Development Site - Changes here will not affect the live (production) site.

What a Blood Libel on the Saint Lawrence River Reveals about American Exceptionalism

In the town of Massena, New York, near the Canadian border, a four-year-old girl disappeared in the fall of 1928—just two days before Yom Kippur. A rumor quickly spread that the town’s small Jewish community had kidnapped her to use her blood for a nefarious holiday ritual. Drawing on Edward Berenson’s recent book on the subject, Gary Stein explains what happened next:

As the search for the missing girl went on, firefighters and villagers shone flashlights into the cellars of Jewish businesses, looking for her body. Instead of immediately squelching the false and fantastical rumors, Massena’s mayor, W. Gilbert Hawes, authorized the police to investigate them. With Hawes’s blessing, state troopers summoned Massena’s rabbi to the town hall, where, after making his way through an agitated crowd, he was interrogated about the Jews’ alleged propensity for human sacrifice on religious holidays. Fearing an imminent pogrom, Massena’s small Jewish community frantically reached out to prominent Jewish leaders in New York City for help.

To Stein, Berenson is correct in his conclusion that these events “ultimately showed that American civilization, at least in relation to its Jewish population, was stronger than many people thought.” There was no pogrom; the girl, who had gotten lost, returned home the next day. Hawes and the police chief eventually apologized, and the ensuing scandal revolved around the fact that such accusations could be raised in the first place. Something can also be learned from local Jews’ vigorous response, which might have made Vladimir Jabotinsky proud.

Massena’s Lithuanian-born rabbi, Berel Brennglass, vehemently protest[ed] the gross prejudice with which he was confronted. When the state trooper Corporal H.M. “Mickey” McCann asked if it was true that Jews offered human sacrifices on holy days, the diminutive rabbi responded with a tongue-lashing that may have reminded McCann, a veteran of the Great War, of his drill sergeant.

“I am dreadfully surprised,” Brennglass barked, “to hear such a foolish, ridiculous and contemptible question from an officer in the United States of America, which is the most enlightened and civilized country in the world. Do you realize the seriousness of this question?” To which McCann could only meekly reply that “a foreigner” had told him so. “It is a false and malicious accusation,” Brennglass assured him, adding, “We shall have to know who the foreigner is, he is dangerous and should be taught a lesson that he is in the United States of America.” Imagine a rabbi giving such a lecture to a uriadnik in Russia or a policjant in Poland, where, as Berenson recounts, the blood libel continued its tragic and murderous path well into the 20th century and even after the Holocaust.

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: American Jewish History, Anti-Semitism, Blood libel

A Senior Saudi Political Figure Takes the Palestinian Leadership to Task

In an extended television interview with an Arab broadcaster, Prince Bandar bin Sultan—who served for twenty years as the Saudi ambassador to the U.S., for a decade as head of the Saudi National Security Council, and two years as intelligence chief—responded forcefully to the Palestinian claim that the Gulf states have, by normalizing relations with Israel, “stabbed the Palestinians in the back.” Defending Saudi devotion to the Palestinian cause, Prince Bandar delivered a lengthy history of his country’s role in the Arab-Israeli conflict, in which he bluntly upbraided Palestinian leaders, and Yasir Arafat above all, for squandering chances at statehood and for their lack of “ethics.” While Bandar’s sentiments can hardly be described as pro-Israel, he asserted that the Palestinian leaders are every bit as responsible as the Jewish state for the plight of their people:

[After the UN issued its 1947 Resolution 181 for partitioning Palestine], a Jewish state called Israel was recognized, which became a member of the United Nations. As for the Arab side, the Palestinians rejected the resolution, and as usual, we [Saudis] supported their rejection. Many years later, the main demand of our Palestinian brothers has been UN resolution 181, which is no longer on the table. No one is discussing it now. This was the beginning, and such events, as I mentioned, were repeated once, twice, and three times.

After the Oslo Accords, I asked Abu Amar, [i.e., Arafat], God rest his soul—and as they say remember the virtues of your dead—what he thought of the autonomy provisions [offered to the Palestinians under the 1978] Camp David Treaty. He said, “Bandar, Camp David’s autonomy provisions were ten times better than the Oslo Accords.” I said, “Well, Mr. President, why did you not agree to it?” He said, “I wanted to, but Hafez al-Assad threatened to kill me and to drive a wedge among the Palestinians, turning them against me.” I thought to myself, so he could have been one martyr and given his life to save millions of Palestinians, but it was as God willed it.

Bandar recounts another incident where he came to Arafat with an offer from the Reagan administration to pressure Israel into making concessions to the Palestinians, but Arafat stalled pointlessly until the offer expired. In short, Bandar’s view of things reflects the old adage “the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”

Read more at Al Arabiya

More about: Israel-Arab relations, Palestinians, Saudi Arabia, Yasir Arafat