Tag Archives: blood libel

Sarah Palin and the Blood Libel

Ok, so this is another off-topic rant, but I’ve got to say something or my head will explode.

After the events of this past weekend, Sarah Palin has come up for a lot
of criticism for her target map from the last election. In case you’ve been hiding under a rock somewhere, her website published a map with congresspeople who had voted for the healthcare reform bill like Congresswoman Giffords marked with a rifle sight.

So today, she decided to defend herself, by saying:

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 that they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible.

No, Ms. Palin. That is not reprehensible. What is reprehensible is using a historic excuse for antisemitic violence as a defense against your words and your actions having had any role in the attempted murder of a Jewish congresswoman.

What we have here is a very vocally Christian politician, who
marked a Jewish congressperson with a gunsight. Said Jewish congresswoman was shot in the head and nearly killed. And Sarah Palin
has the chutzpah to talk about blood libel?

Let’s recall, for a moment, what the blood libel is. Blood libel isn’t an accusation that you’re responsible for violence. It’s a very specific accusation, made by Christians, that Jews murder christian children in order to obtain christian blood, which is used to make Passover Matzah.

From Wikipedia:

Blood libel (also blood accusation) refers to a false accusation or claim that religious minorities, almost always Jews, murder children to use their blood in certain aspects of their religious rituals and holidays. Historically, these claims have–alongside those of well poisoning and host desecration–been a major theme in European persecution of Jews.

The libels typically allege that Jews require human blood for the baking of matzos for Passover. The accusations often assert that the blood of Christian children is especially coveted, and historically blood libel claims have often been made to account for otherwise unexplained deaths of children. In some cases, the alleged victim of human sacrifice has become venerated as a martyr, a holy figure around whom a martyr cult might arise. A few of these have been even canonized as saints.

In general, the libel alleged something like this: a child, normally a boy who had not yet reached puberty, was kidnapped or sometimes bought and taken to a hidden place (the house of a prominent member of the Jewish community, a synagogue, a cellar, etc.) where he would be kept hidden until the time of his death. Preparations for the sacrifice included the gathering of attendees from near and far and constructing or readying the instruments of torture and execution.

At the time of the sacrifice (usually night), the crowd would gather at the place of execution (in some accounts the synagogue itself) and engage in a mock tribunal to try the child. The boy would be presented to the tribunal naked and tied (sometimes gagged) at the judge’s order. He would eventually be condemned to death. Many forms of torture would be inflicted during the boy’s “trial”, including some of those actually used by the Inquisition on suspects of heresy. Some of the alleged tortures were mutilation (including circumcision), piercing with needles, punching, slapping, strangulation, strappado and whipping, while being insulted and mocked throughout.

In the end, the half-dead boy would be crowned with thorns and tied or nailed to a wooden cross. The cross would be raised and the blood dripping from the boy’s wounds, particularly those on his hands, feet, and genitals, would be caught in bowls or glasses. Finally, the boy would be killed with a thrust through the heart from a spear, sword, or dagger. His dead body would be removed from the cross and concealed or disposed of, but in some instances rituals of black magic would be performed on it. The earlier stories describe only the torture and agony of the victim and suggest that the child’s death was the sole purpose of the ritual. Over time and as the libel proliferated, the focus shifted to the supposed need to collect the victim’s blood for mystical purposes.

The story of William of Norwich (d. 1144) is the first case of alleged ritual murder that led to widespread persecutions. It does not mention the collection of William’s blood nor of any ritual purpose to the alleged ritual murder. In the story of Little Saint Hugh of Lincoln (d. 1255) it was said that after the boy was dead, his body was removed from the cross and laid on a table. His belly was cut open and his entrails removed for some occult purpose, such as a divination ritual. In the story of Simon of Trent (d. 1475) it was highly stressed how the boy was held over a large bowl so all his blood could be collected.

According to Walter Laqueur, “Altogether, there have been about 150 recorded cases of blood libel (not to mention thousands of rumors) that resulted in the arrest and killing of Jews throughout history, most of them in the Middle Ages… In almost every case, Jews were murdered, sometimes by a mob, sometimes following torture and a trial.”

Blood libel is a very specific, disgraceful, malicious, and horrific accusation against Jews. It is an accusation that Jews, as a part of our religion, are murderers and cannibals. That we steal children from righteous christian communities, murder them, drain their blood, and then eat it as part of our religious rituals.

This isn’t just ancient history. The blood libel has been around since the middle ages, but it has persisted all the way to the present. My own ancestors fled their homes in Russia to avoid a pogrom – the supposed cause of which was to protect the christian children from being murdered for Passover matzah. It’s still around today: among other examples, in 2005, a group of members of the Russian parliament put forward a proposed law banning all Jewish organizations, because Jewish practices are inhumane, and extend to ritual murder”.

Sarah Palin clearly has no clue of what “blood libel” means. That’s a disgrace in itself; anyone who’s even moderately educated about politics and religion – like, say, a christian politician who wants to be the president of the US – should know what it means. But Sarah? No, she’s downright proud of her ignorant cluelessness.

What’s worse is the way that she’s expressing that cluelessness.

She’s trying to avoid taking any responsibility for the shooting. That’s
fine – she isn’t responsible for the shooting. But the way that she’s doing it is by falsely presenting herself as the victim in this situation. And to make matters worse, she’s doing that by cluelessly presenting herself as the victim of a historic anti-semitic
slur that falsely accuses Jews of being murderers. She’s trying to distance herself from the attempted murder of a Jewish woman by presenting herself as the victim of an anti-Jewish slur.

I can’t help but look at this as a Jew. She’s exploiting our history of repression, our history of being falsely accused, tortured, and murdered in the name of a lie. My family – my great grandfathers – had to leave their homes, and come to this county with nothing but the clothes on their backs – because if they hadn’t, their families would have been murdered in the name of the blood libel. My maternal great-grandfather, who I actually knew when I was a child, was a wealthy tailor in Russia. When he arrived in the US in 1905 with his wife and three children, they had – literally – one nickel, plus the clothes that they were wearing. My paternal grandfather came by himself, without even the nickel. And the people who he left behind died – some in the pogroms he was fleeing; the rest in the holocaust. The things that have happened to me can’t compare – but even in modern America, I’ve had run-ins with the blood libel. I lived in Ohio for four years as a kid, and as a second grader, I had people asking me where we got the blood for our Matzah.

The blood libel isn’t a joke. It’s a big piece of history, which has been the cause of horrific violence. It’s one of the causes of the holocaust. It’s one of the causes of the murderous pograms in Russia. It’s one of the causes of numerous rampages and murders throughout the middle ages in Europe. And it’s used today as a political bludgeon against Israel and the Jewish people.

And Sarah Palin wants to claim that people pointing out that she’d drawn crosshairs on the district of a woman who was shot in the head – a Jewish woman who was shot in the head – is blood libel.

She should be ashamed of herself. But she isn’t. She’ll never even come close to understanding why what she did is so wrong. And she, and her followers, will never even care. Because she’s a pathetic, stupid, small-minded, pig-ignorant, amoral, narcissistic twat – and that’s exactly what her followers like about her.