Sarah Palin got it rightI've stayed out of the argument over whether Sarah Palin's use of the term 'blood libel' was justified with respect to the accusations against her and other conservatives of being the cause of the mass murder and attempted assassination in Tucson last Saturday. It's not directly an Israel-related topic.
But I think that Rabbi Shmuley Boteach has got it right in Friday's Wall Street Journal (Hat Tip: Memeorandum) and that Sarah Palin was entitled to use the term.
Despite the strong association of the term with collective Jewish guilt and concomitant slaughter, Sarah Palin has every right to use it. The expression may be used whenever an amorphous mass is collectively accused of being murderers or accessories to murder.Read the whole thing.
The abominable element of the blood libel is not that it was used to accuse Jews, but that it was used to accuse innocent Jews—their innocence, rather than their Jewishness, being the operative point. Had the Jews been guilty of any of these heinous acts, the charge would not have been a libel.
Jews did not kill Jesus. As the Roman historian Tacitus makes clear, he was murdered by Pontius Pilate, whose reign of terror in ancient Judea was so excessive, even by Roman standards, that (according to the Roman-Jewish chronicler Josephus) Rome recalled him in the year 36 due to his sadistic practices. King Herod Agrippa I, writing to the Emperor Caligula, noted Pilate's "acts of violence, plunderings . . . and continual murder of persons untried and uncondemned, and his never-ending, endless, and unbelievable cruelties, gratuitous and most grievous inhumanity."
Murder is humanity's most severe sin, and it is trivialized when an innocent party is accused of the crime—especially when that party is a collective too numerous to be defended individually. If Jews have learned anything in their long history, it is that a false indictment of murder against any group threatens every group. As Martin Luther King Jr. wrote in his Letter from Birmingham Jail, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." Indeed, the belief that the concept of blood libel applies only to Jews is itself a form of reverse discrimination that should be dismissed.
Judaism rejects the idea of collective responsibility for murder, as the Hebrew Bible condemns accusations of collective guilt against Jew and non-Jew alike. "The soul who sins is the one who will die. The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous man will be credited to him, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against him" (Ezekiel 18).
How unfortunate that some have chosen to compound a national tragedy by politicizing the murder of six innocent lives and the attempted assassination of a congresswoman.
We Jews don't have a monopoly on being smeared with blood libels. But many of us can empathize with what Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and other conservatives have gone through this past week.