Palin Likely Didn’t Know ‘Blood Libel’ Meaning
And other opinions on the latest brouhaha
The Obama administration has no comment on Sarah Palin’s invocation of the phrase “blood libel” to describe those who would link strident right-wing rhetoric to the tragic Tucson shooting. Fortunately, absolutely no one else has been so reticent.
I’ll briefly say that I’ve been persuaded that Palin may well have been unaware of the phrase’s origins—I have been surprised to hear how many people, Jews included, did not know its provenance as the myth that the Jews kill Gentile babies and use their blood to make Passover matzah. Palin was most likely responding to the phrase’s presence in right-wing circles to describe other things. However, and as contributing editor Jeffrey Goldberg predicted at the outset of the controversy, everybody has since learned all about it: This was definitely, as they say, a teaching moment. (The Times even ran a handy primer.) Palin can plausibly claim that she was unaware of the hurt she was causing when she made her video before Wednesday morning; she cannot claim, however, that she is not cognizant of it now. It would be totally consistent for her, therefore, to regret her choice of phrase. I’m not holding my breath. Anyway, here is what everyone else has to say:
• James Besser notes that “blood libel” is frequently directed, particularly in Israel, against those who criticize the Jewish state. “Before we criticize,” he argues, “we should clean up our own house.” [The Political Insider]
• Plenty more groups and plenty more people had plenty more to say. [JTA]
• One group that came to the former governor’s defense was, unsurprisingly, Jews for Sarah. Yet it turns out its Website uses a foreign domain name, effectively hiding who is behind it. [Failed Messiah]
• Alan Dershowitz defends her. [Big Government]
• Pat Buchanan says her use of the phrase was “excellent.” [TPM]
• Rabbi Shmuley Boteach defends her. [WSJ]
• Rabbi Andy Bachman, whom I have always preferred to Rabbi Boteach anyway, has a much wiser take. [Water Over Rocks]
• The phrase (in this context) may have originated with the (Jewish) conservative commentator Andrew Breitbart. [SF Gate]
• Finally, go learn something: The Yeshiva University Museum, in Manhattan, has an exhibit, called Zero to Ten, that has original documents from the 1475 Trial of the Jews of Trent, in which the blood libel—the actual blood libel—was invoked. [YU Museum]
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