A New Television Drama Appears to Embrace the Blood Libel

Sept. 4 2020

Inspired by the work of the early 20th-century horror writer H.P. Lovecraft, the new HBO series Lovecraft Country adds a racial dimension to its source material, conveying the message that the real horror stories can be found in the history of African Americans. The main characters are black, and most of the white characters are those who persecute them. But in its third episode, the show ventured into anti-Semitism, as Philissa Cramer writes:

Hiram Epstein, the episode reveals, was a University of Chicago scientist who conducted gruesome experiments on Black children and adults in the basement of the Winthrop House, a decrepit mansion in a white neighborhood that a main character, Leti Lewis, purchases and renovates. His spirit haunts the home, making it unsafe for Leti and her tenants and friends, until an exorcism summons the mutilated bodies of his victims and restores psychic order.

Epstein’s story calls to mind the way that Jews have been accused for centuries of stealing the blood of non-Jewish children to use in religious rituals, often to make matzah for Passover, in what is known as a “blood libel.”

The name Epstein isn’t present in original novel on which the series is based, Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff. There, the ghost that haunts the house Leti buys is named Hiram Winthrop—explaining the mansion’s name—and he isn’t a doctor. He also isn’t nearly as scary. The series adds a more recent owner who colluded with local police to facilitate abductions and experimentation.

On Twitter, I found a single reaction to Hiram Epstein’s name—one that matched my own. Beyond that, the normally voluble world of must-see-TV chatter was silent on Epstein’s name and possible Jewishness.

One wonders what the reaction might have been had the show played on bigoted stereotypes about other ethnic or religious groups.

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Read more at Jewish Telegraphic Agency

More about: Anti-Semitism, Blood libel, Horror, Racism, Television

Don’t Let Iran Go Nuclear

Sept. 29 2022

In an interview on Sunday, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan stated that the Biden administration remains committed to nuclear negotiations with the Islamic Republic, even as it pursues its brutal crackdown on the protests that have swept the country. Robert Satloff argues not only that it is foolish to pursue the renewal of the 2015 nuclear deal, but also that the White House’s current approach is failing on its own terms:

[The] nuclear threat is much worse today than it was when President Biden took office. Oddly, Washington hasn’t really done much about it. On the diplomatic front, the administration has sweetened its offer to entice Iran into a new nuclear deal. While it quite rightly held firm on Iran’s demand to remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps from an official list of “foreign terrorist organizations,” Washington has given ground on many other items.

On the nuclear side of the agreement, the United States has purportedly agreed to allow Iran to keep, in storage, thousands of advanced centrifuges it has made contrary to the terms of the original deal. . . . And on economic matters, the new deal purportedly gives Iran immediate access to a certain amount of blocked assets, before it even exports most of its massive stockpile of enriched uranium for safekeeping in a third country. . . . Even with these added incentives, Iran is still holding out on an agreement. Indeed, according to the most recent reports, Tehran has actually hardened its position.

Regardless of the exact reason why, the menacing reality is that Iran’s nuclear program is galloping ahead—and the United States is doing very little about it. . . . The result has been a stunning passivity in U.S. policy toward the Iran nuclear issue.

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Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Iran nuclear deal, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy