Palin’s choice of words raises new questions
It didn’t take long for Sarah Palin to go from an uncompromising response to critics of her campaign rhetoric to new questions about her choice of words.
Not the gun-toting choice of words that had already landed the former Alaska governor in hot water with political opponents who tried to blame her rhetoric for last weekend’s melee in Tucson, where a gunman tried to assassinate congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords while killing six and wounding 13 others.
This time the questions surround two words that are charged with meaning: blood libel.
“…especially within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible,” she says of her critics in a message posted on her Facebook page.
The term “blood libel” has an ugly origin. It dates back to the Middle Ages and refers to the false accusation that Jews kidnapped Christian children, killed them and used their blood in religious rituals. Through the centuries, the accusations have been used as an excuse for the persecution and murder of Jews.
Worse still for Palin is the fact that the gravely wounded Giffords is Jewish.
The Washington Post and other outlets quickly picked up on the term’s appearance in Palin’s message.
Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said Palin had every right to defend herself against her critics. But he added: “We wish that Palin had not invoked the phrase ‘blood-libel’ in reference to the actions of journalists and pundits in placing blame for the shooting in Tucson on others. While the term ‘blood-libel’ has become part of the English parlance to refer to someone being falsely accused, we wish that Palin had used another phrase, instead of one so fraught with pain in Jewish history.”
Foxman’s statement was carried by media outlets including the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
Two days ago, “blood libel” appeared in the headline of a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece by University of Tennessee law professor Glenn Reynolds, who later justified the term’s use to Politico.
“I am of course aware — and I imagine the very pro-Israel Palin is, too — of *The* Blood Libel from medieval times, but one sees false associations with murder called *a* blood libel without reference to that,” he told Politico’s Ben Smith. Reynolds added that other conservative columnists have used the same phrase.
Reuters Photo Credits: Chris Keane (Palin); Official Hand Out (Giffords); Eric Thayer (Tucson Crime Scene)
Click here for more political coverage from Reuters