Palin's words reach back to sordid history
NEW YORK (AP) - When Sarah Palin accused journalists and pundits of "blood libel" in the wake of the deadly Arizona shootings, she reached deep into one of medieval history's most sordid chapters to make her point. The term "blood libel" is not well known, but it is highly charged - a direct reference to a time when many European Christians accused Jews of kidnapping and murdering Christian children to obtain their blood. Jews were tortured and executed for crimes they did not commit, emblematic of anti-Semitism so virulent that some scholars recoiled Wednesday at Palin's use of the term.
Palin: "Blood Libel" .
Sarah Palin succeeded in getting some attention for her latest address, but it probably wasn't the sort of attention she was looking for. Her speech on the Tucson shootings was largely derided as the work of a self-absorbed politician who looks distinctly un-presidential. Nate Silver and Jon Chait had nice things to say, but most commentators were aghast at the speech, particularly Palin's use of the phrase "blood libel." In what was supposed to be a speech about restrained rhetoric, she used a term historically used to describe the accusation that Jews use (Christian) babies' blood in their religious rituals. "Had Palin scoured a thesaurus, she could not have come up with a more inflammatory phrase," Howard Kurtz laments. Not even Jonah Goldberg will defend her use of the term. At the Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg thinks some good can come of the speech: "It is a moral necessity, I think, for Christians to understand the blood libel," he says. "Sarah Palin is such an important political and cultural figure that her use of the term "blood libel" should introduce this very important historical phenomenon to a wide audience." Rep. James Clyburn isn't so sure. "Sarah Palin just can't seem to get it, on any front," the South Carolina Democrat said. "Intellectually, she seems not to be able to understand what's going on here." Ta-Nehisi Coates doesn't understand why everyone is so surprised. "This is what populist demagogues do," he sighs. "This is who they are."
...particularly nasty and inappropriate considering that some of Loughner's writings suggest that Giffords may well have been targeted partially because she is Jewish.
and for reference:
Blood libel (also blood accusation) refers to a false accusation or claim that religious minorities, in European contexts almost always Jews, murder children to use their blood in certain aspects of their religious rituals and holidays. Historically, these claims have – alongside those of well poisoning and host desecration – been a major theme in European persecution of Jews.
The libels typically allege that Jews require human blood for the baking of matzos for Passover. The accusations often assert that the blood of Christian children is especially coveted, and historically blood libel claims have often been made to account for otherwise unexplained deaths of children. In some cases, the alleged victim of human sacrifice has become venerated as a martyr, a holy figure around whom a martyr cult might arise. A few of these have been even canonized as saints, like Gavriil Belostoksky.
In Jewish lore, blood libels were the impetus for the creation in the 16th century of the Golem of Prague by Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel. Many popes have either directly or indirectly condemned the blood accusation, and no pope has ever sanctioned it. These libels have persisted among some segments of Christians to the present time.