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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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Before he settled on Beilis, Malamud had thought of writing a novel about Dreyfus; but, he concluded, Dreyfus “was a dullish man … he did not suffer well.” Beilis did suffer well. And no theme was more central to Malamud’s work than suffering. In a letter to his friend Rosemarie Beck, he described his novel’s plot: “A man is put in prison, and there he must suffer out his existence with what he has and, in a sense, conceive himself again. It is, as you see, my old subject matter.”

Malamud too suffered as he wrote The Fixer; the novel required an excruciating, seemingly endless series of drafts. He would remark that “The book nearly killed me—but I couldn’t let go of it.” “I beat myself into shape with a terrible will,” Malamud once said, explaining how he managed to become an author. Nowhere was that will more apparent than in his writing of The Fixer. Malamud at the time was reeling from the aftermath of an affair with a young Bennington student, Arlene Heyman. He began The Fixer in 1963, just when he wrote to Heyman, who had ended the affair, to tell her that he was breaking off all contact with her. He was shutting himself off, in an act of solidarity with his persecuted hero. (Malamud and Heyman later reconciled, and he held one of the huppah poles at her wedding.)

Malamud’s Beilis figure, Yakov Bok, is the ne plus ultra among the author’s sufferers: isolated, poor, frustrated in love, blessed by nothing but a sardonic sense of humor about his troubles. Like most of Malamud’s heroes, he is, as Robert Alter put it, “nailed to the cumbersome load of his wearying work”: His destiny is ill-fitting, like a bad suit. Malamud disagrees with Kafka’s stark, uncanny sense of the eternal lack of fit between the human being and his fate: The humbler Malamud sees, instead, an ordinary and bruising mismatch between the individual and the role he is forced to play. Malamud once referred in an interview to “the cultural deprivation I felt as a child”: There were no books or music in his parents’ home and no pictures on the walls; it was, he felt, a kind of prison. Malamud wrote about Jews because he saw the Jew as the “prisoner of history”; but really, as he once blurted out, “all men are Jews”—and all men are prisoners.

There are a number of differences between Mendel Beilis and Malamud’s fixer. Yakov Bok is childless and has even been abandoned by his wife (for a Gentile, no less); he is an inveterate reader of Spinoza and a religious doubter, whereas Beilis was conventionally religious (though he had to work on the Sabbath, since his factory was open Saturdays). Yakov Bok fearfully masquerades as a non-Jew in order to make his way in Kiev, the “holy city” traditionally closed to Jews; by contrast, Beilis easily received a special dispensation from Zaitsev, the wealthy Jewish owner of the brick factory, allowing him to live on the factory premises. Most important, Malamud’s hero is alienated from the goyish world that surrounds him in Kiev, as well as from the tradition-bound ways of the Jewish shtetl that he fled. Beilis had no such discomfort with either the Jewish religion or with Gentiles: He sent his sons to heder and was popular with his Christian neighbors.

Malamud moves from the Jew as archetypal sufferer to the Jew as omnipotent avenger

The most crucial difference between The Fixer and the Beilis case is Malamud’s decision to depict Beilis as an oppressed prisoner rather than a man successfully defending himself in court. In the Beilis trial, Jews, and sympathetic Gentiles along with them, were given a chance to stand up for their rights. But the rise of Nazi Germany a mere two decades later erased this possibility; a fair trial seemed a relic of a bygone, more enlightened age. Malamud, as he drew on the Beilis case, omitted the trial completely. He wrote in the wake of an era in which Jews were denied all opportunity to speak for themselves, in which they were condemned en masse as guilty.

The result of the Nazi nightmare was that Malamud had to go outside of history to suggest the triumph of the accused Jew, since the Germans had obliterated the hope for such a victory. Unreality infiltrates the narrow world of The Fixer, most noticeably in the fantasy that finally sets Yakov Bok free: At the book’s end, he interrogates and kills Czar Nicholas II and is acclaimed by a roaring crowd.

Like Hollywood with its recent spate of movies about Jews who defend themselves violently when faced with Nazi persecutors, Malamud in the final pages of The Fixer moves from the Jew as archetypal sufferer to the Jew as omnipotent avenger. Both these roles are disquieting, unsatisfying; they testify to the persistent grip of myth on our ideas about Jewish identity. But there is still no way to skirt the myths entirely, to insist that proclamations of Jewish guilt and Jewish innocence, Jewish victimhood and Jewish mastery, merely get in the way of our diverse peoplehood. Jewish identity is made out of myth, too, even as Jews remain properly wary about the risks of subscribing to fantasy images of themselves. There is real danger here: The blood libel, like nothing else, shows the strength of the outside world’s addiction to fantasies about Jews.


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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

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