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Christopher Hitchens asks me about Ariel Toaff and Israel Shahak

Last night I received an email message from Christopher Hitchens regarding my article on Israeli organ harvesting. Hitchens is an author who used to be considered a leftist but who is increasingly being characterized as a pro-war neoconservative

His email noted that the exchange was not confidential. Therefore, I am posting it below.

It is interesting to note that the only information he questioned in my extensive, fairly detailed report regarded one sentence in parentheses. While the two books concerned in this parenthetical reference were somewhat peripheral to the article, and the allusion came near the end of the lengthy article, I’m pleased that Hitchen's focus on these authors will bring them deserved attention -- especially Israel Shahak, an Israeli professor who passed away several years ago.

It is astounding to me that so many people have not yet read Shahak's valuable books; in fact, very few people seem to have even heard of them. I hope this exchange with Hitchens will help to change that.

Below is the email correspondence from late last night and this morning:


 Dear Ms Weir,
    I must ask you to help me find the reference, in any of Israel Shahak's books or articles or in any of the work he co-authored with Norton Mezvinsky, to any use by any Jews of any "Christian" blood in any ritual at any time. (Your assertion appears as the 26th citation of the relevant article in a recent Counterpunch.)
     I trust that there is nothing unclear in the way that I have phrased the above request. I imagine that I shall not have long to wait for a reply.
    On my side at least, the contents of this correspondence are not confidential.
Christopher Hitchens

My response:

Dear Mr. Hitchens,

It is unfortunate that you did not see my announcement, sent out widely, or my blog entry clearing up this misconception:

Below is the relevant section:

    Clarification on Israel Shahak

    "Finally, the original version of my article contained a sentence in a parentheses near the end of the piece that may have seemed to say that Israeli professor and author Israel Shahak also believed there was a basis to the blood libel accusations. In reality, the findings that were similar to Toaff’s were Shahak’s information on Talmudic texts emphasizing vengeance, the profound anti-Christian statements to be found in numerous religious texts, and the extreme religious violence within some medieval Jewish communities, sometimes ordered by Rabbis, eg cutting out tongues, chopping off noses, etc – and not that there had been ritual killings of Christians.

    "I urge people to read his book along with Toaff’s to discover for themselves the similarities and differences. Shahak's book is also posted here. An excellent analysis of Toaff is here.

    "It is a shame that Professor Shahak is no longer alive. It would have been valuable to learn his views on Toaff’s original book, and on Bostrom's article."

Please see the article as it appears on our website, which makes the above clear:

In regard to my article, you may wish to view short video interviews with me:

Please feel to share this email with others -- but only in its entirety.


Alison Weir


Dear Ms Weir,
   Thank you for your relatively swift reply. I don't follow your everyday work with sufficient attention to catch all the corrections or amendments
that you may need to send out. And I am not sure in any case exactly how clarifying this clarification of yours may be. When you say that you have "cleared up this misconception", do you mean to say that the allegation of Jewish ritual slaughter of Christians is misconceived, or that your own citation of Israel Shahak in support of the allegation is misconceived? Or do you hope that people will conclude that you yourself merely "misconceived" something, rather than fabricated it, misrepresented it, made an awful (and not small) mistake in supposedly reporting it, or committed any other reportorial or authorial sin that would not be covered by your own choice of terms? In other words,and to come to it shortly, do you yourself believe the allegation or do you not?
     I, too, very much wish that Dr Shahak could have been able to give his own review of your work. And I shall have no difficulty at all in sharing the unredacted contents of your email.
  For now, then, shall we agree that you have not yet answered the question with which I close my antepenultimate paragraph above, and that you really ought to be able to do so?
Christopher Hitchens

My response

Dear Mr. Hitchens,

No, we shall not "agree" that I have not "yet" answered a question you had never posed. In point of fact, I did answer the question you asked. Perhaps you consider that I did this "relatively" quickly. The reality is that I did this in less than an hour of its arrival in our organizational inbox.

After a somewhat verbose paragraph, you finally, I think, come to a new question that you now wish me to answer:

"In other words, and to come to it shortly, do you yourself believe the allegation or do you not?"

I assume you mean the allegations contained in Professor Toaff's original and revised book entitled "Pasque di Sangue" (translated as "Blood Passovers" or "Passovers of Blood").

Unfortunately, as I explained in my article, those who wish to silence information they dislike worked to suppress this book. Thus, the only version available of Professor Toaff's original book is an unofficial translation on the internet (http://www.bloodpassover.com/index.htm ). Professor Toaff's revised version has not, so far as I know, been translated into English.

The point of my article -- and of my blog entry -- was that such suppression must stop. I hope you will join me in working to make both versions available to English-speaking readers to judge his evidence for themselves.

There should be public, informed investigation and discussion of evidence of significance. Instead, there is censorship.

If you wish to read about the pressure on Professor Toaff (who, like Swedish journalist Donald Bostrom and myself, has received death threats), please see:

Thank you for writing me on this matter. I am pleased that this correspondence will help make more people aware of my organization http://www.ifamericansknew.org/, of Professor Toaff's book, and of Professor Shahak's highly informative work, in particular, "Jewish History, Jewish Religion: The Weight of Three Thousand Years," (Pluto Press) available from Amazon -- http://www.amazon.com/Jewish-History-Religion-Thousand-Eastern/dp/0745308198

Finally, I'd like to remind you that my report on the suppression of Professor Toaff's book was part of a larger article, which I suggest you re-read  -- http://www.ifamericansknew.org/cur_sit/sweden.html . I also urge you to read the entirety of my blog entry -- http://alisonweir.org/journal/2009/9/1/israeli-organ-harvesting.html

Again, please feel free to share this correspondence -- in its entirety -- with others.


Alison Weir

At this point, I don't know whether or not Professor Toaff's considerable and somewhat dense scholarly work supports his allegations; to determine this requires considerable study and access to both versions of his book. It would also benefit from open, thorough investigation unimpeded by the diverse and frightening threats received by Toaff and others. My very clear point regardiing Toaff was and is a very simple one: suppressing information is wrong.

I hope others will continue this research. In the meantime I will retain my focus on Israel-Palestine, the U.S. connection to this issue, and the abysmal press coverage that perpetuates intolerable, tragic, and ongoing violence.

I will be curious to see where Hitchens reports the above exchange. My hope is that it will be in his next article for Vanity Fair.


Those who oppose information suppression may wish to sign a petition calling for an investigation into Israel's treatment of Palestinian internal organs.


Posted on Saturday, September 26, 2009 at 09:04AM by Registered Commenter[Alison Weir | Comments Off

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