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.
“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.”
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.
…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.
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.