Members of Knesset demand the author of "blood libel" book be prosecuted

By Ofri Ilani and Adi Schwartz

Haaretz

Adar 7, 5767

MKs on Monday demanded that the state examine ways in which it could prosecute Professor Ariel Toaff, who wrote book "Pasque di Sangue" [Passovers of Blood], which discusses the possible facts behind 15th century European blood libels against Jews.

Speaking at a discussion of the book and its ramifications held at the Knesset Education Committee, MK Marina Solodkin (Kadima) said the thought "there are valid reasons to prosecute the author of the book," and called to "put him to trial over historical truth and the Jewish people's reputation."

MK Arieh Eldad (National Union), who initiated the discussion, said that Toaff "has made himself an accomplice to modern blood libels." Eldad added that the state must ensure that for such publications, "the punishment will exceed the benefit."

Most of the discussion's participants used the meeting to attack the "new historians" who criticize Israel policy throughout its existence ? this despite the fact that Toaff does not address Israel's policy at all in his book.

Eldad said, "Toaff was possibly jealous of modern historians who publish modern blood libels against the State of Israel."

Solodkin said that when she reads research published by the "modern historians,"he finds in them "many lies similar to the false history taught in the Soviet Union."

Toaff to retract claim that Jews killed Christians for their blood
Toaff, who 10 days ago ordered a halt to the distribution of his controversial book about the use of human blood by Jewish communities in the Middle Ages, plans to clarify his positions in a scientific journal, stressing that Jews did not murder Christian children for their blood.

In his book "Pasque di Sangue" [Passovers of Blood], Toaff discusses at length the possibility that Jews murdered Christian children to use their blood in religious rituals, and argues that confessions to such acts extracted under torture should not be dismissed.

Toaff uses as an example the blood libel of Trent in 1475, and suggests that Jews did murder the young child, Simon, who is at the center of the affair.

He now wants to make it clear that the Jews of Trent did not murder Simon or any other Christian children for ritual purposes. Toaff will also make it clear that the blood of dead Christians could not possibly have been used, whether in food, beverages or for medicinal or magical purposes, because the blood traded by Jews and Christians at the time came from living donors, not corpses. His conclusion is that Jews could not possibly have murdered Christian children for their blood.

Among the elements of his research, Toaff wants to emphasize that there were extremist elements within the Ashkenazi community in Germany that suffered at the hands of Christians during the Crusades, and fled through the Alps to Italy during the 15th century.

Toaff has been criticized for the book's title as well as the image on its cover, an etching of the sacrifice of Isaac showing a bearded man wielding a large knife above the body of a boy. Italian readers who do not recognize the Biblical reference might think it is "another case" of a Jew murdering a child. Toaff will specify in his article that the book's title and cover were chosen without his input and over his protests.

Toaff, who teaches Medieval and Renaissance History at Bar-Ilan University and whose father is a former chief rabbi of Rome, has been criticized by Jewish and non-Jewish historians for his book. Fellow academics have called his research methodologically flawed to the point of being "an insult to intelligence." Not a single historian has come to his defense.

As a result of the public uproar caused by the book's publication, Toaff decided to suspend its distribution as well as any new printings, and to donate his profits from the 3,000 copies already sold to the Anti-Defamation League. BIU President Prof. Moshe Kaveh summoned Toaff for a private talk last week, after which the university issued a press announcement in which it "strongly condemns and repudiates what is seemingly implied by Toaff's book and by reports in the media concerning its contents."

The Knesset Education, Culture and Sport Committee is scheduled to discuss the book this morning. University history teachers and representatives from the Education Ministry, Bar Ilan, Yad Vashem and the ADL, as well as Toaff himself, were invited to the session, which was initiated by MK Aryeh Eldad (National Union).