Sarah Palin’s use of the term “blood libel” to decry blaming conservatives for the Arizona shooting has raised the ire of some in the Jewish community.
In a video statement released Wednesday when she said that “Acts of monstrous criminality stand on their own. They begin and end with the criminals who commit them. Especially within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible.”
The blood libel refers to accusations that began in the Middle Ages that Jews used the blood of murdered Christian children to make matzah for Passover.
Palin has been criticized since the shooting for using images of a gun crosshair to identify vulnerable districts in the November elections, including that of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), who was shot in the head and seriously injured in the Jan. 8 attack at a Tucson shopping mall that left six dead and at least a dozen injured.
Jewish Funds for Justice President Simon Greer was among the Jewish figures who said Palin erred in using the “blood label” term. He pointed out in a statement that the term is not a synonym for false accusation but rather refers to a specific false accusation, adding that Palin’s usage is “totally out of line.”
“Sarah Palin did not shoot Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Only the perpetrator can be found guilty for this act of terrorism,” Greer said. “But it is worth pointing out that it was Rep. Giffords herself who first objected to Ms. Palin’s map showing her district in the crosshairs. Ms. Palin clearly took some time to reflect before putting out her statement today. Despite that time, her primary conclusion was that she is the victim and Rep. Giffords is the perpetrator.”
Hank Sheinkopf, a Jewish New York-based Democratic political consultant told Politico that “The blood libel is something anti-Semites have historically used in Europe as an excuse to murder Jews – the comparison is stupid. Jews and rational people will find it objectionable. This will forever link her to the events in Tucson. It deepens the hole she’s already dug for herself. … It’s absolutely inappropriate.”
Jewish Americans for Sarah Palin, however, said the politician was justified in using the term.
“Sarah Palin got it right, and we Jews, of all people, should know a blood libel when we see one,” said Benyamin Korn, the group’ s director. “Falsely accusing someone of shedding blood is a blood libel, whether it’s medieval Christians accusing Jews of baking blood in Passover matzahs, or contemporary Muslim extremists accusing Israel of slaughtering Arabs to harvest their organs, or political partisans blaming conservative political figures and talk show hosts for the Tucson massacre.”
Among others who criticized Palin’s use of blood libel included J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami and David Harris, the president and CEO of the National Jewish Democratic Council.
“When Governor Palin learns that many Jews are pained by and take offense at the use of the term, we are sure that she will choose to retract her comment, apologize and make a less inflammatory choice of words,” Ben-Ami said.
Harris said that “All we had asked following this weekend’s tragedy was for prayers for the dead and wounded, and for all of us to take a step back and look inward to see how we can improve the tenor of our coarsening public debate. Sarah Palin’s invocation of a ‘blood libel’ charge against her perceived enemies is hardly a step in the right direction.”
While saying that he wishes Palin had not used the term blood libel, Anti-Defamation League National Director Abraham Foxman focused on the politicization of the shooting tragedy.
“It is unfortunate that the tragedy in Tucson continues to stimulate a political blame game,” Foxman said in a statement. “Rather than step back and reflect on the lessons to be learned from this tragedy, both parties have reverted to political partisanship and finger pointing at a time when the American people are looking for leadership, not more vitriol.
“It was inappropriate at the outset to blame Sarah Palin and others for causing this tragedy or for being an accessory to murder. Palin has every right to defend herself against these kinds of attacks, and we agree with her that the best tradition in America is one of finding common ground despite our differences.”