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Blood Libel against Jews: Back with a Vengeance - by Alan M. Dershowitz for The Gatestone Institute

The truth does not matter to bigots.

A document from the end of the 15th century features an illustration of a bearded Jew extracting the blood of a Christian child. The adjoining text explains that Jewish law requires that Passover matzoh be baked with the blood of Christian children.

Such documents were widely circulated through Europe during the Easter season and led to frequent pogroms — murder, rape, and destruction — against Jewish children, women and men in revenge for allegedly killing Christian children for their blood to make matzoh. There was never any actual evidence of such cannibalism. In fact, Jewish law explicitly prohibits the consumption of any blood or its use in cooking.

The total lack of evidence, however, did not matter to those who were taught and believed what has come to be known as the "blood libel." Despite all the evidence to the contrary, many believed that this falsehood was "true."

This blood libel persisted throughout Europe into the early 20th century. Jews were put on trial and executed for supposedly killing Christian children for their blood.

Other libels against Jews formed the basis for classic antisemitism, culminating in the Nazi lies that dehumanized Jews to an extent that made the Holocaust possible. Following the murder of 6 million innocent Jews, including babies, the world said, "Never again" and antisemitism abated in many parts of the world.

Now it is back with a vengeance, accompanied by blood libels and other systematic lies about the Jewish people and their nation state, Israel.

It is against this sordid historical background that the current blood libel — that Israel targeted a Gaza hospital deliberately causing the death of 500 Muslim children, women and men — can best be understood and assessed.

There is absolutely no evidence that Israel struck the hospital, whether deliberately or accidentally. Evidence from videos, photographs and telephone intercepts have proved to intelligence agencies worldwide that a barrage of rockets was launched toward Israel from near the hospital, almost certainly by Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), and that one of the rockets malfunctioned mid-flight, landing not directly on the hospital but in its outdoor parking lot, and that the explosion killed far fewer than 500 people.

The claim of 500 people killed came, within minutes of the PIJ rocket strike, from the "Gaza Ministry of Health" – in other words from Hamas. They lie. No facts or numbers are ever verifiable. Moreover, Hamas claims that no rocket parts survived – another self-serving lie. Yet, their blood libel is widely believed by Israel's enemies – perhaps because they want to believe it. It is too good a story to be ruined by the facts. As the journalist Becket Adams wrote in National Review:

"The Media Will Never Forgive Israel for Not Bombing That Hospital.... Reporters and pundits mishandled the Gaza hospital story because they wanted so badly for it to be true."

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman wrote:

"As the Israeli columnist Nahum Barnea pointed out to me, Palestinian Islamic Jihad achieved more this week with an apparently misfired rocket 'than it achieved in all of its successful missile launches.'"

The "Muslim street" has been indoctrinated by its leaders to believe anything negative about Jews or Israel. And the Arab media generally reports Hamas lies and exaggerations — such as the claim that 500 civilians were killed at the hospital — as unvarnished truth.

It is unlikely that all the facts surrounding the tragedy at the Gaza hospital will emerge. Most of the physical evidence attesting to the rocket having been launched from Gaza by terrorists has been suppressed or manipulated by Hamas.

Credible intelligence agencies around the world have assessed the likelihood of various possible scenarios: an errant terrorist rocket; the debris of an Iron Dome defensive missile; a misfired Israeli missile; a targeted Israeli missile. The current consensus is that it was a Palestinian terrorist rocket that malfunctioned, as reportedly 20% of such rockets do, and landed at home in Gaza. There has been no objective assessment that points the finger at an Israeli strike.

The Palestinians have refused to produce fragments that could reveal if the rocket was Israeli, and no evidence so far has pointed to a missile having been launched there by Israel – to deliberately kill civilians or for any other reason. In fact, Israel blanketed northern Gaza with leaflets in Arabic urging its residents to flee to the south in order to avoid killing them – while the leadership in Gaza ordered them to stay, and then tried to block their safe passage south.

Yet that lie is precisely the blood libel that Israel's enemies — in Gaza, on the "Muslim street," in the Arab media and on university campuses around the world — are fomenting.

The current reaction to the events in Gaza cannot be understood without taking into account the long history of blood libels and Jew-hatred. The current focus is on Gaza, but the goal of Hamas supporters is what Hamas itself proclaims in its charter: the obliteration of any nation state for the Jewish people in any part of Israel.

This conflict is not about occupation or settlements. The chants of anti-Israel protesters, "From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free," means that the entire area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea -- all of Israel -- must be free of Jews.

Antisemitism has always been based on lies. No amount of evidence, regardless of how strong, can persuade fervent Jew-haters to accept the truth.

In the weeks to come, Israeli strikes will accidentally kill civilians in Gaza, because Hamas deliberately uses Palestinian children, women, the elderly and disabled as human shields. Some are willing shields; others are pressured or forced to risk their lives to protect Hamas killers. The international law of "proportionality" allows Israel to destroy important military targets — such as Hamas leaders or rocket launchers — even though they know that a certain number of civilians may be killed or injured.

The only requirement is that the military value of the target be proportional to the number of anticipated collateral deaths and injuries among civilians. The rule of "proportionality" does not mean that Israel is permitted to kill the same number of civilians as those killed by Hamas. The rule of proportionality also depends on how "civilian" these "civilians" actually are. Israel legally has more leeway in endangering the lives of civilians who volunteer to be shields, or who are in other ways complicit with Hamas, than they would be with regard to young children or others who are completely innocent.

Do not expect, however, the blood-libeling liars of Hamas or their cheerleaders to consider these and other legal and moral distinctions. For them, every death of a Palestinian is automatically the fault of Israel, even if they are killed by an errant terrorist rocket, or while being used by Hamas as a human shield. The truth does not matter to bigots.

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Blood Libel against Jews - Back with a Vengeance - by Alan M_ Dershowitz for The Gatestone
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Alan M. Dershowitz is the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law, Emeritus at Harvard Law School, and the author most recently of Get Trump: The Threat to Civil Liberties, Due Process, and Our Constitutional Rule of Law. He is the Jack Roth Charitable Foundation Fellow at Gatestone Institute, and is also the host of "The Dershow" podcast.

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