“Blood libel”: An Orthodox Jew defends Sarah Palin

Let me state at the outset that I am not a supporter of Sarah Palin for President. I have publicly in print criticized her on two grounds: 1) her inability — or perhaps unwillingness — to assemble a first rate team of political and policy advisors; and 2) her lack of intellectual curiosity about major foreign and domestic policy issues. Ronald Reagan, with whom she is often compared due to their common characteristic of excellent communication skills, had neither of these two flaws.

I have always made my two criticisms of Palin, however, with a substantial measure of regret. One must distinguish intellectualism from intelligence. Palin does have the intelligence to comprehend complex issues — she demonstrated this as governor of Alaska in dealing with complicated energy matters. Furthermore, her communication skills and her undeniable leadership qualities would serve her well as President of the United States.

Finally, it must be said that mainstream liberal media brazenly display an unabashed reprehensible sexism towards politically ideological conservatives like Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann. This sexism is not in evidence when liberal journalists laud Nancy Pelosi and Barbara Boxer as true American heroines.

Palin is now under fire for a comment she made in a videotaped statement on Wednesday, January 12, 2011 regarding the tragic shootings in Tucson, Arizona the previous weekend. In discussing what she accurately described as “irresponsible statements from people attempting to apportion blame for this terrible event”, she stated the following:

“But, especially within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible.”

The former Alaska governor’s use of the words “blood libel” was not politically astute. If she had been advised by a top quality political advisor team, she never would have used those two words.

The use of the words “blood libel” gave her ideological detractors a target against which to focus all their partisan vitriol. They will defame her as at best, insensitive to the Jewish history of persecution and at worst, an anti-Semite. Both of these charges are contemptible slanders. Despite the fact that Sarah Palin has been an elected politician in a state with very few Jews, she has been an outspoken supporter of the State of Israel and a staunch opponent of anti-Semitism.

Again, however, the question remains: Was Palin’s use of the phrase “blood libel” inappropriate? That question was answered in a totally dispositive manner by Alan Dershowitz, a principled liberal lawyer and Harvard Law School professor of unquestionable integrity. Dershowitz, who has an Orthodox Jewish background and is an internationally renowned advocate for the State of Israel issued the following statement on the Palin “blood libel” controversy:

“The term ‘blood libel’ has taken on a broad metaphorical meaning in public discourse. Although its historical origins were in theologically based false accusations against the Jews and the Jewish People, its current usage is far broader. I myself have used it to describe false accusations against the State of Israel by the Goldstone Report. There is nothing improper and certainly nothing anti-Semitic in Sarah Palin using the term to characterize what she reasonably believes are false accusations that her words or images may have caused a mentally disturbed individual to kill and maim. The fact that two of the victims are Jewish is utterly irrelevant to the propriety of using this widely used term.”

There is nothing that one can add to such words of exquisite wisdom. Yet there are two other points that I must make.

The first is the outrage I feel towards my fellow Jews who have mindlessly condemned Palin. The major case which stands out is that of Abe Foxman, Executive Director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), who formally castigated Palin on the same day of her statement. Because of his position at ADL, his reprimand of Palin is being given unwarranted credibility by the media.

The ADL has a proud tradition of fighting bigotry against all races, colors, and creeds. Mr. Foxman’s predecessor, Nathan Perlmutter was a towering figure in American Jewish history, without political bias or any appearance of self-aggrandizement.

By contrast, Foxman lost all credibility with a large portion of the Jewish community when he embarked in 1998 on a vituperative campaign of character assassination against Mort Klein and the organization over which he presides, the Zionist Organization of America.

In that year, Klein had courageously opposed the appointment of John Roth to head the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. Roth, a professor at Claremont McKenna College, had written articles comparing Israeli policies towards the Palestinians with the Nazi treatment of the Jews. Foxman in early 1998 supported the Roth appointment and focussed his efforts on the destruction of Klein’s stature in the Jewish community.

Klein’s efforts, however, soon resulted in a majority of the Jewish community opposing the Roth appointment. In view of this trend in Jewish public opinion, Foxman changed his position to opposition of the Roth nomination, without ever apologizing for his vitriolic attacks on Klein.

Those of us who remember Foxman’s outrageous conduct during the Roth controversy are not surprised at his shameful actions in rebuking Sarah Palin, a true friend of the Jewish community and Israel.

The second aspect of the Palin “blood libel” controversy is the anger I feel towards those practitioners of McCarthyism of the Left, most notably Paul Krugman, Jane Fonda, and Keith Olbermann, who have slandered conservatives like Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, and the Tea Party movement as being responsible for the Tucson tragedy. Their real motive is to attempt to silence, by intimidation, character assassination, or otherwise, those who vigorously disagree with their leftist agenda.

Sarah Palin’s statement of January 12 was actually a courageous statement of American values which I, as an Orthodox Jew hold dear: the freedom to practice my religion of Torah, in which I find inner peace and deep spirituality, and the freedom to passionately express my opinions, without fear of slander or vilification. She deserves commendation, not condemnation, from the American public for her attempts to be a voice of reason at a time of deep anger and political polarization.

Indeed, it would be a tragedy if the career of Sarah Palin was ended due to the shameful practitioners of McCarthyism of the Left who are attempting to use the Tucson tragedy as a means to suppress and delegitimize those who have the courage to dissent from their discredited leftist ideology.

Alan J. Steinberg served as Regional Administrator of Region 2 EPA during the administration of former President George W. Bush. Region 2 EPA consists of the states of New York and New Jersey, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and eight federally recognized Indian nations. Under former New Jersey Governor Christie Whitman, he served as Executive Director of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission. He currently serves on the political science faculty of Monmouth University.

“Blood libel”: An Orthodox Jew defends Sarah Palin