Blood libel

Blood libel or ritual murder libel (also blood accusation)[1][2] is an antisemitic canard[3][4][5] accusing Jews of murdering Christian children in order to use their blood as part of religious rituals.[1][2][6] Historically, these claims—alongside those of well poisoning and host desecration—have been a major theme of the persecution of Jews in Europe.[4]

Blood libels typically claim that Jews require human blood for the baking of matzos for Passover, although this element was allegedly absent in the earliest cases which claimed that then-contemporary Jews reenacted the crucifixion. The accusations often assert that the blood of the children of Christians is especially coveted, and, historically, blood libel claims have been made in order to account for the otherwise unexplained deaths of children. In some cases, the alleged victim of human sacrifice has become venerated as a Christian martyr. Three of these – William of Norwich, Little Saint Hugh of Lincoln, and Simon of Trent – became objects of local cults and veneration, and in some cases they were added to the General Roman Calendar.[who?] One, Gabriel of Białystok, was canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church.

In Jewish lore, blood libels were the impetus for the creation of the Golem of Prague by Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel in the 16th century.[7] According to Walter Laqueur:

Altogether, there have been about 150 recorded cases of blood libel (not to mention thousands of rumors) that resulted in the arrest and killing of Jews throughout history, most of them in the Middle Ages. In almost every case, Jews were murdered, sometimes by a mob, sometimes following torture and a trial.[8]

The term 'blood libel' has also been used to refer to any unpleasant or damaging false accusation, and it has taken on a broader metaphorical meaning. However, this usage remains controversial, and Jewish groups have objected to such usage.[9][10][11]

Jewish law against murder, sacrifice, and consumption of blood

The supposed torture and human sacrifice alleged in the blood libels run contrary to the teachings of Judaism. According to the Bible, God commanded Abraham in the Binding of Isaac to sacrifice his son, but He ultimately provided a ram as a substitute. The Ten Commandments in the Torah forbid murder. In addition, the use of blood (human or otherwise) in cooking is prohibited by the Leviticus 17:12-13). According to the Book of Leviticus, blood from sacrificed animals may only be placed on the altar of the Great Temple in Jerusalem (which no longer existed at the time of the Christian blood libels). Furthermore, the consumption of human flesh would violate kashrut.[13]

Also stated in Leviticus is that "it shall be a perpetual statute throughout your generations, in all your settlements: you must not eat any fat or any blood,"[14] and that "you must not eat any blood whatever, either of bird or of animal, in any of your settlements."[15]

While animal sacrifice was part of the practice of ancient Judaism, the Tanakh (Old Testament) and Jewish teachings portray human sacrifice as one of the evils that separated the pagans of Leviticus 21:11).