The Blood Libel Accusation with Magda Teter


I'm jason leg. And i'm joined today by magden tater to talk about the history of the blood libel accusation and its continued relevance listen in for a wide ranging conversation about the history of the blood libel its origin in mediaeval europe and how it has transformed over the centuries and what it tells us about misinformation and how it spreads magdi. Tater is professor of history and the fiddler chair of judaic studies at fordham university. She's the author of numerous books. Most recently blood libel on the trail of an antisemitic. Myth which will talk about today. The blood libel is one of the long-standing false accusations against the jews. It is the myth in different variations and incarnations the jews murdered christian children and used their blood for various rituals. And it's obviously patently false but somehow people still believe it. And it has persisted. Across nearly a thousand years from medieval england to nazi anti semitism and beyond we can see the ways in which the imagery of the blood libel and it's false narrative persists even in new reconfigured forms like the conspiracy theories of cunanan as mark the these accusations across the centuries and different places and in different times became a vehicle for different anxieties about jews and about people's lives at large. And so we can see the blood libel in a certain way as a mirror of the fears that people had not just about jews but about all sorts of issues nevertheless the blood libel is not just a relic of medieval superstition. Or something like that. It's something which has changed with the times and which in many ways has piggybacked off of new technologies and new developments and this is one of magdi key arguments which is that. It's the printing press that enabled the proliferation and persistence of these false myths and disinformation which when published allowed them both to spread more widely. And also give these false accusations in air of quote unquote respectability because the existed in print in the first place and so this allows us to think deeply about the role of media technologies both image evil and early modern europe and also more recently with things like the radio. The newspaper even the internet as avenues. Not for the spread of information but rather of information. Thank you so much for listening in to this conversation. I hope that you'll check out. Magas book blood libel and also the accompanying web site the blood libel trail dot org where you can learn more about the book and also check out some really fascinating maps and other media about the anti semitic myth of the blood libel. Thanks again for listening. Hi magda welcome to the podcast. Hi jason thank you for having me. This is such an interesting topic. It's i think unfortunately very relevant to talk about bible accusations. Yes unfortunately i'm a scholar of premodern history and we always want to be relevant. But as i always said be careful what you wish for. Suddenly my book became quite rather than to although when i started. It was an academic exercise. Yeah i mean. I think that we are going to get to the question of the ways in which the historical blood libel accusation is still very relevant today but before we do that i think it might be useful for us to think kind of really brawley. What actually is the blood libel accusation manafort putting it into the context of thinking about how this is similar or different to other kinds of accusations that we see throughout history thinking about for instance the accusation of decide the accusation that jews had murder jesus and then also things like the accusation of the desecration of the host the totally kind of bizarre accusation. That jews would steal the the wafers from the church. You're right blood. Libel is one of a series of accusations against jews that emerged in the middle ages. And it's one that has relevance today decide was a theological belief and obviously accusation but became embedded as a believe and maybe then projected onto jews causing violence especially during easter. But it was so to speak a victimless crime. Every year whereas a number of other accusations emerged in the middle ages justice christianity catholicism where also solidifying certain and defining certain types of buildings and then there were also libels that emerged in moments of crisis such as epidemic. So poisoning of wells for instance. So blood libels one of the three medieval accusations. The so-called ritual merger. Acquisition are. Although i prefer to call it murder liable. But it's an accusation that emerged in twelfth century that claim that jews killed christian children to reenact the passion of jesus so that connects to the this site as it projection onto contemporary jews and reenactment that emerged in england and then in the thirteenth century it emerged in a new way on the european continent. And that's when it became blood. Libel that shoes killed christian children to obtain their blood. Although the very first accusation claimed of perhaps some other kind of form of cannibalism of eating a heart or something like that they reason why blood became so central is that this was the moment when the catholic church in the thirteenth century has affirmed the dogma of trans substantiation that is the communion wafer that was consecrated by a priest during mass turned into the actual body and blood of christ therefore blood becomes central motif in christian worship. So this is a moment where we have this both the transformation of the murder liable into blood libel of killing but the purpose of blood but also the emergence of not their occupation that you mentioned day host the secretion accusation that jews obtain steel by the consecrated wafer and then tried to stab it to obtain the blood of christ and both are connected in the sense that the blood becomes a even because jews cannot make their own consecrated way for they needed this blood of the innocent christian to be added to mater effectively making it into both the body and the blood of christ night but a accusation that jews stole the consecrated wafer then desecrated and blood flowed dot accusation kind of waned and disappeared after the reformation the blood libel and the murder liable kind of continued the life of their own. The reason for is is that they are related to deaths of children and to some perhaps victims perhaps accidentally killed drown children so it becomes a very intimate actually charge because it involves a death. Having a way for stabbed doesn't sound as unless you really believe what this way for means but accusing someone of a child. That may be found dead on sometimes. It wasn't even body that may have been somebody's child that becomes a very kind of an intimate accusation and very embodied accusation even that transformation from the murder libel that is of reenactment of the passion of christ which emerges at the moment when christians are beginning to liturgically focus on the passion of christ. So you think about jews and reenactment and all that stuff but the transformation to the blood libel shows you that this begins to be a very malleable accusation that can change depending on needs and the needs to came that connection between the new liturgy and the new theology of the blood and body of christ in the thirteenth century

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