The term “Blood Libel” refers to an old folk legend which was prominent in Medieval Europe and Russia. The myth suggested that members of the Jewish faith were responsible for conducting ritual murders of Christian and other non-Jewish persons, especially children, in order to use their blood for Jewish rituals, holidays, the baking of “Matzah” bread, or for their own sustenance.

The blood libel is particularly appalling in light of the fact that Jews follow the Hebrew Bible’s law to not consume any blood, which is found in the book of Leviticus. In order for an animal to be considered kosher, all its blood must have been drained and discarded. [1]
The accusation was used to pretend that general anti-Jewish sentiments and even anti-Jewish violence by the accusers might be justified.
Blood libels have frequently led to mob violence and pogroms, and have occasionally led to the decimation of entire Jewish communities.[1]

Historical ContextEdit

A similar accusation was made in Roman times but the blood libel did not become important till the Middle Ages [2] Finding a specific source for the myth is hard, but the most easily likely origin for the myth can be traced back to the words of Theobald of Norwich, a converted Jew and a monk, who was quoted in Thomas of Monmouth’s text “Vita Et Passio”. In Vita Et Passio, Thomas suggests that his informant, Theobald, informed to him the fact that "in the ancient writings of his Fathers it was written that the Jews, without the shedding of human blood, could neither obtain their freedom, nor could they ever return to their fatherland. Hence it was laid down by them in ancient times that every year they must sacrifice a Christian in some part of the world" Thomas of Monmouth was described as, one of those who are "deceivers and being deceived." [3]

Specifically Related IncidentsEdit

One specific incident which involved a supposed case of a “Blood Libel” revolved around the unusual death of William of Norwich in 1144. The body of William of Norwich was discovered in Thorpe Wood, nearby the town of Norwich which had a minority of Jewish residents. Because William’s body showed evidence of a “violent death”, and because of poor relations between the Christian and the Jewish sectors of the town, the Jewish population was accused of committing the murder in line with the assumption of an apparent Blood Libel. The case was tried through the Judgement of God or Ordeal, and William of Norwich was hailed as a martyr for a group of Christians who developed into the cult of St. William.

In Russia, the Blood Libel is known for its relevance in the Beilis Affair, in which Menahem Mendel Beilis was accused of the brutal murder of a young 13 year old boy named Andrei Yushchinsky, who was abducted in March 1911 on his way to school. The trial, taking place in Kiev in 1913 was plagued by false testimonies and decidedly antisemetic “expert witnesses” who would give distorted evidence regarding the Torah and the Talmud. Beilis was acquitted of the crime.

Blood libel todayEdit

Sadly the lies are still repeated and believed in the 21st Century.

The blood libel is very much alive and well, as the war in Gaza this past summer clearly demonstrated. It is alive in the extreme Jew-hatred found in the many parts of the Muslim world. It is alive in the unabashedly anti-Semitic Arab media; it is alive in European countries with significant populations of radical Muslims, including France, England and Germany. This past summer, [summer 2014] the blood libel was seen everywhere—from the violent rhetoric of the Hamas leadership to grotesque signs at pro-Palestinian rallies depicting Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu drinking the blood of Palestinian children. [4]

Use In Modern VernacularEdit

Today, due to its incredibly offensive nature, the term is rarely used anymore in western politics. When it is used, it generally refers broadly to those persons or groups who are the subject of unpleasant and damaging accusations. Most recently the term was used by Sarah Palin who inappropriately used the phrase while referring to the Arizona shootings in January of 2011. Mrs. Palin was in the process of reprimanding the media for how they were handling the story, and claimed that “Within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a "blood libel" that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn.” (What Does ‘Blood Libel’ Mean?, 2013)[5]

See alsoEdit


“What Does 'blood Libel' Mean?" BBC News. BBC, 01 Dec. 2011. Web. 14 Mar. 2013.

"The Blood LIbel Against Jews." The Blood Libel against Jews in Europe Began with the Death of William of Norwich in 1144. Jabotinsky Institutional Center, 28 Nov. 2011. Web. 14 Mar. 2013.

Rogger, Hans. "The Beilis Case: Anti-Semitism and Politics in the Reign of Nicholas II."Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies 25 (1966): 615-29. Print.

  1. 1.0 1.1 What is the Blood Libel?
  2. Blood Accusation
  3. The Accusation of Ritual Murder of St William of Norwich
  4. The Blood Libels of the Twenty-First Century
  5. Blood Libel: Sarah Palin's Claim Recalls Anti-Semitic Legacy

External linksEdit

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