Arabia's official daily newspaper, Al-Riyadh, a columnist identified as being associated with King Faisal University wrote that for the holiday Purim, "the Jewish people must obtain human blood so that their clerics can prepare the holiday pastries. … [this] is a well-established fact, historically and legally, all throughout history."

With a confidence usually confined to the deranged, the writer continues: "… the victim must be a mature adolescent…. [whose] blood is taken and dried into granules" and blended into pastry dough. At Passover, "the blood of Christian and Muslim children under the age of 10 must be used," at which time there's no need to "granulate" the blood first.

This is quite enough hooey, but the writer's fantasy continues with not one but two bizarre and detailed procedures of how the "bleeding" commences, only one of which I will reproduce here: "a needle-studded barrel is used… with extremely sharp needles set in it on all sides. … Thus, the victim suffers dreadful torment-torment that affords the 'Jewish vampires' great delight as they carefully monitor every detail of the blood-shedding…."

One can hope that this was only raving from the fringe, but the official Saudi newspaper does not generally lend op-ed space to certified fools-at least not to those without a constituency. Translation of the essay was provided by the non-partisan and independent Middle East Media Research Institute, one of the few unbiased lifelines for news from that critical part of the world. Clearly the Saudi writer meant his claims to be taken seriously and literally.

All this is known as the "blood libel" myth, well known to Arabs, Palestinians, and Jews, but virtually unknown to most Americans-or to "crusaders," as we are often referred to by some in the Middle East.

The tale goes back at least to Syria in the 4th century, and appeared again no later than 700 years after, attached to the story of the torture-murder of a baby in Norwich, England. And then the stories grew more bizarre: in the 13th century, Jews were accused of "torturing" communion wafers by stabbing them to make them bleed (sic). The Jews' need for all this blood has been variously attributed to securing a secret motzah ingredient, the need to cure hemorrhoids (sent down as punishment for Christ's death), a lifelong need for transfusions after circumcision, and more notions both too silly and unsavory for a family newspaper.

Some have even observed similarities between anti-Semitic propaganda in the Palestinian world and Nazi literature, though the connection likely grew less from seeking ideological partnership than as a consequence of wartime alliances with Germany in the 1940s, when various Middle Eastern peoples pushed for the expulsion of Britain.

For all the talk just now about cultural equality and the peacefulness of Islam, the official newspaper of one of the wealthiest and most advanced nations in the Middle East just printed murderous accusations-authored by a university official-without a single shred of evidence or reasoned assertion. Do you wonder why the war is so frightening? It's because we see occasional evidence-and I do not doubt there is more-that the culture of that part of the world seriously entertains certain debates and debaters who have no interest in research, argument or fact. The Al-Riyadh essay propagates murderous libel, but offers not a shred of proof. No bodies. No blood-infused motzah. No nail-spiked barrels. Because there are none-just paranoid assertions that sound like they were copied from a comic book.

Not only Western society but civilization itself is built on reason and tolerance. If these things hold such little sway in that culture, how do we meet them even halfway in any matter?

One can hope that this sort of fact-free nonsense is only accepted in the most intellectually remote corners of the Moslem world. However, I fear that's not the case. If this newspaper ran a story that said, say, Methodists believe that Baptists perform ritualistic murders, the mail room would be swamped by both groups, and rightly so.

Where are the howls of protest from Saudi Muslims? From any Muslims? Where is the American Left, which usually races to denounce bigotry? Isn't there anyone out there?

JWR contributor Michael Long is a a director of the White House Writers Group. Comment by clicking here.


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© 2001, Michael Long