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Friday, January 14, 2011

Sarah Palin got it right

I'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.

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.
Read the whole thing.

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.

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At 4:07 PM, Blogger Orde said...

Very well-expressed (& true)!

At 5:53 PM, Blogger biorabbi said...

But doesn't the term blood libel also have an even more noxious meaning referring to the use of Jews taking the blood of a Christian child to bake unleavened bread?

This is the first thing I thought of. Is criticism of political language and critique(however unfair or fair)the same as the use of the blood libel against the Jewish people? Answer NO. She may be right on Israel but has no chance of beating Obama and is losing all credibility. Wouldn't the wise thing to just keep one's mouth shut in such a case. If a liberal wishes to make political hay over political rhetoric, that's his lame move. There was a memorial that night; her comments were ludicrous. She simply read the script and complained of the media blood libel against her. But I doubt her idiocy will lead to a pogram in Alaska against her.

To me words have a precise meaning. Blood libel. Holocaust. Nazi. When you use such words to tangentially similar issues the words lose their meaning or are used to inflame the situation. When an anti-semite uses the words "gaza ghetto" or "The IDF act as Nazis" he, the anti-semite, knows the meaning of his words. He is intentionally trying not only to vilify Israel and the Jews but also to inflame the dialogue. Palin's use of the term blood libel is also used to ascribe an over-the-top motif to the press. Of course the media is liberal and hates Palin, but I doubt they wish to murder the Palins.

At any rate, I highly doubt she's an anti-semite as the entire debate over the use of the term blood libel misses the point. She's an idiot and simply reads off the script. She's also a hot head with a desire to remain in the spotlight.

I won't compare her to Evita because that would be an abuse of language as it insults and denigrates Evita Peron.

At 8:06 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Liberal Jews have acted as though the "blood libel" is something only the Jews have experienced.

Its not just a particular group of individuals that can be subject to defamation and slander.

And its always dangerous.

At 4:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

the attempts by shmueli (who i believe never should be used as a source for anything) and dershowitz, to excuse palin for her use of the term is just wrong.

first of all, palin hasnt had an original idea in her entire life, another conservative commentator used the term on the monday before she used it...the woman doesnt even know its origin or context.

secondly, the congresswoman who was almost killed had pointed out palin's putting her in the "crosshairs" months before the incident, and noted that such actions have consequences.

additionally, at least 3 incidents have occurred as a result of incendiary rhetoric by the likes of beck, limbaugh and others.

a blood libel comes out of nowhere....

al dura was a blood libel

the attempt to blame tear gas for the death of that arab woman is a blood libel

the ambush of the "settler" leader, whereby he used his car to protect himself...is a blood libel

saying that it is very possible that the incendiary rhetoric by the right caused some unstable individual to commit mass murder is not a blood libel....it has basis in fact.

and when people first read his youtube vids, and saw language that mirrored things that had come out of the mouths of polbots...and when it is a democratic congressperson, who has already had death threats and had her office vandalized....it is very easy to jump to conclusions.

maybe the conclusions were wrong...but they are not the makings of a blood libel...and palin is no victim.

what bothers me is that many jew hating jews on the left are all of a sudden upset when this term is used.

i find it absurd that a blumenthal or phillip weiss, makers of their own blood libels, would take offense at her use of the term.


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