Friday, January 21, 2011

A Memo to Sarah Palin

Oped News
To: Gov. Sarah Palin
From: Rabbi Kurt F. Stone
Re : You, Menachem Mendel Beilis, and Your Political Future

Like many, I am both troubled and mystified by your recent YouTube video. That you chose to release the video on the very day that the eyes and hearts of the nation were directed towards Tucson where President Obama was speaking at the University of Arizona memorial service is, perhaps, forgivable. After all, striking while the iron is hot is one of the top-five rules in bare knuckles politics. However, turning yourself into a victim at a time when a nation mourns the dead and prays for the wounded is, decidedly, not forgivable. It betrays both a stunning lack of sensitivity and a wide swath of self-centeredness.

Governor, you were neither killed nor wounded, let alone targeted by a madman. You are, thank God, healthy, wealthy and in one piece. Again, you were not a victim. Oh sure, there has been a lot of idle chatter about you and the "role" you supposedly played in this horrific tragedy. But as you or one of your followers might say, "I reject their charges, but support their right to speak freely."

While I do not agree with those who say you are to blame for the carnage, I am nonetheless dumbfounded by your response to that horror; specifically, your narcissitic "woe is poor pitiful me" approach, and your tone deaf use of the term "blood libel." You should know that as a Jew, as an educated man who knows a thing or two about his people's history, these two words -- "blood libel" -- send a 50 terawatt chill up my spine. I'm going to give you, your handlers and your speech writer(s) the benefit of the doubt and conclude that you do not understand what kind of memories, images or fears the words "blood libel" conjure up for Jews and other people with a sensitivity and knowledge of human history. You see, if not for this "benefit of the doubt," I would be left with no choice but to conclude that you are a bigot sending a out a "dog whistle message" to your supporters. Stated this way, it's not really a great choice; you and your people are either ignorant or bigoted. If it's the former, then perhaps you can be educated; if it be the latter, then you must be condemned.

Then again, perhaps you are neither ignorant nor a bigot; perhaps you are a craven political opportunist with an absolute tin ear -- which would be worst of all. Again, giving you the benefit of the doubt, I will conclude that you know as much -- or as little -- about Western (let alone Jewish) history as you do about international relations, diplomacy, economics, or the Federalist Papers. To your ardent followers, this lack of knowledge is a badge of distinction; sure-fire proof that far from being some sort of elitist snob, you are a "one of the guys." Sorry governor, but I want my leaders to be one heck of a lot smarter than I . . .

At a time when we are attempting to be more civil in our public discourse, giving you the benefit of the doubt is both fitting and proper. Let me clue you in on the meaning and history of "blood libel," thereby giving you an understanding of why your use of those two polarizing words has likely put an end to your presidential aspirations.

In brief, "blood libel" refers to the preposterous claim or accusation that Jews murder Christian children and then use their blood in the preparation of the Passover matzah. And you should know, Governor, that whenever and wherever this moronic cannard has reared it ugly head, death, destruction and dismemberment of

Jews and Jewish communities have generally followed. This lunacy -- the "blood libel" -- has been around for hundreds and hundreds of years. It is likely that the "blood libel" originated in the 12th century -- the time of the First Crusade -- when Christians discovered that Jews, rather than be subjected to forced conversion, committed suicide and killed their own children. (This is a religiously-sanctioned ritual known as kidush ha- Shem -- the "Sanctification of the name of God.") Apparently, these early Christians added two-plus-two and came up with nine; namely, that if Jews could kill their own children, they could also kill Christian children.

(You should know, governor, that Jewish dietary law -- kashrut -- strictly prohibits the use of blood (human or otherwise) in cooking. Blood from slaughtered animals may not be consumed, and must be drained out of the animal and covered with earth. Consequently, the idea that Jews would use the blood of a Christian child in the making of matza is not only absurd; it goes against holy law.)

Over the course of more than 900 years, governor, there have been innumerable "blood libels." Generally speaking, they have occurred either during times of incredible stress and panic, or as a result of an unsolved murder. Such libels have destroyed entire Jewish communities in such varied places as:

•York, England (1090);
•Blois, France (1171);
•Trento, Italy (1475);
•Damacus, Syria (1840);
•Kishniev, Bessarabia (1903);
•Shiraz, Iran (1910);
•Massena, New York (1928) and
•Kiev, Ukraine (1913).

This latter case, Governor Palin, involves the infamous trial of a Jew named Menachem Mendel Beilis, who was accused of murdering a Christian child and using his blood to make matza. And although Beilis was eventually acquitted by an all-Christian jury, it took a terrible toll on the Jews of that city. It also gave rise to a famous novel by Bernard Malamud -- The Fixer -- which I would urge you to read. In fact Governor, I think you would benefit from reading a book by Professor Alan Dundes entitled The Blood Libel Legend: A Casebook in Anti-Semitic Folklore (Univ. of Wisc. Press, 1991).

And lest you think this insanity faded away after the Holocaust, there was a notorious "blood libel" in Krasnoyarsk Russia in 2005, and in 2007, the leader of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel accused Jews of using children's blood to bake bread.

Are you beginning to get a glimmer of understanding governor? Can you see why rational, moral people would question the intelligence -- if not the motives or beliefs -- of anyone using the words "blood libel?" And especially someone who is giving serious thought to running for President of the United States of America?

My suggestion to you, Governor Palin, in all sincerity, is that you take your newly-made millions and fade from the public scene. Stay in Alaska; buy property in Carmel; get a winter retreat in Palm Beach, -- I don't care. Just leave politics and leadership to those who understand that its their job to unify, not to polarize; to those who who are genuinely sensitive, and not so damnably umbrageous; to those who have a more fully-developed understanding and knowledge of the world, its people and its history. If you will do this -- fade away -- you will have performed an utterly invaluable service for both the people of America and indeed, the entire planet.

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