Anti-Defamation League Latest Jewish Group To Condemn Palin's "Blood Libel" Comment

Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

This morning, we noted that Sarah Palin had become the latest right-wing media figure to accusesome journalists and progressives of manufacturing a "blood libel" against them by trying to link violent conservative rhetoric to last weekend's shooting in Arizona. "Blood libel" historically refers to the anti-Semitic charge that Jews use the blood of Christian children in some religious rituals -- a myth that has long been the source of anti-Jewish violence.

Now, prominent Jewish organizations, including the Anti-Defamation League, are coming forward to criticize Palin for her choice of words.

In a statement, ADL chairman Abraham Foxman called the term "fraught with pain in Jewish history," and said that he wished she had chosen other words:

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.

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. 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.

ThinkProgress has assembled similar statements from the National Jewish Democratic Council, J Street, and Jewish Funds for Justice:

Indeed, Jewish groups are taking offense to Palin's choice of the term. Noting that accusations of blood libel have been "directly responsible for the murder of so many Jews across centuries," the National Jewish Democratic Council condemned Palin's use of the term:

Instead of dialing down the rhetoric at this difficult moment, Sarah Palin chose to accuse others trying to sort out the meaning of this tragedy of somehow engaging in a "blood libel" against her and others. This is of course a particularly heinous term for American Jews, given that the repeated fiction of blood libels are directly responsible for the murder of so many Jews across centuries -- and given that blood libels are so directly intertwined with deeply ingrained anti-Semitism around the globe, even today. [...]

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.

Likewise, the president of the pro-Israel, pro-peace Jewish lobby J Street, Jeremy Ben-Ami, said he was "saddened by Governor Palin's use of the term 'blood libel,'" adding that he hopes "she will choose to retract her comment [and] apologize":

The country's attention is rightfully focused on the memorial service for the victims of Saturday's shooting. Our prayers continue to be with those who are still fighting to recover and the families of the victims. The last thing the country needs now is for the rhetoric in the wake of this tragedy to return to where it was before.

We hope that Governor Palin will recognize, when it is brought to her attention, that the term "blood libel" brings back painful echoes of a very dark time in our communal history when Jews were falsely accused of committing heinous deeds. 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.

Meanwhile, Simon Greer, the president of Jewish Funds for Justice, said he was "deeply disturbed" by Palin's use of the term, arguing that she "failed to live up to her own standards" in a statement about using responsible rhetoric:

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. 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 matzoh from their blood, her use of the term is totally out-of-line. [...]

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. As a powerful rhetorical advocate for personal responsibility, Ms. Palin has failed to live up to her own standards with this statement.

Media Matters has noted that The Daily Beast's Howard Kurtz and National Review Online's Jonah Goldberg -- both of whom are Jewish -- have also criticized Palin's use of "blood libel."

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