Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has drawn condemnation over her response to the shooting of a lawmaker last weekend in Arizona. Rebutting charges that conservatives are fomenting violence with supercharged political rhetoric, Palin referred to a religious myth that conjures up centuries of anti-Semitic hatred.
Americans have been in shock since a 22-year-old gunmen opened fire on Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords at a political meeting in Tucson, Arizona, and killed six other people including a 9-year-old girl.
Giffords continued to fight for her life in hospital as a new controversy emerged over what some people said may have contributed to the shootings. Concerns were raised about what many have called heated and divisive political rhetoric in America. Among the many complaints about what is seen as vitriolic discourse was a website connected to Sarah Palin that put crosshairs on Democratic districts including Giffords' own in Arizona.
Palin, a vice presidential candidate in the 2008 elections, had been largely silent in the days after the tragedy. But last Wednesday she addressed the shooting in an online video in which she expressed sympathy for the loss of life and talked about what she termed the vibrant political debate in the country. She also targeted what she termed the irresponsible statements from people trying to apportion blame for the shooting.
"Journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence that they purport to condemn," said Palin.
Blood libel refers to a false accusation or claim that religious minorities, usually Jews, murder children to use their blood in religious rituals. It stems from medieval times and these claims have historically been a major theme in European persecution of Jews.
Palin was not the first person to use the term, but some of her critics have accused her of using an expression that is particularly painful to the Jewish community to score political points at a time of a national tragedy. Some of Palin’s defenders say the term can be used whenever referring to a group that is accused of murder or contributing to murder.