When I heard Sarah Palin’s reaction to shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords on BBC America News, which we watch every night, I didn’t know what the phrase "blood libel" meant. The announcers on the show evinced surprise at Palin’s statement and one commentator said, "Does she know what it means?" Since I didn’t either, I thought I’d better find out.

Fingers are being pointed at Palin because, during the recent Presidential campaign, she made inflammatory statements like "Don’t retreat, reload" and released a US map with "targets" on it, one of them in Giffords’ district. The trusty Financial Times finally explained what "blood libel" means–According to the January 13 edition, "It refers to an anti-Semitic slur from the Middle Ages alleging that Jews killed Christian children to use their blood in Passover rituals. The myth has historically been used to defend attacks on Jews." The article went on to mention that Giffords is Jewish (something I didn’t know).

Then Rick Rojas in the Los Angeles Times told me more: "One of the first recorded tragedies attributed to blood libel occurred in the 12th century, when a boy named William in Norwich, England, was found dead with stab wounds. Local Jews were accused of killing the child in a ritual fashion and most of the Jewish population there was subsequently wiped out. "Such charges continued for centuries, with Jews often assigned blame in the unsolved killings of children. Many of the dead children were considered martyrs–several were elevated to sainthood by the Roman Catholic or Orthodox churches."

And (of course) the phrase was also used to castigate Jews during the Nazi era. Since Palin ISN’T Jewish, it’s odd that she would be using this word to react to the criticism she herself has received. She could be referring to so-called "Jewish liberal" publications like the New York Times, which have never endorsed her. This reminds me of something I’ve often thought about Hitler: The mystery of his ascent to power is not WHY he was the way he was (any competent psychologist could explain that in 15 minutes and be bored doing it) but WHY the German populace believed his ridiculous rants against the Jews and followed him into a devastating war.

After the first World War, Germany was left devastated, its money and honor gone. The only people who were somewhat solvent were a few Jewish financiers and bankers, however this doesn’t explain all that hatred, especially since most Jews were as poor as everyone else. Despite the fact that Congress has just given our rich a huge tax break, WE don’t hate them (in fact, in many ways we honor them, maybe because we hope we’ll be like that ourselves in the future). While targeting the Jews was clearly a political move, Hitler singling out the Jewish population as scapegoats probably had nothing to do with that. Instead, I think it had to do with pride and self-image, as demonstrated by the Nazi obsession with "Aryan" values, myths and attainments. Is this part of what the American right wing is about too?

If it’s a reaction to the election of a black man to our top office, it could be dismay at the realization that whites are now no longer automatically at the top of the political pecking order. This could also reflected in the new laws passed against illegal aliens (basically, Mexicans) in Arizona, where the Giffords shooting occurred. I fear that Mexicans are becoming our new "Jews," despite the fact that our farms will die without them, so we have to find a way to let them cross the border legally (and cross back when the picking season is over). We can’t let Nazi-like scapegoating happen here. With their rhetoric, the far right is playing with fire but, as usual, it’s the innocents who get burned.

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  1. After being subjected to the
    After being subjected to the nonsense spewing forth from Sarah Palin for the last few years, I have my doubts that she really knows the origins of the term “blood libel”. Either someone fed her this term, or she stumbled upon it. She probably liked the sound of it, not knowing or caring enough to check out its meaning.
    If she really knew the meaning of the term and used it anyway, it was in extremely poor taste, but I suspect that it is just one more example of her ignorance, and that in itself should give one pause…

  2. Sarah Palin, good grief,
    Sarah Palin, good grief, enough already from her. I will be very concerned if she wins the presidency. In fact scared.

  3. Rather than focus on Sarah
    Rather than focus on Sarah Palin, I’d rather emphasize what Ann wrote about “Mexicans becoming the new Jews.” Racism of all sorts continues to be a problem in the U.S., despite the fact that we have elected a president who has a white mother and a black father. (BTW, why is President Obama always identified as “black?” His heritage is just as “white.” Sounds like a residual of the “one drop” law to me.) Why can’t we drop all this racial nonsense? Genetically it has been proven beyond a doubt—-we are all physically related to one another. I may get mad at my cousins from time to time, but I am always looking out for their welfare. Why can’t we look at each other as family members, rather than as “other?” It might make it a bit easier to follow the command to “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

  4. So sick of hearing racists
    So sick of hearing racists calling non-racists racists. Why look at everything not in your camp through the eyes of race? Sarah used the term as it has come to commonly mean in current times, as referring to someone who is falsely accused. Although derived from Jewish history, it no longer refers to Jews, and Sarah obviously didn’t mean it that way.

  5. After WW2, Winston Churchill
    After WW2, Winston Churchill allegedly said:

    “The fascists of the future will be called anti-fascists.”

    Whether he said this or not, is mute. The point is perfect.

    The left will set fire to the world and blame the right for doing it.

    The right will dance in ecstasy as the flames touch their toes.

    People like me, who have genuine opinions, and a temper, will still look on all this with horror. Here in Britain, I go to BNP meetings. At these meetings I sit and chat with pensioners, disabled servicemen, frightened people surrounded by Muslims in their own homes, and, apparently, we are fascists and hate filled bigots.

    You Americans don’t have a clue what lies in store for you. We Brits are already living the nightmare. Take some advice.. grow some nuts, fast.

  6. Anne, the article also fails
    Anne, the article also fails to mention that the shooter Jared Loghner is also Jewish, and his mother would regularly attend the same synagogue as Gifford.

  7. It’s not about race, color,
    It’s not about race, color, religion, or politics, because we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against the powers and principalities of darkness in high places. It is their aim to have us all picking at each other over our differences so we don’t focus on the big picture and see them for who they are. There is good and evil in this world and we were put here to choose which one would hold sway over us. I don’t believe we need to grow “Nuts” as one poster suggested; there are enough “Nuts” in the world. We need to cultivate love even if in doing so are possessions lessen, our health diminishes and our lives are taken, because our humanity will remain intact. I’m not saying we shouldn’t fight for right but the sword of the spirit should be our weapon of choice; our light sabers. They can’t kill what lives forever. But where is it we want to live forever? That is what we must decide.

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