It did not take long for what Sarah Palin has rightly termed the “lamestream media” to scream and leap at her eight-minute video response to the Tucson shooting controversy. They are focusing on her use of the term “blood libel.”
The LA Times trotted out a group of mainly liberal “Jewish Leaders” to huff and puff about Palin being “insensitive” to the somehow unique place the term “blood libel” has in Jewish history. The term refers to the scurrilous accusation by medieval Christians that Jews used the blood of Christian babies in religious rituals.
Typical was the reaction of Simon Greer, President of Jewish Funds for Justice:
“It refers to a specific falsehood perpetuated by Christians about Jews for centuries, a falsehood that motivated a good deal of anti-Jewish violence and discrimination. Unless someone has been accusing Ms. Palin of killing Christian babies and making matzoh from their blood, her use of the term is totally out of line.”
Howard Kurtz, no doubt somewhat ashamed for his earlier defense of Palin, sniffed, in a Daily Beast article, “With her defiant video, Palin continued-no, escalated-her war with the press, which plays so well with her strongest supporters (despite a recent thaw in which she actually granted a few interviews to the lamestream media). She continued her us-versus-them approach to political discourse. She punched back at critics rather than trying to fashion a unifying message.”
Wow, how dare Sarah Palin defend herself against the media? Kurtz went on to pontificate how “unpresidential” it was.
The problem with this hysterical reaction to Palin’s use of the term “blood libel” to mean something else than an anti-Semitic slur is common in political discourse. Jim Geraghty has documented the use of the term, by people on both sides of the aisle, from over the past decade.
Indeed, Sarah Palin’s use of the term “blood libel” to refer to the accusation of conservative complicity in the Tucson Safeway Massacre did not originate with her. Law Professor and Instapundit Glenn Reynolds used it in a Wall Street Journal oped several days ago. Reynolds did not, so far as is known, get any heat for the term. But, as Reynolds himself might say, “They told me if I voted for McCain, politicians would be attacked for using historical metaphors-and they were right!”
Alan Dershowitz, a famous lawyer and law professor, who is Jewish, and likely no fan of Palin’s, defended her use of the term.
“The term ‘blood libel’ has taken on a broad metaphorical meaning in public discourse. Although its historical origins were in theologically based false accusations against the Jews and the Jewish People, its current usage is far broader. I myself have used it to describe false accusations against the State of Israel by the Goldstone Report. There is nothing improper and certainly nothing anti-Semitic in Sarah Palin using the term to characterize what she reasonably believes are false accusations that her words or images may have caused a mentally disturbed individual to kill and maim. The fact that two of the victims are Jewish is utterly irrelevant to the propriety of using this widely used term.”
And that should be the last word. Unfortunately, it likely will not be.
Sources: Sarah Palin Makes Response to Tucson Massacre Controversy, Mark R. Whittington, Associated Content, January 12th, 2011
Sarah Palin’s charge of ‘blood libel’ spurs outcry from Jewish leaders, James Oliphant, LA Times, January 12th, 2011
Palin Goes Nuclear With ‘Blood Libel’ Speech, Howard Kurtz, Daily Beast, January 12th, 2011
The Term ‘Blood Libel’: More Common Than You Might Think, Jim Geraghty, National Review, January 12, 2011
The Arizona Tragedy and the Politics of Blood Libel, Glenn Reynolds, Wall Street Journal, January 10th, 2011
Exclusive: Alan Dershowitz Defends Sarah Palin’s Use of Term ‘Blood Libel’, Publius, Big Government, January 12th, 2011