||The Damascus Affair, a notorious blood libel in 1840 in which Christian anti-Semitism and popular Muslim anti-Jewish feelings came to a head and were aggravated by the political struggle of the European powers for influence in the Middle East. On February 5, 1840, the Capuchin friar Thomas, an Italian who had long resided in Damascus, disappeared together with his Muslim servant Ibrahim Amara. The monk had been involved in shady business, and the two men were probably murdered by tradesmen with whom Thomas had quarreled. Nonetheless, the Capuchins immediately circulated the news that the Jews had murdered both men in order to use their blood for the Passover. As Catholics in Syria were officially under French protection, the investigation should have been conducted, according to local law, by the French consul. But the latter, Ratti-Menton, allied himself with the accusers, and supervised the investigation jointly with the governor-general Sherif Padia; it was conducted in the most barbarous fashion. A barber, Solomon Negrin, was arbitrarily arrested and tortured until a "confession" was extorted from him, according to which the monk had been killed in the house of David Harari by seven Jews. The men whom he named were subsequently arrested; two of them died under torture, one of them converted to Islam in order to be spared, and the others were made to "confess." A Muslim servant in the service of David Harari related under duress that Ibrahim Amara was killed in the house of Meir Farhi, in the presence of the latter and other Jewish notables. Most of those mentioned were arrested, but one of them, Isaac Levi Picciotto, was an Austrian citizen and thus under the protection of the Austrian consul; this eventually led to the intervention of Austria, England, and the United States in the affair. When some bones were found in a sewer in the Jewish quarter, the accusers proclaimed that they were those of Thomas, and buried them accordingly. An inscription on the tombstone stated that it was the grave of a saint tortured by the Jews. Then more bones were found, alleged to be those of Ibrahim Amara. But a well-known physician in Damascus, Dr. Lograso, refused to certify that they were human bones, and requested that they be sent to a European university for examination. This, however, met with the opposition of the French consul. The authorities then announced that on the strength of the confessions of the accused and the remains found of the victims, the guilt of the Jews in the double murder was proved beyond doubt. They also seized 63 Jewish children so as to extort the hiding place of the victims' blood from their mothers.
The news of the atrocities in Damascus aroused the concern of the Jewish world. Numerous delgations and efforts were exerted on the French and Turkish to resolve the nightmare. A Jewish delegation, whose members included Moses Montefiore, his secretary Louis Loewe, Adolphe Cremieux, and Solomon Munk, left for Egypt and was received by Muhammad Ali. The delegation requested that the investigation should be abandoned by the Damascus authorities and transferred to Alexandria for judicial clarification or that the case be considered by European judges. This request was not granted as war was imminent between Egypt and Turkey. Both Muhammad Ali and the French wished to prevent an investigation into the events in Damascus. The Jews, whose first concern was in the release of their coreligionists, decided to accept the simple liberation of the prisoners without any judicial declaration of innocence. In the end it was, however, explicitly stated that their liberation was an act of justice and not merely a favor granted by the ruler. The liberation order was issued on August 28, 1840, and those prisoners who were still alive in Damascus were saved.
Montefiore and his delegation left Egypt for Constantinople, where they appealed to the sultan for the publication of a firman which would proclaim blood libels fallacious and prohibit the trial of Jews on the basis of such accusations. Nevertheless, the Catholics of Damascus continued to tell tourists, for many years, about the saint who had been tortured and murdered by the Jews, and how the Jews had been saved from the gallows by the intrigues of Jewish notables from abroad.