In the wake of the recent shooting in Tucson, Ariz. that left six people dead and 14 wounded — including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) — debate has been generated as to whether political extremism played a role in the alleged shooter’s motivation.
In a response to criticism levied specifically at her, former Alaska governor and Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin issued a video statement Wednesday including the phrase “blood libel,” which ignited reactions from both national media and student leaders on campus.
In the video, posted on her Facebook page, Palin expresses her condolences to the families of those who were killed and wounded. She goes on to address “journalists and pundits” who she says “should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn.”
Her use of the term “blood libel” has drawn criticism from both national and Penn Jewish organizations.
Penn Israel Coalition president and College senior Evan Philipson thinks Palin made “an insensitive comment that didn’t need to be said.”
“It brings up a lot of connotations that aren’t appropriate at all,” he said, adding that “it didn’t really make sense as a good analogy,” he said.
According to Assistant Religious Studies professor Talya Fishman, the term has its roots in medieval anti-Semitism, when it was believed that Jews used the blood of Christian children in the baking of matzah.
The accusation was most commonly used in the 12th and 13th centuries, Fishman said.
“Alleged perpetrators would be tortured, and would be forced to say, ‘yes, I did it,’” she explained, adding that entire Jewish communities would be expelled from towns.
Giffords is Arizona’s first Jewish congresswoman.
In a statement released by the National Jewish Democratic Council, President David Harris stated that “instead of dialing down the rhetoric at this difficult moment, [Palin] chose to accuse others trying to sort out the meaning of this tragedy of somehow engaging in a ‘blood libel’ against her and others. This is of course a particularly heinous term for American Jews, given that the repeated fiction of blood libels are directly responsible for the murder of so many Jews across centuries.”
College Republicans President and Engineering junior Peter Terpeluk thinks the criticism directed at Palin in the wake of her statement is an attempt by the liberal media to portray Palin in a negative light.
“You should be able to use these words without having this national debate about your authenticity, ” Terpeluk said.
According to Hillel president and College junior Josh Belfer, Palin’s word choice was an unfortunate one but not intentionally harmful.
“She should be more judicious with her words, and in this case I would have hoped she would be a little more sensitive to the historical context of the term,” he said.
Abraham Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, issued a statement yesterday saying that “it was inappropriate at the outset to blame Sarah Palin and others for causing this tragedy or for being an accessory to murder.
“While the term ‘blood-libel’ has become part of the English parlance to refer to someone being falsely accused, we wish that Palin had used another phrase, instead of one so fraught with pain in Jewish history,” Foxman stated.Comments powered by Disqus
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