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December 21, 1984 - Image 18

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1984-12-21

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

18

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Friday, December 21, 1984 THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

. 44 46 01":21*.ar
44- wriwar..04 or -aarmar arms •11...44 VA 44r

NW ifte

t

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New ritual libel

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This cartoon, which appeared in Soviet newspapers, is captioned:
"Israeli invaders poisoned wells with drinking water in south
Lebanon." The helmet reads "Tel Aviv" and the container is labelled
poisonous substances."

BY BETSY GIDWITZ
Special to The Jewish News

Holiday Savings
On
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Boots and Accessories

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JAMIE MARX

Sunset Strip

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It is said that allegations of
Jewish ritual murder were cited
by Antiochus Epiphanes, the king
of Syria in the days of the Hasmo-
neans, to justify the profanation of
the Temple. Thus it is said that in
the festival of Chanukah one may
find the origin of blood libel
charges — the accusation that
Jews murder non-Jews for reli-
gious reasons — that have leapt
over time and space, recurring in
one country, then another, in one
century, then in the next.
Such allegations were com-
monplace in the Middle Ages and
early modern period. Accom-
panied by inflammatory rhetoric,
they led to countless trials and
massacres. More than 150 cases
are recorded between the 13th
and 15th centuries in various
parts of Europe; a blood libel even
forms the basis of one of the prin-
cipal stories in The Canterbury
Tales (c. 1390), the major work of
Geoffrey Chaucer.
Nazi propagandists were pro-
lific in their exploitation of ritual
murder charges; numerous old al-
legations were revived and inves-
tigations re-opened in the various
territories under their control. In
the modern era, however, it has
been Russia and the Soviet Union
where blood libel accusations
have occurred over the longest
period of time. The trial of Mendel

Betsy Gidwitz is a Soviet area
specialist at MIT and on the board of
directors of the Union of Councils for
Soviet Jews.

Bilis, in Kiev, attracted
worldwide attention in 1913;
notwithstanding his acquittal
and the 1917 revolution, such
charges have been repeated in the
Soviet Union in the post-World
War II era. Their broad geo-
graphic range indicative of cen-
tral direction, blood libel accusa-
tions appeared in the state-
controlled press during the early
1960s in such widely separated
areas as Central Asia, the
Caucasus and Lithuania.
The Soviet media endorsement
of ritual murder charges in the
1960s was silenced by interna-
tional protest and has not been
repeated. In its place, Soviet
authorities have created new
forms of ritual libel and new for-
mats for expression of the more
traditional libel accusations.
Among the former is the
emergence of a drug libel, the
charge that Jews use narcotics in
their religious observance.
Searching the apartments of ac-
tivist Jews in September, Moscow
authorities planted and then
"found" a narcotics-like substance
in the flat of Yuli Edelshtein, an
observant Jew and unofficial He-
brew teacher. Edelshtein sub-
sequently was arrested and is now
awaiting trial.
"It is a well-known fact," said
one police agent involved in the
case, "that Jews use narcotics in
their religious ritual." An inves-
tigator later told Mrs. Edelshtein
that Jewish tourists from the
West were smuggling drugs into

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