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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Book about blood libel to be changed

Last update - 23:26 14/02/2007   
Author of blood libel book holds distribution to make changes
By Ofri Ilani, Haaretz Correspondent

The author of a book on the ritualistic use of blood by Jews in Ashkenazi communities in the Middle Ages on Wednesday asked the book's Italian publisher to discontinue distribution in order to let him amend and annotate contentious sections.
Professor Ariel Toaff submitted his request to the El Molino publishing house just days after the book was released, due to the furor its publication caused around the world. The first edition of the book had sold out within a few days of its release.
Toaff told Haaretz earlier this week that he stood by the contention of his book, "Pasque di Sangue," that there is a factual basis for some of the medieval blood libels against the Jews. However, he said he was sorry his arguments had been twisted.
"I tried to show that the Jewish world at that time was also violent, among other things because it had been hurt by Christian violence," the Bar-Ilan history professor said. Of course I do not claim that Judaism condones murder. But within Ashkenazi Judaism there were extremist groups that could have committed such an act and justified it," he said.
He added, "I will not give up my devotion to the truth and academic freedom even if the world crucifies me."
Toaff to donate proceeds to ADL
Toaff announced that he would donate the proceeds from the sales of his book to the Anti-Defamation League, which battles anti-Semitism.
Last week, following the release of the book in Italy, the ADL condemned Toaff's claims that some of the confessions extracted from Jews during post-Crusades trials were based on actual fact.
ADL Chairman Abraham Foxman said that Toaff's book serves the interests of anti-Semites. "It is hard to believe that anybody, not to mention an Israeli historian, would legitimize baseless claims of blood libel," Foxman said.
In his announcement, Toaff said that he had decided to donate the profits "out of a sense of personal responsibility for what had occurred, and in order to emphasize how deeply sorry I am for the insult I caused to the Jewish public."
"I would never allow any Israel hater to use me or my research to rekindle the hatred that brought about the deaths of millions of Jews," he added.
Bar Ilan 'furious' over Toaff's lack of sensitivity
Bar Ilan University said Wednesday its administrations and researchers felt "great fury and displeasure" over Toaff's lack of sensitivity.
University spokesman Shmuel Elgrabli said that Toaff's decision to publish his book privately in Italy, the provocative wording of the book's title, and the analysis given on the book by the media has emotionally hurt Jews around the world as well as harmed the delicate fabric of relations between Jews and Christians.
Elgrabi added that it would have been appropriate for Toaff to have used more sensitivity and care when publishing his book.
The university said in a statement that now that "the severity of the damage caused to the Jewish public has become clear," Toaff was going to take the responsibility to mend personally any damage caused.
The university said it has no plans to take any action against Toaff and said it defends his academic liberty as well as that of every one of its researchers.

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