Monday, January 24, 2011

The Forward: Was Sarah Palin Actually Blood Libeled?

If anyone should apologize, it’s Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Jeremy Ben-Ami
According to an opinion piece in The Jewish Daily Forward, a left of center New York weekly news magazine published in separate Yiddish and English editions, Gov. Palin was not insensitive to Jewish feeling in her use of the term "blood libel":
Did Sarah Palin have justification for calling the accusations that she was responsible, by dint of her rhetoric, for the attempted murder of Gabrielle Giffords and for the deaths of six other people a “blood libel”?

Not, of course, if you think Palin can’t say anything right. Nor, it would seem, if you are defending Jewish sensibilities. “Palin’s comments show either a complete ignorance of history, or blatant anti-Semitism,” Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz declared through a spokesman. “Either way, it shows an appalling lack of sensitivity given Representative Giffords’s faith.” Palin, said Jeremy Ben-Ami, head of the political organization J Street, will surely “retract her comment [and] apologize,” once she “learns that many Jews are pained by and take offense at the use of the term.” Even the Anti-Defamation League’s national director, Abraham Foxman, who supported Palin’s right to defend herself, wished that Palin had not called the attacks on her a blood libel— words that, he stated, are “fraught with pain in Jewish history.”

And yet the history of “blood libel” tells us something different.


Although it may be impossible to prove that, even if Palin herself was unaware of it, her use of the term “blood libel” ultimately derives from Israeli discourse, I would suspect that it does. Whether it does or doesn’t, however, it certainly isn’t fair to accuse Palin of insensitivity to Jewish feelings for using an expression that Israeli Jews have been resorting to for decades in the exact same sense. If anyone should apologize, it’s Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Jeremy Ben-Ami.

- JP

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