Give me that old-time blood libel

Purim: the extremely abridged version

Someone once observed that most Jewish holidays could be summed up as “they tried to kill us, they didn’t, let’s eat!”

The Jewish Holiday of Purim is, in this gentile’s opinion, the best holiday because it’s the most festive. You’ve got the “they tried to kill us” angle with a genocidal plot, the “they didn’t” angle in that in the end, the plot was folied and the enemies of the Jews who were executed instead, and naturally you’ve got the eating. As an added bonus, you’ve got Irish-on-St.-Patrick’s-Day levels of boozing, a Hallowe’en-like donning of costumes, and everything gets turned upside-down in a fashion similar to Sadie Hawkins’ Day. In McDonald’s terms, you could say that this holiday’s been super-sized.

There’s a special pastry baked for this occasion called hamentaschen, which mean’s “Hamen’s hat”. These triangular pastries recall the three-cornered hat of Hamen, the vizier of the king of Persia (the country now known as Iran) who plotted to kill all the Jews just because one of them, a cat by the name of Mordechai, refused to bow to him. Clearly Hamen had some serious self-esteem issues. Hamen slandered the Jews in order to get the King’s approval for his genocidal plan, which was eventually thwarted by Queen Esther.

“I’ll take my hamentaschen extra-rare, please”

When last I checked, hamentaschen had fillings like poppy seed, apricot, dates and in one very yummy instance, chocolate (I’ll celebrate any holiday with anyone as long as there’s food involved). I don’t ever recall blood being used as a filling, which the Saudi paper Al-Riyadh claims is traditional in this editorial:

“I [Dr. Umayma Ahmad Al-Jalahma of King Faysal University in Al-Dammam] chose to [speak] about the Jewish holiday of Purim, because it is connected to the month of March. This holiday has some dangerous customs that will, no doubt, horrify you, and I apologize if any reader is harmed because of this.”

“During this holiday, the Jew must prepare very special pastries, the filling of which is not only costly and rare – it cannot be found at all on the local and international markets.”

“Unfortunately, this filling cannot be left out, or substituted with any alternative serving the same purpose. For this holiday, the Jewish people must obtain human blood so that their clerics can prepare the holiday pastries. In other words, the practice cannot be carried out as required if human blood is not spilled!!”

The article goes on to claim that hamentaschen filling is made from the blood of an adolescent gentile and describes a pretty gruesome bloodletting process that is supposedly overseen by a rabbi. The story contradicts the fact that in order to be Kosher, food has to be blood-free.

It’s yet another example of blood libel, a term I haven’t heard since doing a project for comparative religion studies back in high school. Blood libel is accusing that people you don’t like perform unspeakable horrors, most often something like the killing of children. It started in medieval times with the accusation that Jews used the blood of Christians to make matzoh for Passover, and exists to this day in many forms. As the Al-Riyadh story shows, it’s still used to slander Jews, but it’s expanded to become an all-purpose smear tactic. There have also been “Fu Manchu”-style horror stories about the Chinese eating fetuses not only as a delicacy, but as a way of prolonging life and about witchcraft-practicing pro-choice feminists whose rituals call for human sacrifice in the guise of abortion.

I’m not certain which I find more disturbing: that a national newspaper still prints this kind of stuff, that some significant portion of Al-Riyadh’s readership just might believe it or that the story, which is printed by a government-controlled paper, was approved by a taste-tester who reports to the House of Saud, who are supposed to be our allies in the war as well as architects of a proposed Palestine/Israel peace plan.

(I’m assuming that the translation provided by MEMRI — the Middle East Media Research Institute — is accurate. I believe it is because blood libel is an age-old form of slander. Anti-semitic blood libel still exists today in other places: there have been documentary films that perpetuate the myth, and it’s also something that the neo-Nazis like to bring up once in a while.)

One final note

At one point in the article, Dr. Al-Jalahma states that during Purim “the Jews wear carnival-style masks and costumes and overindulge in drinking alcohol, prostitution, and adultery.”

That’s not Purim, you moron, that’s Mardi Gras!

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