Anti-Defamation League Condemns Sarah Palin Over “Blood Libel”

Well, this story isn’t going to die anytime soon:

The ADL sends over a statement from Abraham Foxman:

It is unfortunate that the tragedy in Tucson continues to stimulate a political blame game. 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. 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.

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.

On the other side, Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz is defending Palin’s use of the term:

The term “blood libel” has taken on a broad metaphorical meaning in public discourse. Although its historical origins were in theologically based false accusations against the Jews and the Jewish People,its current usage is far broader. I myself have used it to describe false accusations against the State of Israel by the Goldstone Report. There is nothing improper and certainly nothing anti-Semitic in Sarah Palin using the term to characterize what she reasonably believes are false accusations that her words or images may have caused a mentally disturbed individual to kill and maim. The fact that two of the victims are Jewish is utterly irrelevant to the propriety of using this widely used term.

So, after four days of a stupid and unfair debate over whether Palin’s “target” graphic somehow caused the shooting of Congresswoman Giffords, we’ve got a debate over whether her use of a term associated with the most vicious of anti-Semitic smears was appropriate, or even correct. Whoever wrote Sarah Palin’s speech ought to be regretting that they put that phrase in there  right now, because otherwise it was fairly decent.

UPDATE (James Joyner):  While Palin’s sense of victimhood in this instance is a bit tiresome, Dershowitz is correct here (see Jim Geraghty‘s roundup “The Term ‘Blood Libel’: More Common Than You Might Think“) and deserves kudos for speaking out against his own political interests here.

FILED UNDER: Politicians, Quick Takes, Sarah Palin, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. MichaelW says:

    “Condemns”? Really? Don’t think so.

    “Whoever wrote Sarah Palin’s speech ought to be regretting that they put that phrase in there right now, because otherwise it was fairly decent.”

    Nah, her critics would have just found something else in there to whine about.

    The first step to getting over a Sarah-Palin obsession is to stop paying attention to Sarah Palin. Apparently this is the most difficult step.

  2. PJ says:

    Second time Jim Geraghty’s roundup gets added to a post.

    I think what mantis linked to in the other thread says a lot about the roundup.

  3. PD Shaw says:

    PJ, that link argues that blood libel is _not_ exclusively about the Jewish experience, it can be used for any purpose that the speaker feels sufficiently analagous, such as Andrew Sullivan’s feeling about conflating child abusers with homosexuals.

  4. James Joyner says:

    @PJ: Geraghty’s making the same point that Foxman does in his piece — that it’s become commonly used in much more benign contexts — rather than a “oh, yeah, the other side does it too.”

  5. John Burgess says:

    It really sucks when a disdained writer gets it right, isn’t it?

    ‘Blood libels have been tossed about since antiquity. Christians were certainly the recipients of the claim by the Romans in the 1st and 2nd C CE. They, in turn, picked it up as a useful bit of demagoguery and aimed it at the Jews. I’ve seen it laid on the Roma and, if it’s not stretching it too much, on rich Americans who supposedly support a market in killing babies to provide organs for transplantation.

    As the term has been used against Jews for the past 1,500 years, perhaps they have some claim to exclusive use, but as with the arguments over who owns the term ‘Holocaust’, the debates will continue.

  6. PJ says:

    From the alicublog link:

    “The main difference is that Geraghty’s examples refer to 1.) Claims that all gay people are pedophiles; 2.) Claims that all black people want to rape white women; 3.) A call for all Muslims to be profiled as terrorists; 4.) Claims that Al Gore tried to disenfranchise military voters (“almost a blood libel”). The last one’s a little over the top; the others are less so, because they portray groups of people as guilty of horrible crimes simply because they belong to those groups.”

    Is Sarah Palin’s usage of the term like the first three?

    Or is the whole argument from you and Geraghty that the term has been water down?

  7. Dave says:

    That one phrase seems to have distracted everyone (Doug included) from the ridiculousness of the accusation it’s a part of. Palin’s basically saying violent rhetoric doesn’t incite violence, accusations that violent rhetoric incites violence incites violence.

    Doug, you just spent 5 days arguing against any sort of connection between heated rhetoric and real-life violence. How can you POSSIBLY think Palin’s speech was anything more than a bunch of self-serving BS?

  8. PD Shaw says:

    “Is Sarah Palin’s usage of the term like the first three?”

    It’s patently subjective. If the term “blood libel” is not commonly used solely in relation to a specifically Jewish historical experience, then you just have different partisans arguing their outrage is more outrageous than someone else’s.

    The difference between Andrew Sullivan’s outrage about what is being said about him and Palin’s outrage about what is being said about her is solely a matter of self-interest, not objective principle.

  9. PD Shaw says:

    Interesting John Burgess, I hadn’t read about the term’s use to non-Jews before. I have seen the use of the word holocaust (not capitalized) in novels before to describe some sort of personal trauma, and it takes me out of the story.

  10. PJ says:

    @PD Shaw:
    “The difference between Andrew Sullivan’s outrage about what is being said about him and Palin’s outrage about what is being said about her is solely a matter of self-interest, not objective principle.”

    Did you actually read what Andrew Sullivan wrote? Here it is:

    “A couple of obvious thoughts. Paladino speaks of “perverts who target our children and seek to destroy their lives.” This is the gay equivalent of the medieval (and Islamist) blood-libel against Jews. To conflate gay people with child-abusers is an archaic and disgusting calumny, to portray us as a “threat to children” is as dark and as vile a smear as you will find.”

    He argues that it is blood libel against gays, not blood libel against him as you seem to think.

    Do you see the difference?

  11. MichaelW says:

    @PJ: Where in Palin’s statement did she make it about her? If you actually read/watched it you would know that she purports to defend the following:

    Like many, I’ve spent the past few days reflecting on what happened and praying for guidance. After this shocking tragedy, I listened at first puzzled, then with concern, and now with sadness, to the irresponsible statements from people attempting to apportion blame for this terrible event.

    President Reagan said, “We must reject the idea that every time a law’s broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.” Acts of monstrous criminality stand on their own. They begin and end with the criminals who commit them, not collectively with all the citizens of a state, not with those who listen to talk radio, not with maps of swing districts used by both sides of the aisle, not with law-abiding citizens who respectfully exercise their First Amendment rights at campaign rallies, not with those who proudly voted in the last election.

    That’s whom she’s referring to as being libeled.

  12. mantis says:

    That’s whom she’s referring to as being libeled.

    So to Palin’s mind, people are blaming all the citizens of a state (Arizona?), all who listen to talk radio, all citizens who go to rallies, and all voters?

    Who, exactly, has come anywhere close to blaming those groups?

  13. MichaelW says:

    @mantis: Seriously? Have you just not been paying attention or are you being willfully obtuse?

  14. PJ says:

    @MichaelW:

    Those were the ones libeled?

    Who committed blood libel against
    1. all the citizens of a state
    2. those who listen to talk radio
    3. law-abiding citizens who respectfully exercise their First Amendment rights at campaign rallies
    or
    4. those who proudly voted in the last election

    You do understand the blood part of blood libel?

    And I really don’t understand how maps can be libeled? Even if they are of swing districts…

  15. mantis says:

    @mantis: Seriously

    Yes, seriously. You say she was claiming those groups were targets of “blood libel.” Explain how and by whom. Can you?

  16. MichaelW says:

    @PJ: “You do understand the blood part of blood libel? ”

    Ummm … yeah. Do you? People were murdered in AZ. Those murders were blamed on the right. That’s the alleged “blood libel” that’s being referred to. Did you really not get that?

    @mantis: Do your own homework. I thought you were engaging in the discussion because you were familiar with it. Since you’re not, then educate yourself and come back. It works better that way.

  17. Axel Edgren says:

    Does anyone believe that Palin’s 1A rights are threatened?

    We all live in a marketplace of ideas. If you say something stupid or dangerous and people treat you accordingly – that is called meritocracy. No one said “Oh Palin is speaking and she is wrong by default” – so there is no bigotry involved.

    Right-wingers: “Meritocracy and responsibility should apply to everything, including those freeloading welfare-takers. BUT WE ARE EXEMPT! YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO RESPOND WITH HOSTILITY TO OUR HOSTILITY! FASCISM!”

  18. Axel Edgren says:

    “Ummm … yeah. Do you? People were murdered in AZ. Those murders were blamed on the right. That’s the alleged “blood libel” that’s being referred to.”

    You seem to think the blame is a 100% blaming. As in “They caused it”.

    What is going on here is that left-wingers are claiming the behavior and language of the most influential or at least most attended and popular right-wingers is CORRELATING with democrats or judges who dissent from the Arpaio agenda on immigration are getting shot.

    In the same sense that republicans don’t cause the bombing of abortion clinics or abuse of homosexuals, but increase the probability of such atrocities.

    They correlate with bad things happening, but they don’t cause them. You seem to think the people who criticize you are as superficial and rudimentary of thought as yourself.

  19. PJ says:

    @MichaelW:

    The murders were blamed on the right as a group? Someone argued that everyone on the right were guilty because they are part of that group? That’s news to me. Who did that?

    Back to the list:
    1. all the citizens of a state
    Is there a state where all the citizens are a part of the right?

    2. those who listen to talk radio
    People on the left doesn’t listen to talk radio at all? Everyone on the right listen to talk radio?

    3. law-abiding citizens who respectfully exercise their First Amendment rights at campaign rallies
    Are these only people on the right?
    or
    4. those who proudly voted in the last election
    Only people on the right voted in the last election?

    (Ok, all the swing state maps might be to the right, who knows, they won’t answer…)

  20. Axel Edgren says:

    “Is there a state where all the citizens are a part of the right?”

    That’s hell you are describing.

    “Someone argued that everyone on the right were guilty because they are part of that group?”

    I am arguing that being right-wing is now statistically coupled with being further from the center, being more drawn to group-think, being more self-compassionate and emotional, and being part of a system of communication slightly more infused with uncivil talk that involves escalating outrage, hampering self-criticism and self-questioning and turning the opponent into something other, alien and dangerous to America, something that requires more antagonism, ideological purity and outright hostility to defeat.

    It is a matter of degrees.

  21. mantis says:

    @mantis: Do your own homework. I thought you were engaging in the discussion because you were familiar with it. Since you’re not, then educate yourself and come back. It works better that way.

    I am familiar with the discussion. I have not seen anyone accuse all the citizens of a state, all who listen to talk radio, all citizens who go to rallies, or all voters as being responsible for these murders. You said that’s who Palin is claiming are being “blood libeled.”

    You made the claim. Back it up.

  22. MichaelW says:

    @PJ, Axel and mantis:

    Life is too short to play stupid games with you all. Either approach the topic fairly, or just drop it.

    I pointed out that Palin wasn’t making this about herself in response to PJ’s claim that she was. I quoted Palin in doing so.

    Now you all want to play some sort of gotcha about exactly who said what when, and who really belongs in such-and-such category. Have at it, but I’m not playing

    If you’ve been paying attention at all over the past several days, you should know what’s actually going on. If, despite paying attention, want to pretend that the smearing of the right is all some fantasy, well enjoy yourself. There’s no discussion we can have because you are dealing with reality, but with some sanitized version of it intended to make you feel better, I guess.

    Whatever your reasons for ignoring what’s going on all around you, it is that ignorance which precludes us from having any sort of intelligent discussion. So be it.

  23. Axel Edgren says:

    Oh now I see.

    Well none of those people are being called as irresponsible as a group. The only thing that is being implied is that those on the right are collectively more angry and more conducive to escalating hostility, aggression and crossing another line.

    “not collectively with all the citizens of a state, not with those who listen to talk radio, not with maps of swing districts used by both sides of the aisle, not with law-abiding citizens who respectfully exercise their First Amendment rights at campaign rallies, not with those who proudly voted in the last election.”

    Yeah, no, everyone are responsible to a degree. Right-wingers slightly more so than others, and very influential or popular right-wingers especially.

    Like I said, a matter of degrees. There are in fact tons of culpable people for every crime, but of course we punish the most instrumental actor because otherwise nothing would work. In the same sense, I only hold one person utterly responsible, but I also blame the increasing anti-government and anti-left bigotry/alarmism and self-victimization apparent in most right-wing circuits.

    I see all crimes as a funnel, with the culprit in the center but with slightly more responsible and culpable individuals – having failed ethically, intellectually or socially or otherwise- being closer to the nadir of the funnel than other citizens. I don’t think I have succeeded intellectually if I just point to the culprit, say “He did it, case closed” and leave it at that. There is more to learn, more blame to distribute and more people who need a measure of punishment or scorn than just the criminal.

    The Loughner funnel is not at the core of the population of right-wing citizens, but there are more right-wingers in the funnel than left-wingers, at least if we consider what kinds of ideas he was exposed to it and which has side has been more demonized by the other in society lately.

    There are no left-wing Limbaughs, Palins, Inhofes or Angles. And since the ’08 election death threats have gone up by 300 percent. I claim there is a connection.

  24. PJ says:

    @MichaelW
    “I pointed out that Palin wasn’t making this about herself in response to PJ’s claim that she was.”
    Actually, I never did that.

    Someone else wrote this though (and I replied to it):
    “The difference between Andrew Sullivan’s outrage about what is being said about him and Palin’s outrage about what is being said about her is solely a matter of self-interest, not objective principle.”
    So at least he does seem to think the wrote about herself.

    You on the other hand first said that she was referring to four specific groups (I don’t count the maps), and then changed it to the right as an entity.
    I really think you should decide on who she actually meant, and then actually point out those who actually accused them of blood libel. I shouldn’t have prove a negative, should I? That’s why you are being asked to actually prove it, shouldn’t be too hard, proving a positive is always easier.

    Personally, from reading her speech, I wouldn’t agree that it’s the four groups (still not counting the maps) you seemed to think it was about (until you changed your view) or the right as an entity (your second choice), but I’m unsure who it actually is.

    She talks about manufacturing a blood libel within hours, and a lot of people, seem to think that she’s referring to the maps. So from that view it would be her (a view the comment I quoted seem to share).

  25. PD Shaw says:

    PJ, of course I read the entirity of what Sullivan wrote and it’s powerful because Sullivan is gay. Sullivan, as he interprets the rhetoric, is being accused of violence against children.

    Palin as she interprets the rhetoric is complicit in killing a nine-year old girl.

    It’s the same thing. You have a cold heart if you don’t get it.

  26. anjin-san says:

    It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the media in Israel…

  27. anjin-san says:

    From HAARETZ.COM

    President of Jewish Funds for Justice Simon Greer said in a statement that “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.”

    “In the past two months, Ms. Palin and Glenn Beck, the most well-known media personalities on Fox News, have abused two of the most tragic episode in the history of the Jewish people: the Holocaust and the blood libel,” Greer said, adding “in addition, Roger Ailes, the head of the Fox News channel, referred to the executives at NPR as ‘Nazis.’ Perhaps the popular news channel has such an ingrained victim mentality that it identifies with one of the most persecuted minorities in human history. But the Jewish community does not appreciate their identification, which only serves to denigrate the very real pain so many Jews have suffered because of anti-Semitic violence. It is clear that Fox News has a Jewish problem.”

    http://www.haaretz.com/jewish-world/u-s-jewish-leaders-slam-sarah-palin-s-blood-libel-accusation-1.336653

  28. Herb says:

    “People were murdered in AZ. Those murders were blamed on the right. That’s the alleged “blood libel” that’s being referred to. Did you really not get that?”

    Well, thanks for explaining that.

    However, can you give me a list of specific people who blamed these murders on the right? If all you have is a list of lefty bloggers, that’s fine. They don’t have to be sitting members of Congress or anything. Just a list.

    Then I’ll show you my list of people who blamed these murders on the left, some of them culled from the comments here on OTB. (Looking at you, Florack.) Then we can compare lists, see which one is longer, see which one has the most prominent names, and then at the end of this pointless exercise, we can cry out, “I know you are, but what am I?” and feel better about ourselves.

  29. Axel Edgren says:

    I’m not blaming the right in absolute terms. I am blaming them relatively more than I am blaming the completely average, random citizen of the US. This is not rocket surgery.

  30. jpe says:

    I think the list of uses of “blood libel” pretty much puts Palin in the box we expected: an over-the-top gasbag pundit. (one or two of the quotes notwithstanding, we’ve got the usual suspects: NRO, Ann Coulter, Frank Rich, Sarah Palin. Makes sense, really, although I have no idea why that list is supposed to vindicate her in any meaningful sense.)

  31. jpe says:

    Palin as she interprets the rhetoric is complicit in killing a nine-year old girl.

    I’m not usually the sort that thinks power dynamics are relevant to interpretation, but in this case I think it is. The notion that conservatives are equivalent to gays or Jews (both of whom have a history of being, ya know, killed and stuff) in this context is disgusting. It’s quite a bit like PETA’s eating-beef-equals-the-holocaust rhetoric. Is there a point there? Yeah. Is it expressed in a morally warped fashion? Yep.