Why Palin Used the Phrase "Blood Libel": The Theopolitical Right Believes They Are the New and Improved Jews

If you haven't heard by now, Sarah Palin compared criticism of her to "blood libel", the disgusting medieval falsehood that Jews used Christian blood in religious rituals. While some have chalked this up to paranoia, I don't think that's correct (besides, Palin's paranoia stems from the bursting of her narcissistic bubble). Because there's an increasingly tendency among fundamentalists to view themselves as Jews. Now, this might sound odd, since they seem to have some difficulties with the Judeo part of Judeo-Christian. But they do see themselves as new and improved Jews. Some evangelicals are now incorporating Jewish rituals, such as the Passover Seder, into their own practices. Esther*, who saved the Jewish people from the depredations of Haman, is a very popular girls name. And let's not forget this outburst by the staff of the theopolitical rightwing Arizona Congressman J.D. Hayworth:

Unable to defend his repeated praise of Henry Ford's anti-Semitic "Americanization" program, U.S. Rep. J.D. Hayworth bailed on a scheduled campaign appearance Tuesday evening only to send in his place surrogates who repeatedly lectured the audience at Temple Beth Israel in Scottsdale and proclaimed that Hayworth "is a more observant Jew" than those present. [Source: Arizona Republic, Oct. 17, 2006]

The comment by Jonathan Tratt, a spokesman for the Hayworth campaign, drew loud and angry boos and caused nearly three-quarters of the crowd of more than 200 to walk out in disgust. After the walkout, another Hayworth surrogate, Irit Tratt, stood on the Temple's bimah as she told members of the audience who gathered to ask questions, "No wonder there are anti-Semites."

This wasn't just a pointed dig: they meant it.

I'm sure paranoia factors into this phenomenon: there is a self-identification with Jews, due to the history of religious oppression. But they also view themselves as 'improved and better' Jews. This is nothing new: since the inception of Christianity, there have been repeated attempts to claim the mantle of 'real Judaism' by Christians. So, at some level, Palin is using the term because she believes it really does apply to her.

Sure, it doesn't make any sense, but that's never stopped the theopolitical right. (Consider creationists who want to teach the origin of biological diversity as depicted in the Bible. Well, even a precursory read of Genesis 1 and 2 yields very different creation stories. So which is it? They just don't get that far; instead, they just double down and demand creationism even more loudly).

I don't think people realize just how radical** their religious beliefs are, even in the context of Christianity.

*Esther is preferred to Judith. Esther was a queen who appealed to a king to save her people (allegorically, Christians view her as a symbol for the church, who is the bride of God). A nice, safe story. Judith fucked the brains out of an opposing general bent on destroying the Jews, and then, while he was sleeping, she rammed a tent spike through his head. Judy's my type of gal.

Dang nabbit: Judith beheaded the evildoer, Jael spiked him.

**This is me trying to be polite...

More like this

I think one reason why they consider themselves to be super jews is because the teachings of the christian identity movement has been incorporated into a lot of the right wings conspiracy theories.

By tenacitus (not verified) on 13 Jan 2011 #permalink

I just posted a two-part article at www.Talk2action.org on a similar topic. I don't believe this was an oops moment for Palin. It is likely intentional. Much of the Religious Right (and Tea Partiers) do believe that they are the "new Jews" and the most persecuted group in America. The idea that they are imminently threatened by Obama and his plans for an authoritarian state is being promoted by Religious Right leaders like Gen. William Boykin, now a regular in the end times prophecy speaking circuit. Boykin's video "Marxism in America" was promoted by The Oak Initiative, a newer Religious Right group founded by Rick Joyner, and numerous Tea Party websites.

See Part One at http://www.talk2action.org/story/2011/1/13/14015/8393

By Rachel Tabachnick (not verified) on 13 Jan 2011 #permalink

I wonder if the actual hardships of Jewish history are a part of the "New Jew" mindset. What I mean is I wonder if they expect their own version of the Holocaust or any of the other things Jews as a whole have had to face. It'd be interesting to see what they expect to be facing along these lines.

By Drivebyposter (not verified) on 13 Jan 2011 #permalink

Are you mixing up Jael (From the book of Judges and the story of Deborah) with the non-66-book-biblical story of Judith? It was Jael who drove the tent peg through Sisera's head.

The obvious reason that Judith would not be a popular name is that it is not found in the "Christian" Bible.

The obvious reason that Judith would not be a popular name is that it is not found in the "Christian" Bible.

I'm not sure what you're trying to say. In the King James version, the book of Judith is relegated to the apocrypha, but the name also appears in Gen 26:34 as the wife of Esau.

By Freetham Choade (not verified) on 13 Jan 2011 #permalink

Sarah Palin comes out with some outrageous comments. I think the US has had a lucky escape that her powers have been watered down.

My money is on her/some other lunatic compares her struggles to those of blacks during the Jim Crow era in the South.

By Drivebyposter (not verified) on 13 Jan 2011 #permalink

What I found chilling was not the whole ridiculous 'blood libel' thing but rather this:
âNo words can fill the hole left by the death of an innocent, but we do mourn for the victimsâ families as we express our sympathy,â

She seems to be doing is setting up two levels of victimization: One, reserved for "innocents", presumably the nine year old girl qualifies, is expressed as a hole left by their death that no word can fill. The second, is the reserved for the victim's families.

Do you notice the gap? The victims are divided into two and only those who were "innocent" are worthy. For the presumed un-innocent victims there is no regard. But, being charitable Palin will offer sympathy for their families.

Not explicit in this is whether Gabriell Gifford, previously characterized, as all 'liberals', as some shade of evil and worthy of being targeted is considered innocent enough to see her assassination as a bad thing.

It also points out a fixture within evangelical Christianity and right-wing rhetoric; that the chosen can tell innocent from guilty and that bad things are only bad when done to people they agree with. It also leaves open the whole idea that people can be 'inspired by God', become 'tools in the hand of God' to work in ways, like assassination, to bring about 'God's will'.

The resort to characterizing victims as innocent, or not, allows Palin to reap the political benefit of the removal of an opponent she targeted, without defining the assassin as evil for anything but killing those who were innocent. Leaving the definition of who was innocent or not to the listener to apply their own bias to.


Youâre scaring the shit out of me there. What you describe is positively sociopathic.

By Silent Service (not verified) on 13 Jan 2011 #permalink

Art, that is quite an analysis. Could you have at least softened the blow for us by saying that that word choice was subconscious? Also, could they have just meant what it sounds like, expressing condolences to the families?

By captainahags (not verified) on 13 Jan 2011 #permalink

actually, art, upon further consideration, I see more merit in your post. She specifically says AN innocent, which excludes the possibility that she's addressing multiple people.

By captainahags (not verified) on 13 Jan 2011 #permalink

. The "new" Jews sound just like the old Jews...! I just read a news blog by a Jew on a site for Jews wherein he said "the sick world of anti-Semites"... in other words, anyone who doesn't support the psychotic Judaism religion addiction to lies is the "sick" one... sounds like the same thinking that allowed the Jews in Deuteronomy to consciencelessly kill every man, woman, child, and even BABY they encountered upon entering the so-called 'Promised Land' 3,000 years ago... an area not empty, but described as having about 20 nations of peoples and presumably 50+ belief systems already there... conveniently, The Ten Commandments movies always end just seconds before this embarrassing wanton slaughter of biblical proportions occurs... BTW, I'm not a religion business preacher, so I don't expect anyone to blindly believe any of the above, please look it all up for yourselves...

The scary thing is the truth lies within the posts by Art and BuzzLOL. Even Reform Jews to Conservative Jews do not hew to or embrace the level of justified 'war God' slaughter of 'other' or enemies = evol. By trying to place themselves as 'true' Jews. They then effective gain the self approve to do the unmitigated slaughter of the other as enemies of god, their god.

Don't many hate speech bigot/paranoiac victim groups try to elevate themselves to near status of 'beloved/blessed people' (self proclaimed by Jews and no one else but the whole world and history believe them) status by making themselves lost Jewish tribes etc. When Jesus himself abolished the need to follow Jewish law by his followers and only follow him, I find supposed neo-Christians actually abominations to the teaching of Jesus, who was not Christian nor a follower of the Christos/Greek or Persian/Mithra cult that is the eagis and background to much of the later jewish and Roman Christian cosmology of apocalyptic pronouncements and hysteria every century. Even Islam absorbed it with the Shiites looking for a return of a prophet imam descendant of Mohamed.
As a firm atheist, I find them all unhinged and based on illogic.

Self-identification with Hebrew history by Christian groups has a very long history. Think of all those spirituals about Pharaoh and the Slaves, think of the Mormons or the British Israelites.

The old Jews, brutal as they were, were taking their cues from the major power players of the day. Babylonians, Hittites, Assyrians, etc, etc, all used the same basic formula to handle conquered people. Men were typically killed during conquest. All the men understood the consequences of losing a war so they tended to fight to the death or run far, far away.

A conquering state picked up a population of slaves to strengthen their nation through their labor. And/or a population that was systematically eliminated. Boys old enough to pick up a weapon were killed to eliminate resistance. Political and religious leaders were killed to keep the captured population from organizing. Infants and young children were killed because they couldn't produce enough work to justify the food it would take to keep them alive. Killing the nursing children freed up mothers for wet nurse duties or allowed them to rapidly return to fertility so they could spend their days having sons for their new owners. Having their conqueror's sons to replace those lost in battle.

Women of the day were pretty much property no matter which tribe or nation they were in. Being healthy, breeding age, and pretty increased the chances of your survival but didn't mean you lived well. Cattle were graded, and valued for their work and commodity price, much the same way.

It is a cruel calculus. Alien to modern sensibilities. But it was the way things were done, and had been done for centuries either side of the BCE/CE line. This practice was so common, widespread, and went on for so long that our more modern concepts of valuing human life as something other than labor or breeding stock is a relatively recent development. Something of a novelty and grand experiment undertaken just a few hundred years ago.

For most of human history armies swept in, plundered what they could, destroyed everything they didn't want. This included the people. They took the land as their own and accepted that it could be done to them at any time by anyone with the power and wealth to make it happen. The Old Testament Jews were just playing the game by the rules of the time. No more or less humane than any other power in that place and time. When they were conquered they faced the same fate they had inflicted upon the Canaanites.

Ironically, the Romans, in that they sometimes chose to leave the populations and cultural/religious structures in place, instead of wiping the land clean with wholesale slaughter and slavery, were often considered the nice guys. Yes, they mostly killed all the fighting age men, major political and religious leaders, and usually put a few cities to the sword to let the population know who was in charge. But once they had control they didn't depopulate the conquered nation by killing or marching everyone off in chains. This allowed them to much more rapidly rebuild and exploit the local economy but imposed the burdens of occupation and empire.

This they handled by a taking hostages, exercising the right to kill anyone who caught their eye, shipping the local leaders kids to Rome for indoctrination, intermarrying the local women, and recruiting the up and coming young men into the Roman army to pacify and occupy some other nation far away. Foreign recruits were seldom allowed to work near home.

People too quickly forget that occupation and empire were the humane alternative to killing or enslaving the entire native population. Or that if you make occupation and empire impractical by guerrilla warfare and insurgency things might slide back to the bloody old ways where they wipe the land clean. We saw this in recent wars where it was called 'ethnic cleansing'.

I find it interesting that the question of human rights/dignity/value, and what to do with the people of a conquered nation haven't changed much in a few thousand years.

More on-point highlighting the Jews for brutal methods of pacifying the conquered population, largely because they are one of the few people who wrote about it and preserved those writings, while passively assuming that others handled it differently, is simply wrong. Wrong historically and wrong morally. Placed in context their behavior was no better or worse than others at the time. That they were, in turn, conquered in similar fashion, and that we still struggle with the issue, proves my point.

I think calling the nine year old "innocent" and not the other victims just reflects the common evangelical view of an "age of accountability". The nine year old was innocent because she was young and not of the age to be accountable for her wrongdoing. An adult could not claim to be innocent.

Not at all a fan of Palin, but feel the Right is becoming the object of bigotry, being insinuated into a horrible situation for which there is no connection, much to the disappointment of the accusers.


By Justsayin (not verified) on 14 Jan 2011 #permalink

I read the account of Judith in the Apocrypha, but I don't recall her having sexual intercourse with anyone other than her husband. She might have seduced someone else, but I think she killed him before any sexual intercourse could took place.

By Gavin Young (not verified) on 14 Jan 2011 #permalink

watching the Right deflect and detour any blame away from their behavior and the excuses involved is pure propaganda work. on an awesome scale. the Right is involved in their usual behavior of granting absolution of those "errors" done in the name of the Right.

the Right is holy and exempt from all blame.

the whole substructure involved in the parsing of the Palin reply shows how carefully crafted and insinuated are the words.

these are some smart crafty, up to no good subverters of common decency. this splitting the shooting into "good and bad" victims shows how preplanned and intentional their otherwise speech is.

like they say, an ill wind that blows no good. awesome to watch how good and well they do what they do. furthering the "us vs them" mantra to allow the belittling of the "other."

What? She used a term familiar to those who have studied Jewish and European history? A term used in Monday's Wall Street Jouranl in the same context? How dare she!

See also a scienceblogs blog: Paladino's Blood Libel on Gays.

By William Wallace (not verified) on 16 Jan 2011 #permalink

What? She used a term familiar to those who have studied Jewish and European history? A term used in Monday's Wall Street Jouranl in the same context?

A term used in Monday's Wall Street Journal by a conservative pundit defending Palin, you mean? Well, that certainly makes her look better.

See also a scienceblogs blog: Paladino's Blood Libel on Gays.

Yeah, Andrew Sullivan used the term "blood libel" to describe someone condemning a marginalized group as socially corrosive and literal child predators. That's totally the same thing as Palin's using the term to describe people criticizing her rhetoric and imagery. In the context of a Jewish politician's attempted murder. Totally the same thing.

By Anton Mates (not verified) on 18 Jan 2011 #permalink