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Modern ‘blood libels’: Ugly, untrue and unparalleled

People sit inside the International Court of Justice (ICJ) as judges hear a request for emergency measures to order Israel to stop its military actions in Gaza, in The Hague, Netherlands January 12, 2024. (Photo: REUTERS/Thilo Schmuelgen)

“Blood Libel” is not a familiar term or phrase for most in the modern world. In the Middle Ages, blood libel was a fictitious accusation that Jews murdered non-Jews (such as Christian children) in order to use their blood in religious rituals. Intensifying in number since October 7, 2023, modern versions of blood libels have spread like a cancer throughout our world. While the medieval phrase, “blood libel,” may not be used explicitly, the term’s insidious meaning has lurked globally for centuries.

Throughout history, blood libels have prompted pogroms, mob violence, torture, trials, and the eviction of entire Jewish communities—often ordered by governments. The alleged death of Nazism after World War II is undergoing an evil renaissance from new Nazis, with Iran’s Islamic regime and its proxies. Today, lies are exploding in what we call fake news or propaganda. As we explore how social media is poisoning millions of minds with unfounded hatred, history’s rear-mirror perspective provides an insightful beginning.

When Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in the 15th century, it served both good and evil purposes. It was an absolute godsend for printing mass copies of the Bible. The printing press enabled news, albeit very slowly, to go global. The invention made the esteemed Martin Luther, father of the Reformation, the world’s first best-selling author. Luther once observed, “Printing is the ultimate gift of God and the greatest one.” Today, the Bible is still the world’s most popular book. Based on British and Foreign Bible Society research in 2021, Guinness World Records estimates that some 5–7 billion copies have been printed. Now, we even have Bible apps that have been downloaded by hundreds of millions!

So, what harm could come from Luther’s book being printed with Gutenberg’s innovative printing press? Sadly, blood libels were spread even through this remarkable man. In 1543, in a change of heart toward the Jews, Luther lashed out in his small booklet, The Jews and Their Lies. He viciously condemned them for their refusal to convert to Christianity. He suggested burning their homes and synagogues (“a den of devils”) and confiscating their prayer books. Adolph Hitler seized on Luther’s book and popularized it during the Third Reich.

Kurt Hendel, professor emeritus of Reformation History at Chicago’s Lutheran School of Theology, observed: “They [the Gestapo] very clearly used Luther’s writings that had all this anti-Semitism in them to support their cause.” Hendel went on to say that Luther was not a Nazi anti-Semite, he was a religious anti-Semite because Jews would not convert to Christianity.

The printing press, with its effect on global culture and advancements for both greatness and woe, informs us today about how the computer, internet, smartphones, and social media are shaping culture more than 500 years later. Global news is instantaneous, artificial intelligence (AI) speeds up Bible translations, and platforms proliferate for both the most holy and the most evil ideas and voices. Worldwide, there are 5.3 billion internet users, with 4.95 billion using social media. Evangelicals’ use of social media to multiply good news globally is an opportunity of colossal proportions—if we choose to take advantage of it.

Advances in technology have moved us from the information age into the digital, AI, or experience age. Evil occupies platforms that greatly victimize minds with blood libels that in the modern era are known as propaganda. Propaganda/fake news circulates the globe with one click, one post, one twisted headline without any factual context. It is imperative that Christians join up in massive information warfare using facts and truth to combat the lies and misinformation.

A list of libels that fuel hate speech and violence could fill pages, as anti-Semitic incidents have increased by 1,180%. Here are a few examples:

  • Israel has been accused of illegal organ harvesting. The latest accusation from Hamas and other questionable news outlets says that Israel returned 80 bodies to Gaza with vital organs removed. Israel is rightly returning Palestinian bodies to Gaza, but the malicious lies about illegal organ harvesting are baseless. These rumors are especially malicious and evil coming from terrorists who refuse to return Israeli bodies for proper burial.

  • In the Dagestan region of Russia, a mob of citizens tried to lynch Jewish passengers arriving on a flight from Israel. Thankfully, those attempts were thwarted.

  • The slogan reverberating in mass anti-Israel demonstrations “from the river (Jordan) to the sea (Mediterranean), Palestine shall be free” is a call for genocide from most participants despite the fact that some demonstrators are dangerously uneducated.

  • After receiving hundreds of millions in funding, TikTok has pushed this narrative: Palestinians are oppressed, and Israelis are the oppressors.

  • Blood libel, a propagandic disease, has bled into American Jewish businesses, universities, and synagogues and can be seen in violent attacks on streets across America. Plenty of anti-Semitic professors weigh in with their dangerous lies: A Yale professor called Israel “a murderous, genocidal settler state and Palestinians have every right to resist through armed struggle.” When a journalist reminded her that she was talking about innocent civilians she replied, “Settlers are not civilians.”

  • Finally, the South African government is pushing a case against Israel, accusing them of genocide in hearings at the International Court of “Justice” (ICJ). The ICJ is the legal arm of the United Nations. In response, South African Christians are standing in support of Israel: [read article here].

Here is part of it: “This [government’s] silence is more conspicuous given the recent hosting of a delegation from Iran and Hamas in South Africa. Such actions could be interpreted as direct support to Hamas’s tactics, including using civilians as human shields and diverting aid for military purposes and the building of tunnels, rather than humanitarian relief sent to the Palestinian people, which was intercepted by Hamas.”

At this writing, 20 prominent Christian organizations and churches have signed this document. The South African Christians have bravely spoken out against their government, a role model for all of us.

In the meantime, I have not read about any country that has taken Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah, or Houthis to the ICJ. Hamas describes the shared ideology in its founding charter: “The Day of Judgment will not come about until Muslims fight Jews and kill them.” Fortunately, Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States reject South Africa’s charges.

This article originally appeared here and is reposted with permission.

A speaker and consultant, Arlene Bridges Samuels authors the weekly feature column for The Christian Broadcasting Network/Israel on their Facebook and Blog since 2020. Previously she pioneered Christian outreach for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Retiring after nine years, she worked part-time for International Christian Embassy Jerusalem USA as Outreach Director for their project, American Christian Leaders for Israel (ACLI) Arlene is an author at The Blogs-Times of Israel, often traveling to Israel since 1990. By invitation she attends the Israel Government Press Office (GPO) Christian Media Summits as a recognized member of Christian media worldwide. Read more of her articles at CBN Israel blog.

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