A controversy has arisen over Sarah Palin’s injudicious use of the term “blood libel” to describe the accusation that her inflammatory rhetoric inspired the grisly Arizona murders. Apparently she thought it permissible to utter those words, unaware that they may only be applied to the infamous lie about using Christian blood as a matzo ingredient, and may not be appropriated for any other use without the express written consent of the ADL.
Condemnation was immediate. In one LA Times article alone, three prominent Jewish leaders competed for attention. David Harris and Abraham Foxman objected to Palin’s casual reference to a phrase so closely related to historical Jewish suffering, but Simon Greer was the most critical:
“The term ‘blood libel’ is not a synonym for ‘false accusation.’ It refers to a specific falsehood perpetuated by Christians about Jews for centuries, a falsehood that motivated a good deal of anti-Jewish violence and discrimination. Unless someone has been accusing Ms. Palin of killing Christian babies and making matzo from their blood, her use of the term is totally out of line.”
Palin has now found an unlikely defender in Alan Dershowitz. The distinguished Harvard Law Professor gives his blessing to Palin to use “blood libel,” explaining that he had himself accused the U.N.’s Goldstone team of “blood libel” for finding evidence that Israel deliberately killed many hundreds of civilians in scores of different military attacks. For his part, Dershowitz insists that Israel never deliberately kills civilians, chalking up all such killings as accidental or incidental to justified killings of evil-doers. According to Dersh, anyone who dares to suggest that Israel actually intends the natural and probable consequences of its actions joins the historical rogues’ gallery of anti-Semites.
Actually, Dershowitz’s acknowledgment of accusing Goldstone of “blood libel” is somewhat understated. He has hurled the same accusation many times before: against a Swedish magazine that reported that Israeli soldiers had stolen and traded body parts taken from dead Palestinians; against Sheik Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan, whose Zayed Center “has held lectures on the blood libel and conspiracy theories about Jews and America perpetrating Sept. 11”; against Noam Chomsky for being Noam Chomsky; and in his book “The Case for Israel” against reporter Chris Hedges for recounting that he had witnessed Israeli soldiers goading Palestinian children into cross-hair range where they would shoot them “for sport.”
I myself have never accused anyone of blood libel. However, newly armed with a permission slip, I have begun searching for statements that meet the Dershowitz standard: they are fabricated or wildly exaggerated, falsely accusing people of something really, really bad that involves blood. I’ve quickly come up with a few examples that I can proudly describe as “blood libel”:
1): “Archbishop Desmond Tutu is one of the most evil men in the world. He never condemns China, rarely Zimbabwe or any other county, it’s only Israel.”
2): “the notorious Jewish anti-Semite and Holocaust-justice denier Norman Finkelstein wrote a screed suggesting that I be targeted ‘for assassination’ because of my views on Israel.”
3): “Of all the nations capable of producing nuclear weapons, Iran is the only one that might use them to attack an enemy. There are several ways in which Iran could use nuclear weapons. The first is by dropping an atomic bomb on Israel, as its leaders have repeatedly threatened to do.”
4): During Israel’s attack on Gaza, Hamas employed a “‘dead baby’ strategy – to cause as many civilian casualties as possible by firing its deadly rockets from schools and densely populated areas.”
5): During Israel’s 2006 bombing and invasion of Lebanon, the civilians deserved what they got: “Lebanon has chosen sides–not all Lebanese, but the democratically chosen Lebanese government. When a nation chooses sides in a war, especially when it chooses the side of terrorism, its civilians pay a price for that choice. . . We must stop viewing Lebanon as a victim and begin to see it as a collaborator with terrorism.”
6) Also, during the 2006 Lebanon “War”: “Sunday was a day of great triumph for Hezbollah. Its tactics had worked. By launching rockets at Israeli civilians within yards of a building filled with refugees, Hezbollah had induced Israel to make a terrible mistake. Its defensive rocket had missed the Hezbollah launchers and hit the civilian building. That was Hezbollah’s plan all along. As Israelis wept in grief over the deaths of the Lebanese children, Hezbollah leaders celebrated its propaganda victory. Yes, Hezbollah was happy that an Israeli rocket had killed Lebanese children.”
7): “[Mufti of Jerusalem] Husseini’s significant contributions to the Holocaust were multi-fold: first, he pleaded with Hitler to exterminate European Jewry and advised the Nazis on how to do so; second, he visited Auschwitz and urged Eichmann and Himmler to accelerate the pace of the mass murder; third, he personally stopped 4,000 children, accompanied by 500 adults, from leaving Europe and had them sent to Auschwitz and gassed; fourth, he prevented another two thousand Jews from leaving Romania for Palestine and one thousand from leaving Hungary for Palestine, who were subsequently sent to death camps; fifth, he organized the killing of 12,600 Bosnian Jews by Muslims, whom he recruited to the Waffen-SS Nazi-Bosnian division.”
All of these accusations are fraudulent, and all happen to originate from the same source.
It’s a little complicated, so let’s recap. Dersh accused Goldstone, the Swedes, Chomsky, Hedges, and Zayed of committing “blood libel”; applying his own standard, he actually committed blood libel against Tutu, Finkelstein, Iran, Hamas, Lebanese civilians, Hezbollah, and al-Husseini; and he defended Palin’s use of the term. Sarah could not have prayed for a defense attorney with more expertise and experience in the rapidly-growing field of blood libel accusations.
Finally, what about those on the other side of the debate from Dershowitz – David Harris, Abe Foxman, Simon Greer – who complain about Palin’s foot-in-mouth disease? Surely they also must have been highly critical of Dershowitz’s frequent and explicit resort to the “blood libel” accusation over the years. Surely they publicly expressed rebuke or at least disapproval that “blood libel” was being freely used in contexts other than its original matzo-ingredient meaning. Surely they did not excuse Dershowitz’s inappropriate terminology because he is Jewish and was smearing critics of Israel, and now hypocritically complain about Palin venturing where no goyim should dare go. Unfortunately, I must return to the demands of my day job, and will leave it to others to track down the heaps of criticism that must have been leveled at Dershowitz from the same self-appointed guardians of Jewish history that are now so incensed at Palin’s faux pas.