Pelavin: "The 'blood libel' stirred hatred and violence against Jews; it contributed to massacres, pogroms and banishments. These are events very different in kind and degree than the criticism to which Gov. Palin is being subjected."
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WASHINGTON, D.C., January 12, 2011 -- In response to Gov. Sarah Palin's statement released earlier today, Mark Pelavin, Associate Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:
Of course Sarah Palin is correct that neither she nor any other individual is culpable for the actions of Jared Lee Loughner, the disturbed man who killed 6 and wounded many others, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, in Tucson this weekend. Unless evidence emerges to the contrary, we urge those who attempt to make a direct causal connection between the excesses of political rhetoric and this tragic shooting to desist.
Gov. Palin has a right to defend herself from such accusations. At the same time, we urge our political leaders of all parties to recognize that the political atmosphere in which candidates are dehumanized and verbally attacked in violent terms diminishes us all and poisons the atmosphere.
Gov. Palin's response to the shootings is troubling for another reason. We are deeply concerned that in seeking to defend herself, Gov. Palin painted herself as a victim of "blood libel."
"Blood libel" is not just a generic phrase used when someone is falsely accused of something terrible. It has a very specific historical meaning, one which has fed the worst of human nature for centuries and sadly continues to do so today. The charge of "blood libel" refers to the allegation that Jewish rituals incorporated the use of Gentile blood. The "blood libel" stirred hatred and violence against Jews; it contributed to massacres, pogroms and banishments. These are events very different in kind and degree than the criticism to which Gov. Palin is being subjected.
We recognize fully that Gov. Palin is not the first to water down the meaning of this phrase in this manner that diminishes the distinctive nature of the historic anti-Semitism associated with the use of the blood libel. Equating political differences of opinion with violent anti-Semitism should stop. For these reasons, Gov. Palin should retract her remarks.