Did Israeli cabinet misuse "blood libel" label?

In 1982, when Israel’s military was accused of being responsible — directly or indirectly — for a massacre of hundreds of Muslims in refugee camps in Lebanon, Israeli leaders, including Ariel Sharon, erupted with indignation, labeling the allegations “blood libel.”

He interpreted the term, as far as I can tell, the same way that Sarah Palin interpreted it.

One is guilty of blood libel, Sharon suggested, when one falsely accuses another of being responsible for bloodshed.

Cries of “blood libel” weren’t confined to 1982. Israeli officials have made similar allegations, from time to time, over the years. (For example, in 1953, Israel accused the Soviet Union of blood libel).

As far as I can tell, no one accused the Israeli government — or Ariel Sharon — of anti-Semitism for using the term.

But it’s always dangerous to use terms that you don’t fully understand when you’re engaging in political speech — and I’m not sure Sarah Palin knew precisely what the term “blood libel” meant when she borrowed it.

Updated: January 13, 2011 — 1:00 pm

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  1. Sarah Palin’s knowledge of the meaning or origin of the phrase “blood libel,” I would imagine, is at about the same level as that politician who used the phrase “great white hope,” and hadn’t even seen the movie. I can’t imagine why anyone cares what she mis-says.

  2. Her Jewish critics seek to maintain a monopoly on the use of the phrase blood libel. In the past, Jews have indicated similar “ownership” of the word holocaust. How dare a shiksa use their word???

  3. Justin, it has nothing to do with religion. It has to do with the right wing promoting people who don’t have a functional knowledge of the English language. I doubt that Palin had any anti-semitic tendencies in using the phrase, any more than the other idiot who didn’t know what “Great White Hope” meant had a racist idea in using it.

    The thing you’ve got to remember about the tea partiers is that they’re not so much racist as just selfish and stupid.

  4. Palin has only herself to blame for this can of worms. Did her rhetoric lead Loughner to kill those people? No. There’s no evidence that he was influenced by her either directly or indirectly. But instead of being the bigger person and passing along her condolences to the victims, she tried to make herself out to be a victim as well. She’s not. She’s criticized and fairly I might add for using gun violence as a metaphor for her political strategy, but no one is accusing her of blood libel. Contrary to the definition she provided on fox, blood libel is not simply accusing someone of having blood on their hands. It takes more than that just like it takes more than just killing a bunch of people to have a holocaust. Blood libel entails the sacrifice of children and the use of their blood in ritualistic fashion. She took the word out of context and is perhaps unconsciously redefining it. The people who want to preserve the original meaning of the word to remind others of the realities of the past have the right to protest. She could simply apologize for poor word choice and thereby remove herself from this tragic scenario, but she isn’t. She is purposely injecting herself into it, because she’s a pathetic media whore.

  5. When Palin defended her position on tv, it appeared that she was remorseful. The problem didn’t start with her, it started back several years ago with the shock jocks and went mainstream into society. The problem solving methods of yesteryear have been replaced with a barrage of insults and uninformative statements that direct the subject matter into a personal character assasination that has been based more on lies than truths. Its a tactic thats been used by major networks as a way to generate ratings. What happened in Arizona is the backlash.
    What will we learn from this, “words to do hurt” or “lies aren’t the truth no matter how you present them”. or ” Before I speak I will know my facts”. it will be interesting to see if there is any changes in mainstream media after this.

  6. Absolutely true, Perplexed. If you whip people up into a pressure cooker of intensity in their ethnic and racial hatred, as the right wing has done, you oughtn’t to be surprised when that pressure cooker explodes.

  7. I don’t care about Palin. Period. Unless she somehow gets the nerve to try to be my president or something.

    But I do know that Ariel Sharon was totally wrong for using the term “blood libel”. Unlike the anti-Semitic lies that were behind the original term, some Israeli leaders definitely had some blood on their hands from the Sabra and Shatila massacre that he was referencing. Pointing out a truth isn’t a libel.

  8. Mmm hmm… So when Obama urges his minority coalition to “punish your enemies”, that is not inciting any ethnic or racial hatred at all, is it?

    Caleb, it is truly bizarre how you accuse the right of creating a racial pressure cooker, when it is almost exclusively the left that continues injects race into its political rhetoric.

  9. Taken out of context, any phrase can appear to be a call to arms, and both sides are guilty of using hyperbole to describe their opponents and their positions. None of this is new, and it’s never going to change. Just let it go already.

  10. Cheese you hit the nail on the head. People need to educate themselves with facts, not water cooler rhetoric. Go to the library, check out that book on economics, American history or building your own business from scratch. Turn off the TV and try a different avenue! Change yourself and you’ll change your perspective.

  11. Perplexed, I am not sure what you are getting at. I am an historian, and I have read extensively in black history. I have discovered that there is much misinformation when it comes to popular conceptions of black history, so I would be interested to hear your point of view.

    If you are suggesting that blacks today are deserving of double-standards and special privileges because of their history, you would be expressing a typical liberal opinion, one which I reject.

  12. There is a certain kind of cowardice in taking a quote completely out of context and hyping it into something different. I found the full comment from President Obama. He was specific about how that consituency should act– by voting! Not by spitting on the legislators, not by shutting down discussion with thuggish mob tactics, no “second amendment solutions”, just good old fashioned democracy. Well.

    I guess it was the word “enemies” that ticked off certain factions. Mr. Obama was questioned about that and he was good enough to confess that another word would have been more appropriate, like “opponent”. And he answered the challenge without whining or complaining about victimization. Compare, if you will, to the recent responses from former Gov. Palin. She has backed away from holding herself accountable for her numerous failings and mistatements, and her behavior has been immature. It’s a bad combination, being shallow and vocal and thin-skinned all at the same time.

  13. Justin, Black America has managed to organize and emulate itself from being a sub citizen to running the country and having a large hand on the media. In 60 years, they have instilled the importance of an education, they have lobbied, they have organized economic sanctions on the unjust and they have done this with non violent tendencies. Statistically speaking, they have managed this with about 12 percent of the population. What does this say about the rest of America?

  14. I wonder if “special privileges” means laws that unambiguously ban the institutionalized racism which persists for more than a century after abolition, and if “double standards” means recognizing the fact of our history of slavery and segregation laws and their effects that remain today.

    I wonder how much Justin would enjoy the privileged life of being a person of color in America.

  15. Perplexed, that would appear to say good things about the rest of America, wouldn’t it?

    Jose, by special privileges I mean their affirmative action advantages, which is nothing less than a new form of institutionalized racism. By double standards, I mean the way their racism and ethnocentrism is coddled and encouraged. I just wrote an essay on this, you might be interested in.

    http://religionnewsblog.blogspot.com/2011/01/broken-promise-of-civil-rights-day.html

  16. I wonder how much Justin would enjoy the privileged life of being a person of color in America.

    Who wouldn’t like to enjoy the legal advantages they enjoy in education, government set-asides, and corporate hiring?

  17. Justin, if you feel that your oppressed, why in God’s name won’t do something about it. How can your interpretation as a historian be so warped? The rising Black Caucus has repeatedly open the doors to all who will participate. If the white man is oppressed (by the why I’m Irish white), why on earth is he standing there, not participating in what is clearly his future, yet cries foul, as his perception of entitlement diminishes to those who are willing to work for it. I am confused on how you have come to the conclusions drawn in your article.

  18. Absolulely right, Justin. So what if we enslaved their people for hundreds of years, fought a bloody war to hold onto the right to keep enslaving them, denied them the vote, split up their families, hung them from trees for the color of their skin, held them as sex slaves, segregated them from us as much we could, and imprisoned them at higher rates! Giving them a few bonus points in the college admissions process and hiring them as low-level government clerks more than makes up for it! They should bowing at our feet and thanking us for keeping our promise, that all men are created equal, and being so generous.

  19. Cheese: on the other hand, whites fought a bloody war to free the slaves, and provided them education and economic uplift at every turn, which has resulted in them having the highest standard of living and lifespans of any blacks on the globe. Why do you only look at the negative?

    Much of which is completely irrational anyway. Hanging them from trees, sex slaves, imprisoning them for no reason… It is hard to know where to begin when confronted with such abject malicious misinformation.

    As for the political side, please contemplate why Obama’s children deserve protection as an oppressed class?

    I dispise these type of off-topic spiraling arguments on other people’s posts, so I won’t be responding anymore here. If you have issue with my opinions, feel free to comment on my essays on those subjects. Anyone who questions my knowledge of history should simply find my thoughts on my blog, which are hardly uninformed.

    Sorry, Frank, for getting so off topic, which all started with my objection to Obama’s use of incendiary racial rhetoric.

  20. Justin, I personally would like an explanation of some of your statements. I can’t follow your train of thought. I don’t understand the angle you are perusing or point your making.

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