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US senator's Easter holiday comments spark accusations of 'blood libel' against Israel

Oregon Democrat Sen. Jeff Merkley condemns Netanyahu for IDF's 'indiscriminate bombing of Gaza' and 'restriction of humanitarian aid'

Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Subcommittee Chair, gives remarks during a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing on the 2024 department budget, at the U.S. Capitol, in Washington, D.C., March 29, 2023. (Photo: Graeme Sloan/Sipa USA)

Several Jewish and pro-Israel leaders blasted U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley for comments they deemed to be a "blood libel" against Israel over the Easter weekend. Merkley linked the Christian holiday to what he described as Israel's “indiscriminate bombing” of Gaza.

Merkley, an Oregon Democrat and one of the most outspoken critics of Israel in the U.S. Senate, offered a generic wish for a “blessed holiday,” followed by a post connecting the Easter holiday to a call for cutting arms shipments to Israel and pressuring the country to facilitate the entry of more humanitarian assistance into Gaza.

“On this Easter, let’s ponder Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s indiscriminate bombing of Gaza, which has killed more than 20,000 women and children, and his restriction of humanitarian aid, which has pushed Palestinians to the brink of famine,” Merkley wrote in one of three consecutive posts on 𝕏.

“But we must also recognize that America is complicit in this tragedy by resupplying Israel with bombs and failing to use America’s leverage to increase aid delivered into Gaza,” Merkley continued.

Using a phrase from Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, often cited in Easter sermons, he wrote: “Reflecting on the admonition to feed the hungry and assist the stranger, and ‘blessed are the peacemakers,’ let’s push Team Biden to do better. More aid. No bombs.”

Several lawmakers and leaders, including Michal Cotler-Wunsh, who serves as Israel’s antisemitism envoy, reacted in strong opposition to Merkley’s post.

 “A US senator. Peddling blood libel. On Easter. We’ve been here before…,” she wrote on 𝕏.

The term ‘blood libel’ has historically referred to the false accusation that Jews kill non-Jews to use their blood in religious rituals, however, it is often misapplied to accusations of murder by Jews.

David Harris, the former longtime American Jewish Committee CEO, also called Merkley’s claim a blood libel and attached a massive graphic to his post. “Humanitarian aid arrives daily in Gaza, Hamas hoards aid, fails to distribute, Israel’s military action is as precise as any in history, Casualty figure comes from Hamas.”

“All in a war, Senator, STARTED by Hamas, a US-designated foreign terrorist group,” he wrote.

Harris was referring to civilian casualty statistics coming from the Hamas-controlled Health Ministry in Gaza, which cannot be independently verified. Israel disputes these figures, in particular, the counts of women and children, asserting that they are significantly lower. Furthermore, the Israeli government has repeatedly affirmed its commitment to facilitating the entry of humanitarian aid into Gaza.

Some believe Merkley’s statement and its link to the Easter holiday, a time when Christians celebrate Jesus’ resurrection, revives age-old attacks against Jews who have historically been blamed for killing Christ.

The Catholic Church and other Christian denominations have repudiated that accusation in recent years, however, it continues to persist in some Christian circles.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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