[ . . . ] The dots were too close and the temptation to connect them too strong. The target was a Democratic congresswoman. There was the map of her district in the cross hairs. There were her own prescient worries about overheated rhetoric.
Within hours of the shooting, there was a full-fledged witch hunt to link the shooter to the right.
“I saw Goody Proctor with the devil! Oh, I mean Jared Lee Loughner! Yes him. With the devil!”
The only problem is that there was no evidence then, and even now, that overheated rhetoric from the right had anything to do with the shooting.
[ . . . ]
According to a USA Today/Gallup poll,
42 percent said that political rhetoric
was not a factor at all in the violence
The American people know it, too. According to a USA Today/Gallup poll released Wednesday, 42 percent of those asked said that political rhetoric was not a factor at all in the shooting, 22 percent said that it was a minor factor and 20 percent said that it was a major factor. Furthermore, most agreed that focusing on conservative rhetoric as a link in the shooting was “not a legitimate point but mostly an attempt to use the tragedy to make conservatives look bad.” And nearly an equal number of people said that Republicans, the Tea Party and Democrats had all “gone too far in using inflammatory language” to criticize their opponents.
Great. So the left overreacts and overreaches and it only accomplishes two things: fostering sympathy for its opponents and nurturing a false equivalence within the body politic. Well done, Democrats.
Jonathan S. Tobin
As Sarah Palin has just learned, keeping up with the rules about using phrases that are associated with Jewish history is not as simple as it used to be. I was under the impression that the list of phrases that were considered off limits for general consumption was confined more or less to those associated with the Holocaust. Meaning, for instance, that the use of the word “holocaust” should be confined to discussion of events surrounding the genocide of Jews in Europe between 1933 and 1945. But even that stricture has been hard to enforce. Indeed, when an episode of the TV show The X-Files once referred to the mysterious death of amphibians in a lake as a “frog holocaust,” you knew that the word had become more of a metaphor than a specific historical term.
But when it comes to some people, the rules are apparently even more stringent than any of us might have thought. Thus, today Sarah Palin is being widely condemned for using the term “blood libel” when referencing the slanderous suggestions that she is in some way connected to the tragedy in Arizona. According to those who claim that Palin has somehow caused pain to the Jewish people, it is wrong to use that phrase to describe anything other than the false accusation that Jews kidnap and murder Christian children and use their blood to help bake matzoh for Passover. This canard was popularized during the Middle Ages by European Christians and has been revived in recent decades in the Arab world as Jew-hatred has become an unfortunate staple of contemporary Islamic culture.
The term ‘blood libel’ has been
applied by Commentary to describe
the false charges put forwardC
by Human Rights Watch
and the UN Goldstone Commission
But the idea that this term cannot be used to describe anything else is something new. Granted, most of the uses of this phrase that come quickly to mind have had Jewish associations. For example, the accusation that right-wing Zionists were behind the murder of Haim Arlosoroff, a Labor Zionist official who was killed on a Tel Aviv beach in 1933, has always been called a “blood libel” by those who believed the failed effort to pin the killing on Labor’s Jewish opposition was a political plot to discredit them. In just the past couple of years, the term “blood libel” has been applied by writers here at COMMENTARY to describe the false charges put forward by Human Rights Watch and the UN Goldstone Commission against Israeli forces fighting Hamas terrorists in Gaza, as well as to the malicious falsehoods published by a Swedish newspaper that claimed Israel was murdering Palestinians and then harvesting their organs for medical use.
So the claim that Palin has crossed some bright line in the sand and “stolen” a phrase that has always and should always be used to describe only one thing is absurd. Like so much else that has been heard from the left in the wake of the shootings in Arizona, this further charge against Sarah Palin is groundless. The fact is, those who are trying to link her or other conservatives to this crime are committing a kind of blood libel. Take issue with her politics or dislike her personality if that is your inclination, but the idea that she has even the most remote connection to this event is outrageous. So, too, is the manufactured controversy over “blood libel.”
Lost in all of the squabbling about the use of the term “blood libel” is an under-appreciated fact. Palin’s statement yesterday was actually the most robust, unapologetic defense of vigorous democratic debate and the American system we’ve heard from any politician since Saturday, and that goes for President Obama’s speech as well. I don’t fault Obama by saying this. Obama was speaking at a memorial service (or at least that was his plan).
Palin did exactly what her detractors claimed she both must do and couldn’t do: give a grown up, mature statement. The timing was arguably ill-considered, given that it was bound to be overshadowed by the president’s remarks last night. But such criticism is hard to take from people who demanded that she speak up and then denounced her for doing exactly that. Likewise, the objections that she “injected herself into the story” are hard to take seriously from the same people who insisted she was the cause of the story in the first place. If she had waited a day and released her statement today, she would have been twice as vilified for re-opening the “wound” Obama the Healer had mended.
I’ve decided to ratchet down
my already very modest objection
to the term ‘blood libel’
Still, the timing invited too many “who is more presidential” comparisons. I think the president was more presidential, in no small part because he is the president. Palin’s video statement was something else because she is not the president. And the criticism that she should have turned the other cheek and not defended herself at all strikes me as beyond absurd. The woman was being accused of being a willfull co-conspirator in murder. It is just unfair and flatly dishonest to expect her not to address that.
As for the “blood libel” flap, I’ve decided to ratchet down my already very modest objection to the term. While I still think it would have been better had she not used the phrase, so much of the criticism of it is in bad faith. Her intent was honorable and her point was right. Moreover, she’s hardly the first person to use the term outside the bounds of discussions of anti-Semitism. She wasn’t even talking about “the blood libel” but warning against the creation of “a blood libel,” which is exactly what Krugman, Olberman & Co. were doing. The “controversy” was a red herring and little more.
[ . . . ] Despite the strong association of the term with collective Jewish guilt and concomitant slaughter, Sarah Palin has every right to use it. The expression may be used whenever an amorphous mass is collectively accused of being murderers or accessories to murder.
The abominable element of the blood libel is not that it was used to accuse Jews, but that it was used to accuse innocent Jews—their innocence, rather than their Jewishness, being the operative point. Had the Jews been guilty of any of these heinous acts, the charge would not have been a libel.
Judaism rejects the idea
of collective responsibility for murder
Despite the strong associations of the term, Sarah Palin has every right to use it.
[ . . . ]
Murder is humanity’s most severe sin, and it is trivialized when an innocent party is accused of the crime — especially when that party is a collective too numerous to be defended individually. If Jews have learned anything in their long history, it is that a false indictment of murder against any group threatens every group. As Martin Luther King Jr. wrote in his Letter from Birmingham Jail, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Indeed, the belief that the concept of blood libel applies only to Jews is itself a form of reverse discrimination that should be dismissed.
The belief that the concept of blood libel
applies only to Jews
is itself a form of reverse discrimination
Judaism rejects the idea of collective responsibility for murder, as the Hebrew Bible condemns accusations of collective guilt against Jew and non-Jew alike. “The soul who sins is the one who will die. The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous man will be credited to him, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against him” (Ezekiel 18).
Statement of Jewish American for Sarah Palin
regarding Gov. Palin’s use of term ‘blood libel’
Sarah Palin got it right.
Falsely accusing someone of shedding blood is the definition of a blood libel – whether it’s the medieval Church accusing Jews of baking blood in Passover matzos, or contemporary Muslim extremists accusing Israel of slaughtering Arabs to harvest their organs – or our political partisans blaming conservative political figures and talk show hosts for the Tucson massacre.
In medieval Europe, beginning with the Norwich blood libel of 1144, such accusations were used to incite mob violence against Jewish communities. Blood libels also appeared in the Arab world, as recently as the infamous Damascus blood libel of 1840.
In more recent times, prominent voices in the American Jewish community have characterized extreme and irresponsible attacks on Israel or Jews as “blood libels,” even when those libels did not necessarily result in violence.
For example, the Anti-Defamation League has said that a Swedish newspaper’s claim that Israeli soldiers murder Arabs to harvest their organs was a “new blood libel” (Sept. 14, 2009); that an Abu Dhabi Television cartoon of Israel’s prime minister drinking Arab blood was an “anti-Semitic blood libel skit” (Nov. 19, 2001); and that a Syrian diplomat’s remark that Israeli children sing songs about drinking Arab blood is similar to “the ancient blood libel against Jews.” (June 14, 2010)
Likewise, former New York City mayor Ed Koch has said that anti-Israel accusations made by Washington Post reporter Thomas Ricks were “comparable to the age-old blood libel used by anti-Semitse to incite pogroms in Europe.” (August 17, 2006)
Beyond the Jewish community, the term “blood libel” is periodically used by political partisans of all stripes. During the 2000 Florida vote recount, for example, Congressman Peter Deutsch said that some Republican accusations against Democratic nominee Al Gore were “almost a blood libel.”* Newsday editor Les Payne said in 2008 that criticism of African-American journalists’ coverage of the Obama candidacy were a “blood libel.”** Former Deputy Undersecretary of Defense Jed Babbin said that John Kerry’s 1971 testimony about alleged war crimes committed by U.S. soldiers in Vietnam was “a blood libel.”*** Alex Beam of the Boston Globe said that anonymous Globe staffers who accused former colleagues of privately making racial slurs were “making charges that amounted to ‘blood libel.’”****
“Blood libel” does not refer exclusively to accusations against Jews. It does not refer only to medieval episodes that resulted in pogroms. It is a term that has been, and continues to be, legitimately used in contemporary American political discourse by all sides. Governor Palin’s use of the term is accurate, reasonable, and squarely within the bounds of accepted political discourse. It is her opponents’ attempts to falsely connect her to the Tucson massacre which is inaccurate, and unreasonable, and beyond the pale of civilized discourse.
* Cited in National Review Online, January 12, 2011
**Associated Press, July 28, 2008
***National Review Online, September 8, 2004
****Boston Globe, January 14, 2005
This is our initial statement, and Jewish Americans for Sarah Palin will be posting a fuller statement here within a few hours.
Gov. Palin got it right, and we Jews, of all people, should know a blood libel when we see one. Falsely accusing someone of shedding blood is a blood libel – whether it’s the medieval Church accusing Jews of baking blood in Passover matzos, or contemporary Muslim extremists accusing Israel of slaughtering Arabs to harvest their organs, or political partisans blaming conservative political figures and talk show hosts for the Tucson massacre.
Exclusive: Loughner Friend Explains Alleged Gunman’s Grudge Against Giffords
A longtime friend shares a message sent hours before the massacre.
At 2:00 a.m. on Saturday — about eight hours before he allegedly killed six people and wounded 14, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), in Tucson — Jared Lee Loughner phoned an old and close friend with whom he had gone to high school and college. The friend, Bryce Tierney, was up late watching TV, but he didn’t answer the call. When he later checked his voice mail, he heard a simple message from Loughner: “Hey man, it’s Jared. Me and you had good times. Peace out. Later.”
That was it. But later in the day, when Tierney first heard about the Tucson massacre, he had a sickening feeling: “They hadn’t released the name, but I said, ‘Holy sh**, I think it’s Jared that did it.’” Tierney tells Mother Jones in an exclusive interview that Loughner held a years-long grudge against Giffords and had repeatedly derided her as a “fake.” Loughner’s animus toward Giffords intensified after he attended one of her campaign events and she did not, in his view, sufficiently answer a question he had posed, Tierney says. He also describes Loughner as being obsessed with “lucid dreaming”—that is, the idea that conscious dreams are an alternative reality that a person can inhabit and control—and says Loughner became “more interested in this world than our reality.” Tierney adds, “I saw his dream journal once. That’s the golden piece of evidence. You want to know what goes on in Jared Loughner’s mind, there’s a dream journal that will tell you everything.”
Loughner held a years-long
grudge against Giffords
dating back at least to 2007
On Sunday, federal prosecutors charged 22-year-old Loughner with one count of attempting to assassinate a member of Congress, two counts of unlawfully killing a federal employee, and two counts of attempting to kill a federal employee. Giffords was the target of Loughner’s rampage, prosecutors say, and the sworn affidavit accompanying the charges mentions that Loughner attended a Giffords “Congress in Your Corner” event in 2007. The affidavit also mentions that police searching a safe in Loughner’s home found a letter from Giffords’ office thanking the alleged shooter for attending an August 25, 2007 event.*
Tierney, who’s also 22, recalls Loughner complaining about a Giffords event he attended during that period. He’s unsure whether it was the same one mentioned in the charges — Loughner “might have gone to some other rallies,” he says — but Tierney notes it was a significant moment for Loughner: “He told me that she opened up the floor for questions and he asked a question. The question was, ‘What is government if words have no meaning?’ “
JewsForSarah ‘Comment of the Year’ Award . . . Goes to . . .
Eugene V., of Albany, CA, who wrote us:
The propensity of the liberal media to blame everything on Sarah Palin reminds me of how the Jew-haters blame everything on Jews. Hence, I move to make Sarah an ‘honorary Jew.’
But we need a minyan [quorum for public prayer]. Are there 9 more Jews who are willing to join me?