Rabbi Boteach Defends Palin's Use of 'Blood Libel'

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Sarah Palin was right to use the term "blood libel" in defending herself from accusations that her heated political rhetoric had something to do with the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach argues in The Wall Street Journal, because the term refers to Jews being falsely accused of murder--the important part is the innocence, not the Jewishness. Boteach is continuing a debate that has raged since Palin's video discussing the violence in Tuscon was posted early Wednesday morning. In defending Palin Boteach joins Jewish academic and Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, who spoke out earlier this week. It seems that nearly every public Palin statement generates controversy of some sort, but this is the first time the culture warrior has gotten caught up in a hot-button issue from the Dark Ages.

Boteach writes:

Murder is humanity's most severe sin, and it is trivialized when an innocent party is accused of the crime—especially when that party is a collective too numerous to be defended individually. If Jews have learned anything in their long history, it is that a false indictment of murder against any group threatens every group.

But not everyone agrees with Boteach, who happens to find himself in the limelight quite often.

  • 'Boteach Got It Right' Israel Matzav writes. "We Jews don't have a monopoly on being smeared with blood libels. But many of us can empathize with what Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and other conservatives have gone through this past week."
  • He's Spot On, Sheya agrees. Blood libel "is an expression used for when someone is innocently accused of participating in a murder or being an accessory of. Jews don’t own the exclusive rights of this term. Jews would gladly get rid of it, anyone who wants it can have it. In fact we’ll even throw in the Holocaust for good measure."
  • About Time, Politico's Ben Smith writes. "It's not a celebrity controversy until Rabbi Shmuley Boteach has injected himself."
  • Boteach Is Starstruck, Steve M. argues at No More Mister Nice Blog. Steve notes that Boteach's bio under his op-ed does not mention a few of his books, like Kosher Sex, Dating Secrets of the Ten Commandments, and The Michael Jackson Tapes: A Tragic Icon Reveals His Soul in Intimate Conversation. "Boteach and Jackson formed a short-lived charitable organization called Heal the Kids, and gradually they drifted apart, but Boteach never stopped defending him against charges of anti-Semitism. ... So he's skilled at defending famous people against charges of anti-Semitism. The Palin op-ed is a natural fit for him. ... And when Boteach isn't downplaying famous people's anti-Semitic remarks he's sending out press releases begging the media to interview him about Lindsay Lohan. The guy really likes the limelight."
  • Palin Is Just Edgy, Paul Mirengoff insists at Power Line. "Palin may be the first prominent politician to have charged others with a 'blood libel' in the broad, modern sense of the term. This shows her, once again, to be 'edgy.' But being edgy doesn't necessarily mean acting improperly. Once a certain usage gains acceptance in mainstream political discourse... I see no obligation on the part of politicians to steer clear of that usage."
  • A Red Herring, The National Review's Jonah Goldberg says. "I’ve decided to ratchet down my already very modest objection to the term. While I still think it would have been better had she not used the phrase, so much of the criticism of it is in bad faith. Her intent was honorable and her point was right. ... She wasn’t even talking about 'the blood libel' but warning against the creation of 'a blood libel,' which is exactly what Krugman, Olberman & Co. were doing."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.