Wasn’t it moving to see progressive tweetdom and punditry unite in the defense of Jewry — in the Middle Ages? As a member of this most oppressed minority, I personally want to thank you.
After all, how dare she? The media are so sick and tired of Sarah Palin’s shtick (that’s one of the words we use in private) that they created a stampede to Wikipedia to quickly figure out just how divisive this “blood libel” thing, whatever it means, could be to American discourse.
Now, just for the record, we Jews haven’t been using the blood of gentile kids for our baking needs in at least a couple of decades, but in historical terms, blood libel refers to false accusations that Jews were murdering children to use their blood in religious rituals — and an excuse for anti-Semitism. It was heavily utilized in the Middle Ages by some Christians and, with a few modifications, is a regular smear in the Muslim world today.
Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of Israel antagonists at J Street (an outfit that USA Today accidentally referred to as “a political organization for Jews and supporters of Israel”), spoke for hundreds when he claimed 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” and demanded that Palin “retract her comment, apologize and make a less inflammatory choice of words.”
Really? Memory? Inflammatory? Painful echoes?
Jews, well, we can be offended like it’s 1257.
If blood libel is really a distasteful parallel, it is only because we have intimately familiarized ourselves with the idea through a History Channel documentary about the crusades. And if our institutional memories make us so thin-skinned, there are far more tangible reminders of genocide when we hop into our fancy German cars (which we do a lot, because we’re in charge of everything). Or it is certainly as offensive as the heinous deeds of Palin, which include, among many other transgressions, talking.
And as Jim Geraghty of National Review helpfully noted, the term “blood libel” has been used many times by pundits and journalists from both sides of the ideological divide, including the esteemed Frank Rich of The New York Times, over the years.
Liberal Alan Dershowitz, as sensitive as they come to anti-Semitism (both real and imagined), said in a statement that “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.”
Now, feel free to be annoyed or enraged by Palin or her views. Feel free to question whether she had any idea what a blood libel was before this week. But this kind of indignation over an analogy is infantilizing what were once serious sensitivities.
Perhaps if self-proclaimed spokespeople for Jews everywhere like J Street focused on genuine anti-Semitism around the world, their little partisan cabaret would be more plausible.
Blood libel is the fiction-laden, anti-Israel Goldstone Report. Blood libel is the flotilla incident near Gaza. Blood libel is the Egyptian state media’s peddling the idea that shark attacks were the handiwork of Jews and other state-run Arab media’s blaming AIDS on Zionists.
There are plenty of genuine things to get offended about in the world if you’re Jewish.