Jerusalem (Mar. 1)
An attempt to start a blood libel agitation in Palestine, for the first time, it is believed, since the famous Damascus blood libel affair had its reverberations in this country, was made to-day by the “Felestin”, the organ of the Palestine Arab Executive, which, exploiting the near approach of Passover, in connection with which the annual crop of blood libels in various countries usually arises, displays very prominently a new item headed: “Arab Children Stolen by Criminal Jew; Has It Any Connection With The Blood Story?”.
The “Felestin” reports under this heading that on Saturday evening it had a visit from a certain Mahmoud Ahmed al Sayed, a greengrocer living in Jaffa, who told the editor that he had met a Jew named Owar Levy near the Government Secondary School, wearing a large coat, which bulged suspiciously. On approaching nearer to the Jew, al Sayed alleged, he heard the sound of children crying. He demanded that the Jew should show him what he had under his coat. The Jew thereupon put down on the ground a boy of about five and a girl of about three, the children of an Arab named Said al Madhoun. Sayed said that he had struck Levy when he tried to explain to him that he was carrying the children for fun. He then had Levy arrested, the “Felestin” adds, on the charge that he had stolen the children, who were missing from Haifa.
Colonel Kisch, of the Jewish Agency, has seen Mr. Young, the Chief Secretary to the Palestine Government, the J.T.A. learns, to demand that the Government should take action against the newspaper for circulating this dangerous libel. Mr. Young has instructed the Jaffa authorities to investigate the report, and to notify him immediately whether it is true that a Jew named Levy has been arrested on this charge. The question is expected to be discussed to-morrow by the High Commissioner in Executive Council.
A similar story about a Jew having been seen carrying something that was seen to be moving and struggling and was finally revealed as a Christian child, started a blood libel agitation in Damasous as recently as July 1929, only a month before the Palestine outbreak. The Arabic and French press in Damascus and in Beirut reported that a 60 year old Jew named Chattah had been seen in the streets of Damascus carrying a sack in which something moved and struggled. He was stopped and asked to show what he had in the bag, and he insisted that he was carrying home a dog. He was not believed, however, the papers went on, and the bag was opened, disclosing a five year old Christian girl, bound and gagged. Chattah was arrested by the police, the reports added, and the child was returned to her parents.
On investigation by the police the story was completely exploded. It came out that Chattah had been falsely accused of trying to kidnap the child who had been standing by, because the mother had wanted to get out of paying for some clothes she had ordered him to dye for her. About a dozen people were sentenced for inciting a crowd against Chattah. There was another blood libel in Damascus just before Passover 1926, when an attempt was made to accuse the Jews of Damascus of killing a Christian boy for the Passover festival. There was also an attempt to start a blood libel in Damascus in 1892.
The great blood libel affair of Damascus took place in 1840, stirring the entire Jewish world. It was in part the reason for the founding of the Alliance Israelite Universelle. At that time Damascus together with Syria, including Palestine, belonged to Mohammed All, Khedive of Egypt. who had revolted against the Sultan of Turkey. Public meetings were held in London, Paris, New York and other places to protest against the blood libel. Especially important was the meeting called by the Lord Mayor of London at the Mansion House. As a result, Sir Moses Montefiore, and Isaac Cremieux and Solomon Munk of France were sent as mediators to Alexandria to plead with the Khedive. After repeated interviews with Mohammed Ali then obtained from him the unconditional release and recognition of the innocence of the nine persons who still remained alive of the 13 who had been imprisoned. They then went to Constantinople and obtained a Firman from the Sultan Majid declaring the accusation of ritual murder absurd.
The Damascus blood libel arose in connection with the disappearance of Father Thomas, the Superior of a Franciscan Convent, together with his servant. The French Consul at Damascus, who was an enemy of the Jews started investigations in the Jewish quarter. A confession was extorted from a Jewish barber named Negrin and several of the most notable Jews were imprisoned and tortured. Their teeth and beards were pulled out and they were tempted with offers of gold to confess to an imaginary crime. The incited populace fell upon the synagogue and destroyed the Scrolls of the Law.
In September 1929, when Palestine was in a state of ferment after the outbreak a few weeks previously, a number of Christian boy scouts in Haifa were arrested on a charge of spreading blood libel, but were released on account of their youth, after their parents had deposited a sum of money as security for their further good behaviour. The boys had been going about spreading a story that the Jews of Haifa had killed an Arab for ritual purposes and had concealed the body in the vicinity of Hadar Hacarmel.
One of the Bishops of Jerusalem, Bishop Alexander (died 1845), who had himself been born a Jew, was once the first signatory to a solemn protest signed by 58 converts against the blood libel, in the course of which they declared: “We, the undersigned, by nation Jews, and having lived to years of maturity in the faith and practise of modern Judaism, but now, by the grace of God, members of the Church of Christ, do solemnly protest that we have never directly nor indirectly heard, much less known, among the Jews, of the practice of killing Christians or using Christian blood, and that we believe this charge, so often brought against them formerly, and now lately revived, to be a foul and Satanic falsehood”.