A few links about what is and what is not a ‘blood libel’

A ‘blood libel’ is much more than just a ‘false accusation’, and there’s no way that the speech-writer couldn’t have known that.

LA Times | Sarah Palin’s charge of ‘blood libel’ spurs outcry from Jewish leaders

“The term ‘blood libel’ is not a synonym for ‘false accusation,’ “ said Simon Greer, president of Jewish Funds for Justice. “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.”

Badtux the Snarky Penguin | Blood Libel

The most important thing about this “blood libel” is that there is no blood. That is, there are no dead Christian children. No secret rituals. No blood baked into matzoh. No nothing. The Jewish faith forbids the consumption of blood under any circumstances, ritual or not. Thus millions of Jews have lost their lives over the years due to an accusation that they took the lives of children, when no such thing ever happened.

Tiny Cat Pants | “Blood Libel”

…the only people who I know who regularly use this phrase are historians and anti-Semites. If you aren’t a historian and aren’t Jewish, that’s where you encounter it. My whole twitter feed this morning was filled with folks who had no idea what it even was. It’s not a widely known or used phrase. And, as they pointed out over at Shakesville, it’s not one you are likely to come to on your own, since it makes no sense out of context. “Blood” and “libel” don’t mean anything next to each other if you don’t already know the meaning of the word. If you had to look at it and guess, you might think it had to do with people lying about who’s in your family.

But Palin used it like she knew what it means, and so we must assume she does.

Got Medieval | Libels (Blood and Otherwise): A Quick Primer

My only worry is that in all this hubbub, the indexical value of “blood libel” is being overlooked. The reason why we need a special phrase like “blood libel” to denote lies told about what Jews do with the blood of baby Christians is the sheer number of libels which Jews have had to contend over the years.

Categories: culture wars, ethics & philosophy, history, linkfest, media

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7 replies

  1. It’s the fact that Palin was not aware of the specificity of the term that exposes her ignorance and exposed her as unqualified for political position.
    However, the subtlety of the definition is not something her followers are likely to comprehend anyway, so it really won’t matter in the end.

    • I’m not entirely at all convinced that she doesn’t know exactly what it means, and especially what it means to a certain segment of her support base who views the history of ‘blood libel’ persecution as a myth i.e. one of those lies that Jewish people tell to make the Gentiles look bad, and now they’re trying to do it to Our Sarah.
      She’s got ‘plausible deniability’ on it, of course.
      What really stuns me is her lack of compassion or dignity or respect, displayed by releasing this on the eve of/same day as the Memorial Service took place. It’s all got to be about her.

  2. Before now, I’ve never come across the phrase except in reference to the accusations against the Jews, and accompanied by an explanation of what it means. So I find it hard to believe that Palin didn’t know, or that if she somehow didn’t, then none of her staff did. (Equally, I have trouble seeing it as a common metaphor, when I’ve never seen it used as such before).

  3. And now the Washington Times has now referred to criticism of the blood libel comment, as part of an ongoing pogrom against conservatives.

  4. Tangentially related – one of the commentors at LP who thinks it’s cute to refer to the current POTUS as ObiWan was terrifically upset at a bunch of leftists refusing to take instructions from the President regarding (what he interpreted as) a statement that violent rhetoric wasn’t to blame for the shootings in Arizona.
    Of course he (a) oversimplified what Obama was actually saying; and (b) hellllooooo! is anybody listening in RWDB-land? Leftists have always, and lately even more so, believed that Obama is not nearly left-wing enough* and is weakening both his presidency and the progressive movement by his relentless pandering to “bipartisanship” when he doesn’t get any consideration given back by the GOP. Why should we take his instructions on how to view right-wing rhetoric in any way when we’ve been saying for years that he’s Doin It Rong?
    *Obama is not nearly as left-wing as either Gillard or Rudd, for example, and they’re not nearly left-wing enough for progressives either. These people are all moderate centrists, FFS, and pretty gutless moderate centrists at that.

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