Drawing Strength from Blood Libels
Over the last few years of this blog, I have made repeated reference to the rationality of following the overwhelming majority, or global consensus, of the scientific community. This is no different from how we act in halachic matters. Everyone is always entitled to their own opinions. However, when a person lacks sufficient knowledge to form their own opinion, it makes sense to follow the majority. And even if one has formed one's own opinion, if the overwhelming majority of others disagree, it makes sense to double-check one's own thinking.
Unfortunately, such an approach leads to depressing results when evaluating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The vast majority of the world believes that Israel is, to a greater or lesser degree, the bad guy. Could they all be wrong?
The famous writer Achad Ha-Am wrote about how, when evaluating the general global disapproval of Jews, some consolation can be drawn from one of the most appalling of all indictments: the blood libel. The fact that this is so obviously false, and yet so widely believed, demonstrates that the global disapproval of Jews is based upon irrational antisemitism rather than genuine flaws:
"This accusation is the solitary case in which the general acceptance of an idea about ourselves does not make us doubt whether all the world can be wrong, and we right, because it is based on an absolute lie, and is not even supported by any false inference from particular to universal. Every Jew 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. ... Let the world say what it will about our moral inferiority: we know that its ideas rest on popular logic, and have no real scientific basis. ... '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."
In this dark hour, when much of the world unites in condemning Israel for its defensive campaign against Hamas, and many Jews feel uncomfortable with maintaining an opposing view, it is worthwhile to remember this. For much of history, much of the world was certain that Jews bake matzas with the blood of Christian children. That tells you everything about global opinion regarding Jews that you need to know.
The current campaign in Gaza presents a new example of this phenomenon. Much of the world is talking about Israel's "indiscriminate" attacks on Gaza or even deliberate attacks on innocents. Yet every Jew with even a basic knowledge of the campaign knows that this is not the case; that in fact, the very opposite is true. This should help people realize that world opinion of Israel is based on nothing more than simple antisemitism (or media reports resulting from it).
I'm sure that most of my readers already know this. We are aware that most of the world irrationally hates us; it's just depressing. But to my mind, there is something here than can be of help to readers of this website.
Many readers are struggling with the fundamentals of faith. Is it rational to believe that there is something special about the Jews? That we are the chosen people? Aren't we just yet another nation with delusions of grandeur?
I think that one can also draw faith, albeit in an odd way, from the blood libel, especially in its contemporary incarnation. In the entire global history of armed conflict, no nation has done remotely as much as Israel to minimize civilian (and even military) casualties amongst its enemies. Yet simultaneously, no nation receives remotely as much condemnation for killing civilians!
Is this normal?! Does this reflect a world in which there is nothing other than the order of nature?
Like I said, it's somewhat odd to draw faith from something negative. But I find it to be an enormously powerful example of how there is something unique about the Jewish People. Overwhelming, bizarrely irrational global hatred; and yet we have survived, and returned to our homeland. Am Yisrael Chai!
(See too this post: Does Rationalism Mandate seeing Judeopathy as Naturalistic?)