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The Beilis Conspiracy

A century after the last blood libel trial, the idea that Jews drink Christian vital fluid is still alive and well

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Beilis, center, with Rabbi Iakov Mazeh and lawyer Oskar Gruzenberg. (Collage Tablet Magazine; original image YIVO)
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The Blood Libel That Won’t Quit

In Sweden, a respected magazine is reviving the canard that the IDF plundered the organs of Palestinians

Take a midafternoon trip through the most sketchy and monomaniacal corners of the cybersphere, and you will discover that Jews have been blamed for everything from the Holocaust and Sept. 11 to Newtown and climate change. Faced with such frantic spewing, one looks back with a kind of nostalgia to the granddaddy of anti-Semitic tropes: the blood libel, the age-old charge that Jews kill Christian children to use their blood in religious rituals, in particular the baking of Passover matzoh.

The blood libel has had a long life, from its invention in Norwich, England, in 1144 to the pogroms it spurred centuries later in Poland and Russia. While matzoh is rarely a fixation among anti-Semites these days, the notion that Jews kill outsiders for their own nefarious purposes is alive and well, often with Muslim victims substituted for Christian ones. In 2009 the Swedish social democratic newspaper Aftonbladet ran a story alleging, without evidence, that Israelis were harvesting the organs of Palestinians for use on the black market. In the Arab world, Israel has been charged with murdering Palestinian children; in the most pointed versions of the accusation, such murders are seen as a perverse source of enjoyment for the Jews. At Davos in 2009, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan denounced Israel’s rulers as “murderers of children” and added that “Israeli barbarity is far beyond any usual cruelty.”

Recent times have even seen serious academics wonder whether the blood libel, so serious a source of pain to Jews, might contain a grain of truth. The very thought is nauseating and repugnant. Yet in 2007 Prof. Ariel Toaff of Bar-Ilan University published Passovers of Blood, whose cover showed a dramatic etching of a bearded man poised with his knife above a fearful boy. The cover depicted the akedah, but the book was not about Abraham’s near-sacrifice of Isaac. Instead, Toaff proposed a shocking new perspective on blood libel: He insisted that some medieval Jews used blood in their rituals and implied that they might even, on a few occasions, have murdered Christians for this purpose. Toaff quickly became a taboo-breaking martyr in the eyes of the Internet’s anti-Semitic cultists, who happily proclaimed that he had proved an eternal, and eternally suppressed, truth: Jews have brainwashed the world into thinking they are innocent sufferers, but they don’t hesitate to stoop to murder.

Toaff’s book was speculative and full of innuendo; he stressed in an interview that his hypotheses concerned “a few extremists … between 1100 and 1500.” All his evidence came from confessions under torture, given by Jews who were telling their Christian tormenters exactly what they were required to say. But for his defenders, Toaff had bravely exposed the forbidden truth: The Jew is guilty. Several Knesset members threatened to prosecute Toaff, his university reprimanded him, and he was censured by a group of Italian rabbis (including his own father, the former chief rabbi of Rome): For Toaff’s followers, all this proved the too-hot-to-handle veracity of his claims. Toaff had become a victim of the pitiless Jewish lobby whose tentacles were everywhere and that desperately wanted to silence him.

The final blood-libel trial of a Jew in Western history came to court exactly 100 years ago, and in view of the continued popularity of the blood libel it’s worth looking back to this event: the last occasion on which a Jew came to court on the charge of having murdered a Christian child for ritual purposes. When it was over, the accused, Mendel Beilis, thought that he had ended the long tradition of accusing Jews of spilling Christian blood for religious purposes, but he was wrong: The uproar over Toaff’s book showed that the charge of ritual murder remains a testing ground for allegations about the guilt or innocence of the Jewish people as a whole. The blood libel refuses to die, because it’s too convenient a way to evoke the Jewish conspiracy that drains the life from the rest of the world.


The trial took place in Kiev in the fall of 1913, and the defendant was a Jew named Mendel Beilis. In July 1911, Beilis, the supervisor of a brick factory in Kiev, found the Russian secret police at his door with their swords drawn, thundering, “In the name of the Czar, you are arrested.” Carted off to jail in front of his wife and five children, Beilis was peppered with a series of relentless questions: Where do you come from? What is your religion?—and, finally, What do you know of the boy Yustchinsky’s murder? Months earlier, a Christian child, Andrei Yustchinsky, had been found murdered in a nearby cave; he had been stabbed repeatedly and the blood drained from his body. The case bore all the marks of a ritual murder.

But the truth about little Andrei’s murder was already apparent long before Beilis went to trial. A female gangster named Vera Tcheberiak, along with her lover—whom she had blinded when, during a jealous quarrel, she threw acid in his face—were in cahoots with Andrei’s mother. Andrei had been in the Tcheberiak lair when it was stuffed full of stolen goods, and during a fight with a playmate he had threatened to tell the police about the gang’s activities. The word leaked out that Andrei was a potential squealer, and so his death sentence was assured. The Tcheberiak crew had an inspiration: If Andrei’s death were made to look like a ritual murder, they might be able to instigate a pogrom, and take advantage of the ensuing chaos to loot Jewish homes freely. Sure enough, at Andrei’s funeral leaflets were distributed that charged the Jews with the murder and urged aggrieved Russians to take up arms against them.

Before he finally entered the courtroom, Mendel Beilis spent over two years in prison, much of it in brutal conditions, in a bug-infested, freezing, filthy cell. As Beilis’ trial approached, a tidal wave of sympathy for him engulfed Russia. News of the case was eagerly followed in Western Europe and America, too. At their Seders, some Jews glossed the Haggadah’s acronym for the plagues on Egypt with a sentence about Beilis, “divrei Tcheberiak kazav, alilat dam sheker, Beilis eino chayav bo”: “the words of Tcheberiak are a deception, the blood libel is a lie, Beilis is not guilty.”

Jews were hardly the only ones to believe wholeheartedly in Mendel Beilis’ innocence. In England, the archbishops of Canterbury and York signed on to Beilis’ cause, along with the speaker of the House of Commons. Vladimir Nabokov’s father, the crusading liberal journalist V.D. Nabokov, covered the Beilis trial for his St. Petersburg paper; the elder Nabokov was heroically opposed to all forms of anti-Semitism in Russian life, a trait he passed on to his son. Another journalist at the Beilis trial in Kiev was an American: George Kennan, uncle of the famous diplomat and author of the authoritative tome Siberia and the Exile System. Kennan’s detailed, chilling report of the trial helped sway public opinion even more in Beilis’ favor.

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My grandfather, Rabbi Idel Idelson, presided over Mendel Beilis’s funeral in 1934 at the Eldridge St Synagogue. The event itself was an amazing affair. You can read further here:

I believe the perversion is the accusers ‘dream/wish’ to do these things to Jews and/or any other group the have a mindless hate for. They then transfer this evil onto the target to justify the hate.

herbcaen says:

A better comparison would be with Leo Frank, who was also tried in 1913 for a crime that he didnt commit. Leo Frank did not do so well

Moshe says:

Excellent article-well researched and a lot of information. Thank you.

Jacob Arnon says:

Before Mendel Beilis there was the 19C blood libel accusation of a Jew in Syria Known as the Damascus affair. !840:

Damascus affair:

“The Damascus affair was an 1840 incident in which the accusation of ritual murder was brought against members of the Jewish community of Damascus.
Eight notable Jews of Damascus were falsely accused of murdering a
Christian monk, imprisoned and tortured. Several of the imprisoned died
of torture, and another was forced to convert to Islam. In addition, the
Muslim populace of Damascus fell upon the Jewish synagogue in the
suburb of Jobar, pillaged it, and destroyed the scrolls of the Law.”

That an Israeli Professor tried to argue that there maybe merit in this accusation tells me that humanities in Israel is in a state of moral panic. This is but one more attempt by Israeli academicians to reach out to their European counterparts by stating that they are not one of those “bad” Jews but “someone who thinks for himself” etc.
This is bullshit even idiots think for themselves. The problem is that their thought is rubbish and so is the thought of little “professor” in the Negev.

It seems to me the internet made possible a rich underground life for antisemitism and we ignore it at our peril.

Jacob Arnon says:

This was an excellent article. Two things impressed me: the authors feel for quotient existence, and this may be related, he finds the heroic in ordinary people who embrace daily life in all its ambiguity. Contrast this to Malamud spurious hero who while a “little man” reads great writers like Spinoza, that champion of the disaffected Jew who wishes to be seen as a Jew.

But above all the article makes clear that antisemitism exists above the heads of ordinary people: it an abstract principle all the more malicious for being abstract. It is a malevolent ideal all the more powerful because it is embraced (and this will shock some readers unacquainted with its history) embraced by pseudo intellectuals and even by many intellectuals, think of Voltaire (the list of those intellects who embraced antisemitism is too long to mention.

In the same way that today anti-Zionism, that stand in for antisemitism, is being embrace by all too many intellectuals and Professors: Judith Butler comes to mind and so does evil bigoted lawyer Richard A. Falk. Like that Orthodox Priest who was a convert from Judaism these bigots come from Jewish families who become all the more dangerous because of it. They claim that “as Jews they know more about “evil Jess” even though their view of Jews has the feel of a malicious invention: the Jews or Zionists they hate are figments of their own imagination.

I salute the author David Mikics who has written that rare article which not only is true but has the feel of the truth.

Although this piece is very interesting, especially the latter section about Malamud, it begins with the customary disinformation about the origins of the blood libel in Europe. The anti-Jewish murder libel which appeared to begin in Norwich,had actually travelled slowly from Syria while the ‘blood’ aspect was an add-on which first appeared in Blois, France about 25 years after William was killed. The details are easily available from the website of the Jewish Historical Society of England.

Long before the Damascus affair came a late 4th century blood libel in Syria. which was recorded, without question, by Socrates Scholasticus. This is how the modern anti-Jewish libels began. Everything goes round in circles. I’m just a very ordinary, but interested layperson. I think it’s time for the academics to get it right.

You want to see the Blood Libel in action? Watch the first X-Men movie.

Myron Bassman says:

Even earlier, Josephus in “Against Apion” reports that Egyptian Greek anti-Judhaists believed that a Greek youth was sacrificed each Passover in the Temple.

“In 2009 the Swedish social democratic newspaper Aftonbladet ran a story alleging, without evidence, that Israelis were harvesting the organs of Palestinians for use on the black market.”

HAHAHA Israeli organ harvesting is real, excellent example of why humans hate Jews.

Reminder Jewesses drink Christian vital fluid daily in colleges across the country.

Natan79 says:

It goes on both directions…

Natan79 says:

An Asian like you is an anti-Semite? Go fuck yourself and your Asian mother too (though she may be busy with the family dog).

Natan79 says:

You look like the Virginia Tech bomber, a hating violent loser. I hope the FBI finds out soon who you Alpha Loser Asian are.

Natan79 says:

Exactly. No fantasies of revenge possible there. Leo Frank was murdered by Southern US bigots.

skamble says:

Today’s version of this is the Hezbollah official with a dead baby in his arms, dressed as a rescue worker.

You sorta look like me.Was your mom a whore at Susy Wong’s in Hong Kong?

I’d almost forgotten that Israel is also a hub for sex trafficking.

They do it through a hole in the sheet so it’s perfectly kosher.

Much like the neo-Nazis imagined to be populating the American heartland, the Virginia Tech Bomber never existed.

discovered many cases of such bloody sacrifices connected with the Jewish mutilation
of children, outpouring of blood and its baking in Matzo spanning
five hundred years of European history. Some confessions were obtained under torture, but it that necessarily invalidates all confessions, many Palestinian prisoners would have to be released.


Do not try to reason with those who hate Jews! They are devilish! We are solely in need of a leader like King David. He would have stuck it to the world!


Natan79 says:

I’d almost forgotten your mother fucks your dog and yourself, alternatively.

Natan79 says:

You have an amazing potential for violence. Whenever the re is shooting against Jews in the USA, you will be a prime suspect. I certainly will not forget you. Your computer can be traced.

Natan79 says:

One day at your door there’ll be some agents, at night… they’ll show you some Hitler.

Natan79 says:

He sorta looks like his mother’s dog.

Natan79 says:

Hey Aspie, bark for us for here, like your father did. Good boy!


Natan79 says:

If we met in person, you’d be sorry.

CygnusA81 says:

Shouldn’t you be f’ing your dog right now you POS.

AverageRandomJoe says:

Please do not feed the animals or trolls. Move along.

lumiss says:

excellent. thank you for this article.


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The Beilis Conspiracy

A century after the last blood libel trial, the idea that Jews drink Christian vital fluid is still alive and well