Bar Ilan 'satisfied' with defense of blood libel book

Prof. Ariel Toaff says implication that stories are true only refers to anti-Christian sentiment among small group of Italian Ashkenazi Jews.

blood libel 224.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
blood libel 224.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Bar-Ilan University on Tuesday said it would take no disciplinary action against the professor who wrote a book about the centuries-old charge that Jews killed Christians in ritual murders during the middle ages in Europe. After speaking to the professor, Ariel Toaff, Bar-Ilan officials decided they were satisfied with his explanation of the research that went into his book, Pasque di Sangue or "Bloody Passovers," a university spokesman said - despite reports it indicated that "blood libels" might have had some basis in fact. In interviews with the Italian media and in parts of his book, Toaff has suggested some Jewish zealots might have murdered Christians to seek revenge for a slew of massacres, forced conversions and persecutions suffered by German Jewry from the First Crusade of 1096 onward. Those killings might have triggered the "blood libel" accusations that Jews used the blood of Christian children for rituals. Fearing the book might fuel anti-Semitic myths, a university official talked with Toaff on Monday and asked him to defend his research. Shmuel Algarbali, a Bar-Ilan spokesman, said the university was "completely satisfied" with Toaff's explanation: that the book was only about anti-Christian sentiment among a small group of Ashkenazi Jews in northern Italy. "We are very happy that professor Toaff clarified what he wrote," Algarbali said. "We hope people will read and review the book. Professor Toaff takes full responsibility for what is in it." Algarbali noted the book was published independently and said the university respects academic freedom. The book caused a stir when it was released in Italy last week. It has drawn condemnation from Italian Jewish communities as well as the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish advocacy group in the US. Jewish and Catholic scholars have also denounced Toaff's work, saying he simply reinterpreted known documents - and has given credence to confessions that were extracted under torture. In an interview Friday with The Associated Press, Toaff, an expert in Italian Jewish history, said he did not intend to imply that ritual murders had really occurred. "I believe that ritual murders never happened," he said. "There is no proof that Jews committed such an act."