“Why is this year different from all others?” (& Scarlett: Anti-Semitism is to blame)

April 14, 2014

The Beresheet Hotel has reportedly been fully booked by one man

 

[This dispatch has items mainly connected to the Jewish Passover holiday, which starts this evening.]

* Scarlett Johansson, in an interview to be published as the cover story for May’s edition of Vanity Fair: Anti-Semitism is behind much of criticism of Israel

* Spanish village says it may agree to remove words “kill Jews” from its name

* Roman Abramovich to celebrate Passover in the Israeli desert; takes over entire luxury hotel

* Michael Freund: “Passover is a festival of redemption, a time when families typically come together around the Seder table, enjoy each other’s company and revel in the abundant rituals and symbolism. But during the Middle Ages, the holiday unfortunately came to be associated with an entirely different theme, one that has bedeviled the Jewish people for nearly nine centuries and has recently been making a bit of a comeback: the infamous blood libel. It was precisely 870 years ago, in 1144, that the first recorded incident of this slanderous slur in the medieval era took place in England, when the body of 12-year-old William of Norwich was found close to Passover bearing signs of brutal torture.”

* “A Jewish convert to Catholicism, Theobald of Cambridge, was quick to corroborate the calumny, falsely claiming that rabbis and Jewish leaders would gather each year in Spain and draw lots to decide in which country they would kill a Christian child to use his blood in ritual practices… the myth succeeded in spreading rapidly across Europe.” [Some might argue this is the case now, with some extremist former Jews helping to stir up anti-Semitism.]

* Last Passover, the website belonging to a Palestinian organization started by Hanan Ashrawi published an article criticizing Barack Obama for hosting a Passover Seder, saying: “Does Obama in fact know the relationship, for example, between ‘Passover’ and ‘Christian blood’?! Or ‘Passover’ and ‘Jewish blood rituals?!’… Much of the chatter and gossip about historical Jewish blood rituals in Europe are real and not fake as they claim; the Jews used the blood of Christians in the Jewish Passover.”

 

* You can comment on this dispatch here: www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia. Please also press “Like” on that page.

 

CONTENTS

1. Three dead in pre-Passover shootings at Jewish buildings in Kansas City
2. Scarlett Johansson: Anti-Semitism behind criticism of Israel and me
3. Spanish village says it may agree to remove words “kill Jews” from its name
4. Teacher at top London school tells Jewish teen to go to the gas chambers
5. Video: “Drunk with Freedom”
6. Abramovich “books all 111 rooms of luxury Israeli hotel for Passover holiday”
7. France’s former first lady Carla Bruni: “I’m crazy about Israel”
8. Egyptian columnist demands compensation for 10 plagues
9. “Passover blood libels, then and now” (By Michael Freund, Jerusalem Post, April 13, 2014)
10. “Why is this year different from all others?” (By Dr. Haim Shine, Israel Hayom, April 13, 2014)


[Notes below by Tom Gross]

3 DEAD IN PRE-PASSOVER SHOOTINGS AT JEWISH BUILDINGS IN KANSAS CITY

Three persons (including a 14-year-old boy and an elderly woman) were shot dead at two Jewish-related locations in Kansas City, yesterday. A 74-year-old man (some reports say he is 73), Frasier Glenn Cross, Jr. from Missouri, who is a known anti-Semite and former grand dragon of the Ku Klux Klan, and has been arrested. He is also reported to be a comment leaver (under the name “Glenn Miller”) and fan linking to the anti-Zionist website run by extreme left-wing Jew Max Blumenthal.

The first shooting took place at the Jewish Community Center in Overland Park, Kansas, and the second at the Village Shalom center, an assisted living facility.

The suspect asked people if they were Jewish before opening fire, CNN reported.

Witnesses said that the suspect yelled “Heil Hitler” as he was being led away in handcuffs by Overland Park police.

Two of the victims at the Jewish Community Center were not in fact Jewish, but just visiting the center.

 

JOHANSSON: ANTI-SEMITISM BEHIND CRITICISM OF ISRAEL AND ME

American actress Scarlett Johansson, who has a Jewish mother, has said for the first time that she believes anti-Semitism is to blame for many of the vicious attacks on her and Israel following her endorsement of the Israeli company SodaStream, which employs equal numbers of Israelis and Palestinians working together.

“There’s a lot of anti-Semitism out there,” Johansson tells Vanity Fair, in an interview which will appear as the cover story of the May edition next month.

Johansson resigned from her position as ambassador for (the anti-Israel charity) Oxfam in January, after the organization objected to the actress’ promotion of SodaStream. She said at the time that she was stepping down from the role because of a “fundamental difference of opinion.”

***

For background on this, please see this dispatch:

Palestinians to Oxfam: Back off and let us work (& ScoJo to visit Israel).

 

SPANISH VILLAGE SAYS IT MAY AGREE TO REMOVE WORDS ‘KILL JEWS’ FROM ITS NAME

The village of Castrillo Matajudios near Leon in northern Spain has invited the population to a town hall meeting this week to discuss whether to change the village’s name.

The Spanish regional daily Diario de Burgos reported on Friday that Mayor Lorenzo Rodriguez, will suggest to residents to change the village’s name back to Castrillo Mota de Judios, which means “Castrillo Jews’ Hill,” which was the village’s original name before the Spanish Inquisition.

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports that in parts of Spain, locals use the term “killing Jews” (matar Judios) to describe the traditional drinking at festivals held in city squares at Easter. The name originates from medieval times, when converted Jews would be publicly executed in show trials at around Easter / Passover.

 

TEACHER AT TOP LONDON SCHOOL TELLS JEWISH TEEN TO GO TO THE GAS CHAMBERS

The Mail on Sunday (in Britain) reports yesterday that a teacher at one of London’s top girls schools told a distraught Jewish pupil “Go to the back of the queue, or I’ll send you to one of your gas chambers.”

Many of the girl’s family died in the Holocaust. Like many elite London schools, the school, North London Collegiate School, previously had quotas to ensure not too many Jews were able to attend, but with the lifting of the quotas Jews have excelled at the entrance exam and now account for about 25 % of the pupils.

Former pupils of the prestigious institution include film star Rachel Weisz, TV personality Esther Rantzen and Vogue editor Anna Wintour.

The teacher has admitted making the remark but the school has so far not said it will take disciplinary action against the teacher.

***

A reader adds: One can only imagine the outcry if she’d said to a black student “I’ll have you whipped and sent into slavery” or something similar. She’d be fired pretty quickly, and rightly so.

 

VIDEO: “DRUNK WITH FREEDOM”

This is a Passover video in which students at Israel’s Technion show how to devise a machine that can “cross the Red Sea, and fill a glass of the wine on the Passover Seder table” -- all without human intervention.

You can watch the video here:




 

ABRAMOVICH “BOOKS ALL 111 ROOMS OF LUXURY ISRAELI HOTEL FOR PASSOVER HOLIDAY”

Roman Abramovich, the Russian-born billionaire owner of Chelsea football club, has reportedly booked all 111 rooms in the Beresheet Hotel in the Israeli Negev desert resort of Mitzpe Ramon, to host family and friends between Sunday and Thursday this week for the Jewish Passover holiday.

A Passover Seder will take place in a specially constructed tent in the desert – not too far from where the biblical Passover story occurred. The cost of the hotel and rooms for the week is said to amount to $450,000.

Abramovich has two children, Aaron and Leah, with his partner Darya Zhukova. Zhukova, who is a fashion designer and businesswoman, is reported to be a billionaire in her own right. She was born in Russia but grew up in California with her Jewish mother after her parents divorced.

Last time Abramovich spent Passover in Israel, in 2009, he only rented an entire floor of 36 rooms in the Royal Beach Hotel in the Red Sea resort of Eilat.

Abramovich has reportedly been to Israel several times in the past year, visiting technology parks with a view to making investments in the country’s high-tech sector, which is a world leader.

 

FRANCE’S FORMER FIRST LADY CARLA BRUNI: “I’M CRAZY ABOUT ISRAEL”

France’s former first lady Carla Bruni has said she is “crazy about Israel” and loves the country. “It’s full of life,” she added.

The remarks come as more and more celebrities are declaring their support and sympathy for Israel while others are urging a cultural, economic and academic boycott.

Bruni, a singer, guitarist and former model, is scheduled to give a concert in Tel Aviv on May 25, and said that she hoped to bring both her husband, former president Nicolas Sarkozy, and her son with her.

Italian-born Bruni has a Jewish father. She has visited Israel twice before.

Bruni’s remarks have been picked up in the Arab press, for example, here:

english.alarabiya.net/en/variety/2014/04/13/France-s-former-first-lady-is-crazy-about-Israel-.html

 

EGYPTIAN COLUMNIST DEMANDS COMPENSATION FOR 10 PLAGUES

Ahmad Al-Gamal, a prominent Egyptian columnist, has written an article stating: “We demand that the State of Israel pay compensation for the ten plagues that our forefathers in Egypt suffered thousands of years ago as a result of the curses of the Jewish forefathers.”

“The Jews caused the land to be stricken with locusts and all agriculture destroyed, turned the Nile red with blood so that one could drink its waters, sent darkness, frogs and killed the firstborn.”

“What is written in the Torah is that Pharaoh discriminated against the children of Israel. What have we to do with it?” wrote Al-Gamal.

He also recommended that Egypt bring charges against France, Britain and Turkey for those nations’ historical conquests of Egypt.

The Egyptian column has been picked up by the Israeli press. One columnist in Israel wrote in response that Egypt needs first to compensate Israel for keeping the “Jewish forefathers” as slaves for hundreds of years and for killing all male Jewish babies in the generation prior to the Exodus.

Another pointed out that “The Pre-Islamic Arab race never existed at this time. Ancient Egypt was not Arab.”

Another said: “Just don’t take the case to the U.N. Or ask Obama-Kerry to settle it.”

I attach two articles below.

-- Tom Gross

 

EXTRA NOTE

I don’t always agree with his articles on the Middle East, but I would like to thank Haaretz writer Gideon Levy for mentioning me in passing in today’s Passover edition of Haaretz (Hebrew edition). It is an article on his grandparents.

***

One of the previous dispatches was blocked from being delivered to almost 100 subscribers on this list (including to those using Gmail and Hotmail). If you have not seen it and wish to read it, you can do so at the link below.

There are 15 different items in it:

Pakistani baby goes on trial for "plotting murder" (& the world's most beautiful bookshops).


ARTICLES

WHY IS THIS YEAR DIFFERENT FROM ALL OTHERS?

Why is this year different from all others?
By Dr. Haim Shine
Israel Hayom
April 13, 2014

Precisely 70 years ago, during the Seder of 1944 in Auschwitz, 10 Jews were seated – including my grandfather, blessed be his memory – quietly singing, almost silently, “Why is this night different from all other nights?” Their grief was boundless, their pain acute. No child was left behind to ask the Four Questions, for all the children had been carried off to the heavens, lost in the plumes of black smoke billowing off the crematoria smokestacks at the concentration camp.

Their night was long, too long. They had no wine, nor matzot, nor Haggadot, just a full helping of bitter herbs – raw, pungent maror that pierced the soul. As the night wore on, they told the story of the exodus from Egypt. Not a soul arrived to inform them that dawn was approaching and the time had come to recite the morning prayers. Actually, no morning prayers, indeed no morning at all, was stretching across the horizon, simply dismal black skies signaling yet another day of work at the camp. The Prophet Elijah had not come to knock on their front doors, the sea had not split in two before them. They hobbled, in an unsteady march, beaten, battered and torn toward another day of forced labor. They were utterly convinced that this was their last Seder on Earth. Barely a glimmer of hope remained, for the final candle had been snuffed out.

Tomorrow evening in Nahariya, I will join my fellow soldiers, disabled veterans from all of Israel’s wars, in sitting around the Seder table as free men in our homeland, to which we returned despite all odds.

The grandchildren sitting around the table will ask the Four Questions. Together we will drink four glasses of wine and recall at length our forbearers’ exodus from Egypt after hundreds of years of slavery. We will retell how a large group of slaves came together, deciding to become a nation, and rose up, setting off on the arduous journey toward salvation.

Yossi, a disabled veteran who was injured as a paratrooper fighting in the 1967 Six-Day War, will recreate the legend of Jerusalem’s liberation, crowning our joy with the holiest of cities. Together, we will conclude the Seder with a triumphant rendition of “Next Year in Jerusalem.” Immediately following, we will recite the poem “Karev Yom” (“The Day is Approaching”): “Place guards over Your City all day and all night / Lighten the darkness of the night with the light of day.” Indeed, a brilliant light to illuminate our lives as a nation after so many gloomy years.

A meager 600,000-person community stood against all the Arab armies. Millions of Jews have immigrated to Israel and have been absorbed within its borders. Despite the wars and a complex security environment, one of the world’s leading centers for industry, science and medicine has flourished. Above all else, Ezekiel’s prophetic vision has been fulfilled in our time: “But ye, O mountains of Israel, ye shall shoot forth your branches, and yield your fruit to My people Israel; for they are at hand to come. ... And I will multiply men upon you, all the house of Israel, even all of it; and the cities shall be inhabited, and the waste places shall be builded” (Ezekiel 36:8-10). The Land of Israel, for thousands of years lying in wait, stirred as its sons returned home. The Land of Israel has been developed everywhere.

The true meaning of liberation is having responsibility. At the root of responsibility is concern for others, and this chain can never be secure as long as there is a weak link.

The Passover Haggadah starts out by extending an invitation for all who are needy to come and partake in the Seder meal. We should extend that invitation throughout the year as well. The battle against poverty is a struggle over the essence of society, its values and its strength.

Free men should not be frightened by foreign threats. Our close neighbors and distant allies must understand that Israeli citizens are determined and strong – nobody can threaten us. Our days as downtrodden slaves are over. Passover’s spirit of liberation must communicate to the world that the Jewish nation has come together in the Land of Israel; it has risen up with no intention to surrender.

 

“THE ENTIRE COMMUNITY WAS IMPRISONED AND THEN SENTENCED TO BE BURNED TO DEATH”

Passover blood libels, then and now
By Michael Freund
The Jerusalem Post
April 13, 2014

Passover is a festival of redemption, a day when we celebrate our forefathers’ exodus from Egypt and the start of their collective journey to the Promised Land.

Nowadays, it is a time when families typically come together around the Seder table, enjoy each other’s company and revel in the abundant rituals and symbolism.

But during the Middle Ages, the holiday unfortunately came to be associated with an entirely different theme, one that has bedeviled the Jewish people for nearly nine centuries and has recently been making a bit of a comeback: the infamous blood libel.

It was precisely 870 years ago, in 1144, that the first recorded incident of this slanderous slur in the medieval era took place in England, when the body of 12-year-old William of Norwich was found close to Passover bearing signs of brutal torture.

A local monk named Thomas of Monmouth wrote a book in Latin about the episode three decades later, in which he asserted that the Jews, “collecting all the cunning of their crafty plots,” tricked young William, who, “like an innocent lamb, was led to the slaughter.”

The monk went on to describe in great detail how “these enemies of the Christian name” tormented their prey, until at last he could no longer endure.

A Jewish convert to Catholicism, Theobald of Cambridge, was quick to corroborate the calumny, falsely claiming that rabbis and Jewish leaders would gather each year in Spain and draw lots to decide in which country they would kill a Christian child to use his blood in ritual practices.

To our modern ears it might sound inconceivable that anyone could possibly believe such nonsense, but the myth succeeded in spreading rapidly across Europe.

And as the late Joshua Trachtenberg pointed out in his seminal work, The Devil and the Jews: The Medieval Conception of the Jew and Its Relation to Modern Anti-Semitism, ritual murder accusations against the Jews had a profound influence on public opinion.

“Crowning the diabolical conception of the Jew,” Trachtenberg wrote, “it rendered him a figure of such sinister horror even in that blood-stained, terror-haunted period that it is little wonder that common folk came to despise and to fear and to hate him with a deep fanatical intensity.”

While the Norwich incident did not result in any known attacks against Jews, the first instance of the blood libel to take place in France nearly 30 years later proved far more deadly.

In 1171, the Jewish community of Blois was accused of crucifying a Christian child for Passover and tossing his body into a local river.

The entire community was imprisoned and then sentenced to be burned to death. When the Jews were taken to the auto-da-fe, they were told they could save themselves by converting, but nearly all of them refused to do so, preferring to die and sanctify God’s name.

As the flames engulfed them, the Jews of Blois could be heard singing the “Aleinu” prayer, which underlines the distinction between Israel and the nations, as well as the belief in one God.

Rather quickly, the blood libel and ritual murder accusations began to be hurled against the Jews in a spate of other countries across the European continent at various times of year, often invoking different themes.

Hence, for example, when five Christian children were found dead in the German city of Fulda in December 1235, the Jews were accused of having killed them in order to use their blood for medicinal purposes. As a result, 34 Jewish men and women were murdered by Crusaders.

A sign of just how popular the blood libel was in the public’s imagination can be found in The Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer’s 14th-century literary classic.

Though it was written nearly 100 after King Edward I expelled English Jewry in 1290, it contains a passage that is chilling in its hateful depiction of Jews.

In the Prioress’s Tale, Chaucer writes that after a Christian child sings a hymn, “the Serpent Satan that has his wasps’ nest in Jews’ hearts,” inspires them to abduct and murder the child and cast his body into a pit, “where these Jews purge their entrails.”

Throughout the subsequent centuries, from Spain to Hungary, Jewish communities were repeatedly victimized by such spurious allegations, often resulting in the spilling of a great deal of innocent Jewish blood.

Even in the 19th century, there was a series of infamous libel episodes, such as the Damascus affair in 1840, when Jews were blamed for the murder of a Capuchin monk and his servant.

And in 1911, a Russian Jew named Menahem Mendel Beilis living in Kiev was arrested and accused of ritually murdering a 13-year-old boy and mutilating his body. He was put in trial in 1913 and acquitted after the prosecution’s case fell apart.

Needless to say, the Nazis did not hesitate to revive the blood libel, using its imagery throughout the 1930s to further stoke the flames of German hatred for the Jews.

EVEN IN our modern, more progressive era, the lie continues to live on. And whereas the libel was once primarily the domain of Christendom, nowadays it is frequently invoked by Israel’s Arab foes.

In May of last year, as the Middle East Media Research Institute revealed, an Egyptian politician named Khaled Zaafrani said the following during a television interview: “it is well-known that during Passover they make matzos called the ‘Blood of Zion.’ They take a Christian child, slit his throat, and slaughter him… they never forgo this rite.”

In addition, the website belonging to a Palestinian organization started by Hanan Ashrawi published an article in March 2013 criticizing US President Barack Obama for hosting a Passover Seder, which read as follows: “Does Obama in fact know the relationship, for example, between ‘Passover’ and ‘Christian blood’?! Or ‘Passover’ and ‘Jewish blood rituals?!’“ Furthermore, noted the article, “much of the chatter and gossip about historical Jewish blood rituals in Europe are real and not fake as they claim; the Jews used the blood of Christians in the Jewish Passover.”

Subsequently, after coming under heavy criticism, the article was taken down.

Of course, anyone who takes even a cursory glance at the Torah’s explicit prohibition against consuming blood, and the Sages’ warnings against it, would quickly grasp the absurd nature of the blood libel allegations.

Nevertheless, this vicious canard has continued to haunt our people for much of its modern existence.

As we celebrate our deliverance on Passover, what are we to make of all this? Perhaps the most inspired and comforting answer to this conundrum was provided by none other than Zionist thinker and writer Ahad Ha’am.

In one of his essays, he seizes upon the world’s acceptance of the blood libel and turns it into a source of consolation for the beleaguered people of Israel. “Every Jew,” he wrote, “who has been brought up among Jews knows as an indisputable fact that throughout the length and breadth of Jewry, there is not a single individual who drinks human blood for religious purposes. ‘But’ – you ask – ‘is it possible that everybody can be wrong, and the Jews right?’ Yes, it is possible: the blood accusation proves it possible. Here, you see, the Jews are right and perfectly innocent.”

Although written nearly a century ago, Ahad Ha’am’s words remain as resonant as ever.

For at a time when Israel’s legitimacy and very existence are increasingly questioned, and the specious propaganda of our foes is so readily believed, the history of the blood libel does indeed remind us of an important truth: Our cause is just, even if the world may think otherwise.

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.