Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Palin Victim of a "Blood Libel," or, Why Medieval History Matters

Apparently, Sarah Palin spoke out today, denouncing those who've criticized her for (or just questioned) her perceived role in the assassination attempt and mass murder in Arizona over the weekend, and accusing journalists and pundits of a "blood libel."

Just to be perfectly clear: "Blood libel" was an accusation leveled against Jews living in medieval Europe that they ritually murdered Christian children and used their blood in religious rites. It is a specific thing--a real thing--and it has formed one of the main justifications for anti-Semitic violence and the annihilation of Jews in Europe for a millennium. It does not mean "making someone a scapegoat." Just because the concept of "blood libel" rests on a false claim, it does not mean "to make a false claim."

The claim that Jews murdered Christian children and used their blood appears first in England in the twelfth century, but was more broadly disseminated by Chaucer. The Prioress' Tale is about the murder of a Christian child by Jews and mentions the legend Little St. Hugh of Lincoln. This became one of the most well-known and oft-cited examples of Jewish ritual murder, and the Jews were eventually expelled from England in 1290, after almost a century of violent pogroms.

Here's a riddle: So, now that a public figure (publicly Christian and evangelical in ideology) claims to be the victim of the most pernicious kind of anti-Semitism, in response to questions about the effect that her political rhetoric may have played in the assassination attempt of Arizona's first (and only) Jewish Congressional representative, who do you think Glenn Beck will accuse of being like the Nazis? Will it be:

1. Sarah Palin
2. Congress
3. The Jewish-controlled mainstream media
4. President Obama

I bet 3.

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