Blood libel: A historical view

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Sarah Palin's use of "blood libel" today, as is already clear to most people, is divorced from the historical origins of the term. But it's worth taking a moment to revisit the original meaning of the phrase and the violent context from which it emerged.

I called Ronnie Hsia, a history professor at Penn State who has written extensively on blood libel and early modern Europe. He explained that the term generally refers to the medieval "fantasy in Christian belief that Jewish communities needed Christian blood for Passover."

"It was based on an ignorance and fear of Jewish rituals on the part of Christians and also the Christian fixation on blood," he says. Most often, it would be the blood of a child; thus, the idea often surfaced after the murder or abduction of a child....

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