Palin, ‘blood libels’ and our own culpability

Sorry, I’m not going to join those jumping all over Sarah Palin for her use of the term “blood libel” in referring to those claiming that the right is at fault in Saturday’s Tucson massacre.

No, it’s no accurate; “blood libel” has a very particular, chilling meaning. It’s a stupid comparison, and not just a little offensive.

But Palin is hardly alone in using it as a synonym for “unfair charges.”

You hear it almost every day in the Israeli press, referring to just about anybody who the speaker disagrees with. You hear it in American politics, emanating from the right, the left and folks in between.

Sadly, it is part of the devaluation of the language of Jewish history. Holocaust and Nazi allusions are almost everyday occurrences, referring to politicians we don’t like, proposals we see as dangerous, foreign threats like Iran – the list is pretty much endless.

In Israeli politics, the blood libel charge is something you apply to just about anything someone says about you that you think isn’t true. I searched for the phrase in Ha’aretz; there were hundreds of hits, with the term being used for everything from BBC coverage of Israel to criticism of the Orthodox, and only occasionally in a more or less appropriate context – like in the case of charges Israel forces harvest and sell Palestinian organs.

But in most cases it’s just another political throwaway – hyped up rhetoric meant to create an immediate impact. Unfortunately, what it also does is devalue the real meaning of a term that is important in our history.

Yeah, Palin’s use of the term was obnoxious. But before we criticize, we should clean up our own house.

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.