None of the outrageous comments coming out of the mouth of Sarah Palin has been more disturbing than her use of the term "blood libel" to describe media criticisms of her in relation to the tragedy in Tucson.
I doubt that Palin has any understanding of the significance of the phrase, what it refers to, or why it is laden with emotional content, especially for Jews. Undoubtedly, it is the product of the frenzied imagination of someone on her staff.
Nevertheless, it represents a new low in American political rhetoric. It has subliminal power which Palin is now mobilizing to counter the well-founded, nearly universal media critique of how she has conducted herself, particularly in the run-up to the recent election and her very deliberate targeting of Congressional districts like that of Gabrielle Giffords, who just happens to be Jewish.
There is absolutely no justification for this. The press and the media should be uncompromising in condeming this for what it is—in the name of free speech and free expression, nothing less than a blatant attempt to stir up a witches’ brew of hate, bigotry, and mindless passion at a time when there is a need for balance, reason, and self-reflection.
An abbreviated version of this essay was published in the New York Times on Jan. 13, 2011.