Sarah Palin is smart; but not particularly deep or capable of rendering historical terms with accuracy or nuance. She is passionately sanctimonious and deeply committed to her Evangelical Christian faith, promising to care for America "with a servant's heart" while at the same time deeply isolated by a bubble of advisers who seem to aid her plotting machinations with a singularity of purpose that is impressively focused, if only on herself. And typical of the pathological narcissism that runs through the veins of so many celebrities in our country, she can rarely have the humility to know the difference between moral scrutiny and self-reflection and that pernicious expression of victimhood and martyrdom that she does so well. The act of true political bravery she pretends to have by selling her image was another missed opportunity. "You know, all of us say or represent ideas irresponsibly sometimes; and I will admit that targeting political opponents with the graphic representation of the cross-hairs of a gun was a bad idea." We know she didn't pull the trigger; but what would have been so wrong about taking responsibility for an overly partisan political climate? We are all responsible.
This is the context in which we ought to understand her use of the term "blood libel" during her first official recorded message to the American people in the wake of the horrific killings in Tuscon. Given the opportunity to offer condolences to the victims and an appropriate outrage to the killer, she quickly dispensed with her duties as a self-appointed, FOX-sponsored Consoler-in-Chief, and ran the flag of her own peculiar martyrdom up the pole in the only townsquare where she truly rules: a four-sided broadcast screen.
I don't think she hates Jews; I think she admires us. I don't think she hates Israel; I think she admires it. So when she uses the term "blood-libel," in her own weird way, she's actually identifying with us. Guilt by association!
The ADL's response was wishy-washy, representing Abe Foxman's continued ambivalent relationship with that segment of the American Right Wing that unconditionally supports Israel; other Jewish organizations fulminated over her use of the term as if it were an affront to Jewish memory and Jewish suffering. Everyone had something to say about it, as if a Nazi rally had suddenly broken out on the Washington Mall. To be sure, the history of the blood libel demonstrates that it is as vicious an anti-Semitic act, short of murder and genocide, that exists in Jewish history. Alan Dershowitz uses the term to describe the Goldstone Report and yesterday, fairly quickly absolved Sarah Palin of any wrong in using the term.
Ironically, both Pain and Dershowitz are guilty--not of blood libel but of an ahistorical hubris and a politically self-righteous arrogance that only further debases our already noisy civil discourse. The notion that we have a "victim" in a multi-millionaire celebrity, whose every opinion is carefully crafted and broadcast throughout the world, who is in the rarest of positions to serve her nation in higher office, is one of the great absurdities of the day.
How I wish one of our leaders would have said the obvious to Sarah Palin, like a good teacher says to a high school student working on a term paper: "Blood libel--that's really the wrong use of the term. Now stop talking and go back and finish your research."