On Blood Libel

So the blood libel myth is in the news again, thanks to you know who. It’s generally agreed that the ex-governor of Alaska struck the wrong note in her defensive statement after the Tucson tragedy.  But interpretations vary widely as to why she said “blood libel” and what she meant by it.  The phrase “blood libel” reference to the endemic myth that Jews kill babies in order to drink their blood.  Never something that should be invoked lightly.  The phrase itself is a lightning rod particularly for Jews, of course, and a red flag indicating anti-Semitism.  When a theater critic used the phrase to describe Caryl Churchill’s 2009 allegorical play about Israel, Seven Jewish Children, it caused another kind of media firestorm.  Some say Palin was aware that Gabrielle Giffords is Jewish, and her incredible selfishness in making herself look like a victim at a time when several Americans were actually victims was so tone-death as to be anti-Semitic.  Some say it was a semi-secret shoutout to the Christian Zionists in her audience, a dangerous sector of the religious right whose adamant support for Israel’s militancy against the Palestinians hinges on an apocalyptic reading of the Bible in which Jews must be in possession of Jerusalem for the Rapture to occur.  (During the Rapture, of course, these Jews will either have to accept Christ as their savior, or die in a fiery hell.) By saying “blood libel,” the author of Going Rogue was announcing her allegiance to this group, that is, aligning herself with the Jews in their persecution, but for a conservative Christian endgame. The smart folks at Religion Dispatches dispatch with this view.  Whatever she meant, I for one am relieved that this ancient and destructive myth has finally had consequences that are positive: Palin loses credibility as a presidential candidate for 2012.

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