The Spectacle Blog

“Blood Libel”

By on 1.12.11 | 10:25AM

The blood libel is, as I'd sort of assumed everyone knew, the anti-Semitic slur that Jews kill gentile babies and use their blood in matzah. (I realized after a back-and-forth this morning with goyishe friends on Twitter that this assumption was wrong.) But not every use of "blood libel" means the blood libel, any more than every use of the word "crusade" denotes The Crusades. It is quite common to read pro-Israel writers speak of blood libel, because it's quite common for the wicked Zionist Entity to be falsely accused of various atrocities. Extending the metaphor further, Glenn Reynolds had an excellent Wall Street Journal op-ed this weekend on those accusing Sarah Palin of being responsible for the shooting on Saturday under the title "The Arizona Tragedy and the Politics of Blood Libel." This was hardly the first time that the phrase "blood libel" has been disconnected from a Jewish context; Jim Geraghty is amassing quite a collection of examples.

Today Sarah Palin released a video echoing Reynolds's usage, and all hell broke loose, with Palin critics accusing her of, as the American Prospect's Adam Serwer put it, "equating criticism of her with genocide."

Okay, let's take a deep breath. I get it -- as Ben Smith articulated in a pair of tweets, there's something a little dissonant about drawing a parallel between the blood libel, which has historically been a pretext for violence against Jews, and the smears of Palin in the wake of the shooting of a Jewish congresswoman. But at the very worst, Palin's phrasing should cause discomfort. The desk-pounding outrage is purely a function of the evidently very large number of people who enjoy being outraged at Sarah Palin. Forgive me if I have trouble taking it very seriously.

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