Thursday, January 13, 2011

Maureen Gill: The Truth about Palin and Blood Libel

I was going to avoid discussion of Sarah Palin's reprehensible use of the term "blood libel" in her its-all-about-me speech yesterday. Poor Picked-On Palin wants to frame herself as the victimized leader of the persecuted Tea Party while her buddy Glenn Beck continues his ranting and raving about the Nazis on the Left. As Lewis Black pointed out, "Glenn Beck uses more Nazi imagery than The History Channel." However, Maureen Gill, author of January Moon, posted this to her Facebook page today and I thought it was worth stealing. Thanks, Maureen. 

The Truth about Palin and Blood Libel

by Maureen McDermott Gill on Wednesday, January 12, 2011 at 11:31pm

The Mother of all Mouths has snarled again. Palin has responded to criticism over the hunting map she posted wherein twenty Democratic districts, including Rep Gabrielle Giffords’ district, were identified as prey. After pathetically trying to characterize the posting of this hunting license to shoot liberals as being nothing more than “vigorous and spirited debate” and one of “our most cherished traditions” she quickly positioned herself as (what else?) a victim. She had the unmitigated Grizzly balls to chastise “journalists and pundits” for inciting “the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn” which she piously declared is “reprehensible.” Even more incredibly, she claims she is the victim of “blood libel.”

Say what?

I swear to God, sometimes I don’t know if I’m at the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party or a meeting of the Spinmeisters for the Third Reich. The Nazis, of course, were always the victim.  “Verdammt, dass Czechoslovakia!” (Trans: Damn that Czechoslovakia!)

As I write this people are responding all over the social media trails of Facebook and Twitter and who knows where else. I just read a Jewish man trying to explain the true meaning of the infamous term blood libel (Facebook) and others saying that it can mean many things and apply to many historical events (a variety of places).

There seems to be a consensus of opinion, either borne of charity or a collective understanding that the woman is a moron when it comes to history, that Palin didn’t understand the meaning of the term blood libel.

Well let me set the record straight on several counts.

First of all, I’ll tackle the last point first because it’s the easiest so let’s get it out of the way.

Yes, the woman is about as bright as a radish when it comes to any deep intellectual grasp of almost everything. History, however, is replete with interesting and surprisingly successful characters who have actually gone quite far with more balls than brains. What might be most striking about these people is that even the biggest dolts among their group possessed a feral cunning that evidenced moments of startling genius when it came to their own survival; sometimes it was uncannily prescient. No one would expect a ruthless drug lord to be a corresponding man of letters but when it comes to his own protection we generally understand that he might prove to have the cunning of Machiavelli and the wisdom of SunTzu.

My opinion about Palin is morphing. I’m not so blithely going to dismiss her as ludicrous anymore. For one thing, she has proven she has serious staying power.  I’ll admit that for a time I didn’t really credit her for this; rather, I wrote it off as proof that there really is such a thing as the “Dumbing Down of America.” Now, however, I think that sold her short (although it doesn’t correspondingly elevate my opinion about the brains of far too many people).

I think Palin absolutely understood the meaning of the term blood libel. I think she has a feral genius for survival. This completely fits with her gift for coded language and talent for manipulation, as well as her mastery of simplistic but powerful imagery. With two little words she brilliantly embedded her alleged victimization within the blurry and misunderstood fog of history. It’s no doubt true that the vast majority of Americans can’t explain the true historical genesis of that term – but the key here is that it doesn’t matter.

What matters is that these two little words are an immediate and powerful emotional gravatar evoking images of blood and defamation; yes, even annihilation. It struck a resonant chord in millions. I know because I’ve been reading about it nearly everywhere.

I’m of the opinion Palin chooses her words more carefully than many may think.  Probably no fan of the Jews (I doubt she’d have their vote under any circumstances) she could throw them overboard and no one in her fan club of nitwits would miss them. The use of the term blood libel, so richly woven throughout the vast suffering of the Jews, is now co-opted by a right-wing self-professed “Christian” in her crusade against powerful evil forces.  Her own suffering is the equal of history’s most persecuted.

Incidentally, Gabrielle Giffords’ is Jewish. That’s right: Jewish. I found this out as I was writing this piece; I just read an interview with her rabbi. I couldn’t believe my eyes.

Is it just me or are you seeing the irony, too?  

Who else but Palin could actually turn a national tragedy, one that included the death of a nine-year-old child, into an image of her own unjust persecution, mythically tied to the persecution of Christ himself at the hands of a people deemed despicable – and disposable?

Indeed, who else?

It just keeps getting weirder and weirder, and darker and darker...

An alleged friend of Jared’s has claimed Jared’s mother is Jewish (which appears to be false). Nonetheless, the Aryan Nation has already pounced and I have no doubt that we’re going to hear someone like Limbaugh or Beck begin to place their malevolent spin on this – it wouldn’t surprise me at all if, after they do, this whole tragic incident will be explained away as nothing more than one deranged Jew attacking another.

Palin and the other goons will then be totally off the hook.

Now let me please explain the truth about the term blood libel.

The first recorded charge of blood libel against the Jews occurred in England in 1144 when Jews were falsely accused of the ritualized murder of Christian children. The libel alleged that the Jews kidnapped children, usually boys who had not yet reached puberty, and took them to secret places where they would be presented (naked, tied and gagged) before a tribunal of Jews and condemned to death. Many forms of torture were said to be inflicted prior to death. It was alleged that the Jews used mutilation (including circumcision), piercing with needles, punching, slapping, strangulation, strappado (a common method of torture used during The Inquisition), and whipping.

The myth further alleged that the Jews would crown the poor child with thorns and tie him to a wooden cross. The cross would be elevated so that the Jews could catch the child’s dripping blood in various receptacles. Finally, the boy would be killed with a thrust through the heart from a spear, sword, or dagger.

Clearly the ritual mirrored the death of Christ which, of course, was also believed to be caused by the Jews.

Ronnie S. Landau writes in his brilliant book The Nazi Holocaust that “Of all the legends associated with Jews in medieval Europe, that of using Christian blood for mysterious ritual purposes has perhaps been the most pernicious and enduring.”[1] Respected historians of the Holocaust agree.  Sadly, the blood libelmythology persists to this day, most famously showing up in a large body of anti-Semitic literature in the Middle East along with the ever-present and equally infamous “Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”

It’s not surprising that such spurious literature exists in the cesspools of certain communities and people. What is alarming is how the language and imagery of the worst of world history is woven throughout the narratives spun by the far right, particularly by a person a United States Senator wanted to put in succession of the presidency – and who might get into the Oval Office yet.  If not Palin, there are others of her ilk.

In another article that complements this one, I wrote about John Derbyshire’s vile attack on Chelsea Clinton and how I was particularly struck by his use of metaphors that mirrored the eugenic beliefs of the Third Reich.

People, there is a pattern. Believe it.

[1] Landau, Ronnie S. The Nazi Holocaust. Chicago:Ivan Dee, 1994.
Very good article from NPR's web site: Palin and Blood Libel

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