Case Postale 161, 1211 Genève

5 August 2002



THE CHAIRMAN OF THE COMMISSION Ambassador Krzysztof Jakubowski


DEFAMATION OF RELIGION (Damascus Blood Libel 1840-2002)

The Blood Libel is one of the most vicious examples of antisemitism from medieval times, yet - as we have pointed out at the UNCHR on several occasions - it is constantly revived in the Arab media, particularly in Syria, Saudi Arabia, the Palestinian Authority, and Egypt. This, despite the Commission's resolution that was sponsored by the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, originally as Resolution 1999/82: Defamation of religions.

Last Friday (2 August 2002) the International Herald Tribune carried a passage from an Associated Press report from Cairo titled,"Editor defends use of anti-Semitic tales." We are enclosing the full AP report, in which it is stated that Ibrahim Nafie, the government-appointed editor-in-chief of one of Egypt's main daily newspapers, Al-Ahram, was served with a French summons (French law forbids the "incitement of hatred and anti-Semitic violence") for reviving the ritual murder accusation against Jews and Judaism - and implying that "Israel's army today was carrying out ritual murders of Palestinians."

On 8 February 1991, the calumnious 1840 blood libel - known to historians as the "Damascus Affair" -was revived at the 47th session of the UNCHR by a Syrian delegate, who stated, inter alia: "We should like to urge all members of this Commission to read this very important work that demonstrates unequivocally the historical reality of Zionist racism." (E/CN.4/1991/80) The book she held aloft with its ghastly illustrated cover was The Matzah of Zion (1983); it contained a preface by Syria's Minister of Defence from 1972 till today, Major-General Mustapha Tlass, with the following passages: "The Jew can...kill you and take your blood in order to make his Zionist bread...I hope that I have done my duty in presenting the practices of the enemy of our historic nation. Allah aid this project." And: "Father Thomas fell victim to the Jewish community, who wanted to extract his blood for the Festival of Kippur. Here opens before us a page even more ugly than the crime itself: the religious beliefs of the Jews and the destructive perversions they contain, which draw their orientation from a dark hate toward all humankind and all religions." In a 1999 interview he again endorsed publicly this view of the 1840 Damascus Affair rituel murder accusation. (France-Pays Arabes, Paris, July-August 1999).

Enclosed is an article (Midstream, New York, February-March 2000) by one of the undersigned, which provides the historical background to this libel, the shameful revival at the UNCHR in 1991, and until 2000 in the Arab media. On page 6, you will find the comments of the then Chairman of the Commission, Mr Bernales Ballesteros, which conclude: "Such propositions are both contrary to the basic principles which inspired the UDHR and threaten to neutralize the considerable work that the international system has carried out since its adoption."

Despite this, the Mufti of the Palestinian army, Sheikh Colonel Nadeer al-Tamimi stated on the TV Qatari-based Arabic cable news channel Al-Jazeera, without being challenged: "There can be no peace with the Jews because they use and suck the blood of Arabs on the holidays of Passover and Purim." (28 Oct. 2000; English translation in MEMRI, Special Dispatch - Egypt, 6 Nov. 2000, NE 150). Last year, it was announced in Egypt that an Egyptian film producer, Munir Radhi, was making a film adaption of The Matzah of Zion, the script having been written by a Palestinian writer, Al-Sayyed Sa'id.  The purpose was "to respond to all of the Zionist films distributed by the American film industry, which is backed by the Zionist propaganda apparatus. Among these films is Schindler's List..."
(Roz al-Yussuf, English tr. from Arabic. MEMRI, Special Dispatch-Syria/Egypt, 1 Mar. 2001, NE 190)

The Egyptian government-appointed editor-in-chief of Al-Ahram accused the Paris-based International League Against Racism and Anti-Semitism (LICRA) of "ideological terrorism." Already, earlier in 2002, a government newspaper in Saudi Arabia, Al-Riyadh, in two articles "described Jews as vampires who bake cookies with the blood of non-Jews"; claiming that "the Torah, the Jewish holy book, requires Jews to demonstrate their joy by eating pastries mixed with human blood." (AP report enclosed, 1 August 2002)

Such monstrosities are repeated by government newspapers in Muslim countries, despite the fact that 160 years ago the Ottoman Caliph and Sultan, Abdul Megid, issued a firman on 6 November 1840 which stated then: "It is clear that not only do Jews not use human blood, but they do not use the blood of animals. One can conclude, then, that the violence to which the Jews [of Damascuse] have been subjected results from calumny and no more."

In her Statement to the Organisation of Islamic Conference Symposium on Human Rights in Islam on 15 March 2002, the High Commissioner for Human Rights declared, inter alia: "Education and information are key elements in combating ignorence, intolerance and bigotry (...) Islamic communities need to become more active in countering ignorance through offering positive information on Islam and Islamic beliefs. Prejudice and misperception feed on ignorance and this needs to be confronted especially through the media with truth. Muslims themselves have a key role in such efforts and I encourage thinking on how this can be done."

We appeal to the High Commissioner on Human Rights to request the Secretary-General of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference to take a position on this grave matter urgently;

We also appeal to the appropriate human rights bodies, including the Commission, and the Sub-Commission on Human Rights now meeting in Geneva, to raise their voice loud and clear on behalf of the international community, announcing to all that: Never again should the grotesque murder rituel blood libel accusation be made - without a UN response - against Jews and Judaism by State organs or individuals in any part of the world.

René Wadlow
(Main Representative)
David Littman

cc. (with documentation) to all members of the UN Sub-Commission on Human Rights