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Sarah Palin: Critics Blaming Political Right for Shootings Commit 'Blood Libel'

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Sarah Palin said Wednesday that the journalists and pundits who blame the rhetoric of the political right for the act of "monstrous criminality" in Tucson, Ariz., Saturday are committing a "blood libel" -- a term usually reserved for a centuries-old false claim used to justify anti-Semitism.

The former Alaska governor, in a seven-minute video, mourned the tragic shootings that took the lives of six people and wounded 14 others, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.). But she said the rampage was the act of a "single evil man" who gunned down peaceful citizens. She said she moved from puzzlement to "concern" as reaction to the incident in some quarters blamed conservative rhetoric for provoking the violence caused by "this deranged, apparently apolitical criminal."

Violent acts, such as the shootings in Arizona, "stand on their own. They begin and end with the criminals who commit them," Palin said. In remarks posted on the website Vimeo, Palin said the media "should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn."

"Blood libel" is an extraordinarily loaded phrase because it recalls the false accusation by Christians against Jews that was used for centuries as an excuse for anti-Semitic persecution. The libel generally refers to the charge that Jews required human blood, and in particular the blood of Christian children, to bake matzoh bread.

Palin, like many conservative Christians, is a strong supporter of Israel, and she has been particularly supportive of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's hard-line stands versus the Palestinians. In an open letter to incoming Republican freshmen last November she implicitly rebuked President Obama when she wrote that "Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, not a settlement," and in June she slammed Obama over what she said was his weak-kneed support of Israel following the Israeli commando attack on a Gaza-bound flotilla that left nine activists dead.

But Christian conservatives like Palin are also growing increasingly fond of Jewish religious traditions and motifs, sometimes celebrating Passover Seders and appropriating Old Testament references like the Israelites in exile to describe their own experience in modern America. Palin, for example, likes to compare herself to Queen Esther, the Jewish beauty from the Book of Esther who saves her people from destruction.

Such religious borrowing can be problematic for Jews, and Palin's "blood libel" reference evoking such a devastating history at the hands of Christians could be especially explosive. The Anti-Defamation League said it was "inappropriate to blame Palin and others for causing this tragedy." Still, the ADL said, "we wish Palin had not invoked the phrase 'blood libel'" -- words that have become part of English parlance, but ones "so fraught with pain in Jewish history."

Palin, a potential the 2012 presidential candidate and a relentless critic of Obama, has also taken heat for a campaign map she posted on her Facebook page last year showing a number of vulnerable Democratic congressional districts in cross-hairs. The map of the U.S. displayed depictions of rifle sites over 20 Democratic-held districts, including 17 where incumbents were running for reelection in 2010. These included districts represented by Giffords and Rep. Vic Snyder of Arkansas.

Within hours after the incident Saturday, the blogosphere lit up. The Daily Kos, a widely read left-wing website that took issue with Palin's political map, tweeted "Mission Accomplished Sarah Palin." On MSNBC, Keith Olbermann called on Republicans to repudiate Palin, the GOP's 2008 vice presidential nominee. And he made reference to targeting political opponents with "bull's-eyes over their faces," though the Palin graphic did no such thing. In the Huffington Post Saturday, former Sen. Gary Hart denounced "violent words and phrases" in political speech and concluded, "Today we have seen the results of this rhetoric." Hart ran for president as a Democrat in 1984 and 1988.

Liberals loudly objected during the mid-term campaign to the provocative rhetoric employed by some tea party members and the candidates they backed, including Republican Sharron Angle of Nevada, a gun rights supporter. Angle had said in an interview that she hoped "we're not getting to Second Amendment remedies" in dealing with unpopular government policies embraced by her opponent, Sen. Harry Reid. "I hope the vote will be the cure for the Harry Reid problems," she said.

On Wednesday, Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent who caucuses with Senate Democrats, said Arizona Republicans should take steps to make sure their state is safe for opposing political viewpoints. In an e-mail to supporters -- also asking for contributions -- Sanders called on Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to lead the effort, CNN said. "First, this horrendous act of violence is not some kind of strange aberration for this area where, it appears, threats and acts of violence are part of the political climate," Sanders wrote. "Nobody can honestly express surprise that such a tragedy finally occurred."

That's not Palin's take. The responsibility for terrible acts rests with the individual criminal, she said, "not collectively with all of the citizens of a state, not with those who listen to talk radio, not with maps of swing districts used by both sides, not with law-abiding citizens who respectfully exercise their First Amendment rights at campaign rallies, not with those who proudly voted in the last election." In the video, she did not mention the name of suspect Jared Loughner, nor did she discuss whether mental illness played any role in the tragedy.

Writing in the New York Times, op-ed columnist David Brooks said emerging details suggest that Loughner may be mentally unbalanced and was "struggling to control his own mind." Claims are being made, Brooks wrote, that inflammatory political rhetoric contributed to the murders, "despite the fact that there was, and is, no evidence that Loughner was part of these movements or a consumer of their literature."

(David Gibson contributed to this report.)

Folo Tom Diemer on Twitter http://twitter.com/tomdiemer

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ajaske

I agree with many of the other comments out here - the question is not whether or not this person was evil or not - the question is: Can we do things to prevent this type of tragedy? The answer is: Yes, we can do things to make this less likely and to make these type of things happen less often - not that things won't happen occassionally in a free society. But a free society can allow people to hunt and bear arms, but not allow people with a history of mental illness easy access to guns. (And, yes - I know some criminals will always get guns, but you don't have to make it easy.) And you don't have to have the type of rhetoric that Palin and O'Reilly - and - ok - even some on the left like Randi Rhodes - seem to have adopted. As a political leader, Palin should be particularly appalled. A simple, sincere apology and explanation that she understands the influence her words can have on some people who are not able to think clearly is what is needed. It certainly makes me wonder if violence and intimidation isn't part of her agenda.

January 12 2011 at 2:30 PM
nanbolton

Once again Sarah Palin has managed to make an issue all about her and how it affects her instead of seeing the bigger picture and speaking as an adult would. Here we go back to junior high again. Can we please get past this aggressive, unpleasant woman whose words nearly always serve to further divide us? I'm not sure how she manages it, but she has done it consistently ever since her first public appearance. Enough already. There are important issues to talk about and work on together and people who just want to attack others are in the way, no matter which side of the political spectrum they belong to.
As far as the Christian aspect of all of this, I have this to say:There are some people in this country who say they are Christians. If these people have actually read the Bible, and all the words of Jesus, they would know that Christians do not threaten much less perpetrate violence in word or in deed. Of course, they make mistakes and fall short, but a true follower of the Messiah gets back up, applies the Word to his life and learns a more excellent way. God’s way. The way of peace.
True Christians do not own or use weapons for the killing of people. True Christians do not wish to see harm done to anyone, but pray even for their enemies. True Christians are the medics and the clerics on the battlefield of this earth, trying to preserve and save life, which is God’s gift to all of us. True Christians do not wish to live in luxury at the expense of their fellow human beings. True Christians lift people up and encourage them. They do not demonize or ridicule others who hold different political or world views.
In these difficult times, I have struggled mightily with this. I have to fight the urge to want to verbally strike back in anger when I hear the bile that is spewing out from extremist speakers. Some of them say they are Christian, but as Jesus said, we will know them by their fruit. Perhaps I should thank those who are so clearly hate and fear-mongers. Because of them, I am learning to forgive something I find nearly unforgivable. And I’m learning to pray that they will see the damage they cause, repent of it, learn the better way and become a peacemaker and a healer. Amen.
If you are a Christian, pray this for all those who spread division, no matter what "side" they are on.

January 12 2011 at 2:30 PM
mndogez3

Blaming Sarha Palin the Tea Party, conservetive rhetoric, Fox News ,Russ Limbaugh,makes me sick. Who did we bame when President Reagan was shot, and his Press Secretary Jim Brady, who was shot in the head just like the Congresswoman.
Who did we blame when President Ford was shot at and again by Sqeeky Frome's attempt. We didn't blame the liberal press or political ideals.
On both sides the politicians are making fools of themselves more protection, gun laws,disallowing what is said on the media and so on.
Does anyone remember the James Brady hand gun legislation?
All of the above shooters including the current killer had some kind of mental illness.(Period) The diffence with this nut he had a semiautomatic instead of a saturday night special. I do blame the liberal media ie: Kieth Olbermann and others trying to turn it into a political game instead of changing the laws for the crimminally insane in this country.I beleive in the Constitution leave it alone. Since 01/08/2011 the day of the tragety, how many people have been murdered in this country by madmen?
My prayers are with Congresswoman Gifford her family and all the victums of this tragety.

January 12 2011 at 2:28 PM
depichu

The terrible shootings in Tucson were done by a young man who had a history of psychological troubles. To attempt to fix a catalyst to his behavior with unsubstantiated finger pointing is un-American. Please, let us stick to the facts of the case and not blame innocent people, especially to try to advance one's political idealogies. Jared was the shooter, he was old enough to know right from wrong, he choose to do wrong, he is solely responsible for his actions. Jared is to blame for the horiffic shootings.

January 12 2011 at 2:26 PM
sidewinderjdf

From what I have heard and seen on various interviews about the person doing the shooting I can draw only one conclusion and that is no one really knows what was going throught this young mans mind. I believe all the speculation made by the various media and political people can be destructive. Talking about what they feel could have caused the shooting has no value and add's nothing to the discussion. As far as I'm concerned news people polititions and talk show people should all keep quiet and let the police and the eventual trial tell the story. Spend time gathering the evidence and wait to talk about it at proper time. You all seem to be trying to create a reality that you know nothing about.Stop Please

January 12 2011 at 2:26 PM
lindafrancisco1

The words that come out of your mouth refelect what the intent of the heart really is. When children play violent video games we say they may or can be influenced by the violent games. Then we look at the game makers and wonder why they don't take more responsibility for what they endorse. Therefore I understand why people are looking at Sarah Palan and placing her words and her map in the hot seat. Words are powerful influences in this society, rather meant to to be postive or negitive.

January 12 2011 at 2:25 PM
hank52

WHAT IN THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE? Do you honestly think that Sara Palin or any politican in America would want a child 9 years of age DEAD, to prove a point? If you truly beleive that you must be a card carring member of the Westboro Babtist Church and really need help. IT IS JUST WHAT IT WAS, A NUT ON A SELF MINDED RAMPAGE, It is a wonder to me after reading most of these left wing rants and hate of MS palin that this has not happened before and more often. People please knock it off.

January 12 2011 at 2:24 PM
kmul390357

Sarah Palin is right. In the end political rhetoric or not we all make our own decisions good or bad and we all should be held accountable alone for our decisions good or bad. Nobody should get away with blaming anyone else for their bad actions. We'd have a lot less crime if we stopped giving people excuses to misbehave and started holding people beginning with children on up to the eldest of adults responsible for their actions with appropriate consequenses. Anyone who commits murder or engages in violent crime is somehow mentally unstable and mentally ill. Since they did not seek appropriate help for themselves and it is abundently available they too should be held accountable for their crimes alone with nobody else to blame but them. There are many many mentally unstable and mentally ill people who do what they need to do in order to not commit such violent acts.

January 12 2011 at 2:24 PM
royraney

Can we get any more divided than we are now? I hope not! It is time for our President to step up to the plate and try to stop all this blame throwing.Please MR. President,try to bring us back togeather.

January 12 2011 at 2:23 PM
Rich

Sarah Palin did not cause the shooting, but her words and actions when processed by a mentally ill person, may have contributed to this horrible event! The misguided right wing, which Palin speaks for, are entitled to their opinions but their public statements and the tone in their speeches should be tempered. We need political discussion, not the ferment of violent revolution.

January 12 2011 at 2:22 PM

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