Wednesday, February 28, 2007
The Blood Libel from Bar Ilan
Bar Ilan's Blood-Libel Scandal
By: Steven Plaut Wednesday, February 28, 2007
By now just about everyone in the Jewish world has heard about the
blood libel affair that has emerged from Bar Ilan University in Israel. It
involves a professor of history there, Ariel Toaff, who claims that Jews
used gentile blood for ritual purposes in Italy in the Middle Ages.
Last week, The Jewish Press ran a letter by Prof. Toaff in which
he wrote inter alia: .In light of the false and distorted interpretation
given to my recently published book, I have requested the Italian
publishing house El Molino to immediately stop further distribution of the
book in order that I may re-edit those passages which comprised the basis
of the distortions and falsehoods that have been published in the media. I
was astounded by the sheer force of these misrepresentations, which turned
what is a research book into a vehicle used to harm Judaism and the Jewish
people and, God forbid, as a justification for blood libel..
He added that he apologizes to those who have been offended by
his .research. and offered to donate royalties from this book to the
All very nice, except that Toaff has not really repudiated any of
his false claims. The real scandal in all of this has to do with academic
fraud, pseudo-scholarship and lies. Toaff.s posturing notwithstanding, the
problem is not that the media have .distorted. Toaff.s claims, but rather
that Toaff made fraudulent claims in the first place, based largely on
.confessions. made by Jews being tortured in Inquisition courts.
It was Toaff who assigned the decidedly undistorted title to the
book that states everything needed to know about it: Pasque di Sangue, or
Passover of Blood. His promise to send any royalties to the ADL that he
may or may not receive is a worthless gesture.
To put this matter into perspective, let me emphasize that Toaff
would not be the first academic in Israel to produces anti-Jewish
materials that are picked up and utilized by anti-Semites. Israel has
scores, if not hundreds, of anti-Jewish and anti-Israel radical faculty
members. Many of these are documented at www.israel-academia-monitor.com.
What is unusual in the Toaff affair is that it comes out of Bar Ilan
University, a school established mainly to serve Orthodox Jewish student
and that is now refusing to take disciplinary action against a professor
publishing fraudulent material about Jews.
There are numerous precedents from all over the democratic world
of universities firing tenured professors for fraud and for open promotion
of lunatic, obviously false .theories.. Several Holocaust deniers have
been fired from tenured jobs, with France.s Robert Faurrison perhaps the
most notorious. (Of course, there are open Holocaust deniers who have been
allowed to retain academic jobs.)
Professors promoting offensive ideas or exhibiting behavior
offensive to their employers have been fired in the U.S. Professors have
been stripped of tenure for the mere expression of crackpot ideas in
American universities. The University of Colorado.s Ward Churchill, who
justified the 9/11 attacks and called the victims inside the WTC towers
.Little Eichmanns. was removed from a number of campus positions and may
well be fired altogether.
Similarly, academics caught committing explicit fraud have been
fired and dismissed from academic positions. Luk van Parijs was fired from
the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for fraud, as were a professor
in the UK and an economics professor in Northern Kentucky. Even people
willing to defend the most offensive campus opinions in the name of
.academic freedom. generally agree that a professor should be fired if he
commits fraud. Professors in Western countries who have endorsed or
collaborated with terrorism have also been fired.
Within Israel, there have been some well-known cases of blatant
fraud in research by Israeli academics. The most famous is the notorious
Tantura story pushed by Dr. Ilan Pappe and his MA student Teddy Katz. Katz
fabricated a massacre of Arabs in the town of Tantura south of Haifa,
supposedly perpetrated by the Palmach Jewish militia in 1948.
Not a scrap of evidence of any such massacre exists. Katz was
sued for libel by the veterans association of the Palmach unit in
question. In court and under counsel from his attorney, Katz confessed
that he had fabricated the massacre, but later renounced his own
Pappe, for his part, continues to tout the non-existent massacre
in anti-Israel propaganda outlets all over the world.
There is some precedent for firing tenured faculty in Israel when
fraud has been committed. An associate professor of anthropology was fired
by the Hebrew University when it was discovered that she.d published
fraudulent research. A half-hearted but unsuccessful attempt was even made
within the University of Haifa, where Ilan Pappe is employed, to get Pappe
stripped of his tenure and fired.
All of which brings us back to the case of Toaff. Had these
merely been the charlatan claims of an Islamist extremist or some other
garden variety anti-Semite, no one would have paid them any attention. But
as every neo-Nazi website on the planet has already publicized with
jubilation, here we have an Italian-Israeli .scholar. who has published a
book that claims Jews in the Middle Ages engaged in ritual murder and used
Christian blood for religious rites.
True, Toaff says the Jews in question were heterodox sectarians
from outside the established Jewish community, but that is not exactly a
serious reason for treating Toaff with any leniency.
Toaff.s book is a complete fraud, at least the sections in it
about blood rituals (and they raise serious doubts about all the rest of
Toaff.s .research.). Of course, no Jew has ever used blood, human or
animal, for ritual purposes, other than animal sacrifices in the Temple of
Solomon. Nevertheless Toaff writes: .Over many dozens of pages I proved
the centrality of blood on Passover. Based on many sermons, I concluded
that blood was used, especially by Ashkenazi Jews, and that there was a
belief in the special curative powers of children.s blood. It turns out
that among the remedies of Ashkenazi Jews were powders made of blood..
Toaff claims that .a black market flourished on both sides of the
Alps, with Jewish merchants selling human blood, complete with rabbinic
certification of the product . kosher blood.. Here is the son of a rabbi
who apparently does not know that blood of any sort can never be kosher.
Toaff.s fraud has been universally denounced by Jews and
Christians. Even Israeli secularists were outraged. Writing in Yediot
Aharonot, Sever Plocker (a leftist) wrote: .Professor Toaff.s book has
nothing whatsoever to do with academic freedom. The man raised an
unfounded argument, which was rejected outright by the world.s finest
historians and experts on the period the book refers to. The blood libel
against the Jews has remained an evil plot..
Meanwhile, Bar Ilan University officials, facing a worldwide
explosion of rage, have politely distanced themselves from Toaff. But they
have not taken any serious action against him, have not stripped him of
his tenure for fraud nor fired him, and in fact have been going out of
their way to circle the wagons and defend Toaff.s .academic freedom..
Suddenly lies and fraud are protected academic scholarship at Bar Ilan.
As noted, Toaff has offered to pull the book off the shelves for
a little while in order to insert some .clarifications.. The problem is
not deficient clarity but rather all-too-clear anti-Semitic lies. His
duplicitous .apology. aside, Toaff is sticking to his guns about his main
claims, and told the Jerusalem Post he would not repudiate them even if it
means .he gets crucified. (his words). Accusing Jews of being behind
crucifixion is of course entirely consistent with his brand of
Toaff.s shenanigans illustrate perfectly why Israeli universities
are sinking into a quagmire of mediocrity and how the unwillingness to act
against charlatans and fraud is destroying Israeli academia.