(photo credit: erik lesser / AP)
NEW YORK – After political commentators and journalists cast blame, in part, on inflammatory political rhetoric for last week’s shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin response has triggered an outpouring of more rhetoric by using the controversial term “blood libel.”
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In a video posted on her Facebook page, Palin thwarted her critics’ claims that her political attacks contributed to the assassination attempt on the Democratic congresswoman in Tucson, which led to six deaths and left as many as 14 wounded.
“Acts of monstrous criminality stand on their own. 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 that they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible,” Palin remarks in the video released early Wednesday.
Due to Palin’s arguably injudicious use of the term “blood libel,” a false accusation made against Jews that they murdered Christian children and used their blood to make Passover matzas, a new tide of commentary was unleashed by pundits, journalists and the Anti-Defamation League.
ADL national director Abraham Foxman defended Palin against initial accusations, but took issue with her use of the loaded term.
“It was inappropriate at the outset to blame Sarah Palin and others for causing this tragedy or for being an accessory to murder,” Foxman said. “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.”
“Still, we wish that Palin had not invoked the phrase ‘blood libel’ in reference to the actions of journalists and pundits in placing blame for the shooting in Tucson on others,” his statement continued. “While the term ‘blood libel’ has become part of the English parlance to refer to someone being falsely accused, we wish that Palin had used another phrase, instead of one so fraught with pain in Jewish history."
Simon Greer, president of Jewish Funds for Justice, said in a statement, “We are deeply disturbed by Fox News commentator Sarah Palin’s decision to characterize as a ‘blood libel’ the criticism directed at her following the terrorist attack in Tucson.”
Greer noted, “The term ‘blood libel’ is not a synonym for ‘false accusation.’ 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 matza from their blood, her use of the term is totally out of line.”
Associate director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism Mark Pelavin took matters a step further, issuing a public request that Palin retract her comments.
“‘Blood libel’ is not just a generic phrase used when someone is falsely accused of something terrible,” said Pelavin in a statement. “The ‘blood libel’ stirred hatred and violence against Jews; it contributed to massacres, pogroms and banishments.”
“We recognize fully that Gov. Palin is not the first to water down the meaning of this phrase in this manner that diminishes the distinctive nature of the historic anti-Semitism associated with the use of the blood libel,” Pelavin said. “Equating political differences of opinion with violent anti-Semitism should stop. For these reasons, Gov. Palin should retract her remarks.”
Foxman decried the political “blame game” that ensued in the wake of the Giffords assassination attempt.
“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,” Foxman said. “In response to this tragedy, we need to rise above partisanship, incivility, heated rhetoric and the business-as-usual approaches that are corroding our political system and tainting the atmosphere in Washington and across the country.”