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Palin drawing new criticism for use of 'blood libel'

Sarah Palin is drawing condemnation from some Jewish leaders for her use of the phrase "blood libel" to describe criticism leveled against her following the Arizona shooting attack on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

The former Alaska governor and Republican vice presidential nominee used the phrase Wednesday morning in her most expansive comments yet on the attack that left six dead and 14 more, including Giffords, wounded.

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In the aftermath of the shootings, Palin's opponents revived criticism of the violent imagery she used during the 2010 congressional campaign, when she urged supporters, "Don't Retreat, Instead – RELOAD!" and posted a map of the United States with crosshairs over Democratic congressional districts, including Giffords'.

In a video released Wednesday, Palin deplored "the irresponsible statements from people attempting to apportion blame for this terrible event."

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"Journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence that they purport to condemn," she said.

"Blood libel" most commonly refers to the claim, dating to Medieval Europe, that Jews used the blood of Christians in their rituals.

"Unless someone has been accusing Ms. Palin of killing Christian babies and making matzoh from their blood, her use of the term is totally out-of-line," said Simon Greer, president of Jewish Funds for Justice.

"The term 'blood libel' is not a synonym for 'false accusation,' " Greer said. "It refers to a specific falsehood perpetuated by Christians about Jews for centuries, a falsehood that motivated a good deal of anti-Jewish violence and discrimination ...

"The fact that Rep. Giffords is Jewish and Ms. Palin is Christian makes the accusation even more grotesque."From Abraham Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League:

"It was inappropriate at the outset to blame Sarah Palin and others for causing this tragedy or for being an accessory to murder. Palin has every right to defend herself against these kinds of attacks, and we agree with her that the best tradition in America is one of finding common ground despite our differences.

"Still, we wish that Palin had not invoked the phrase 'blood-libel' in reference to the actions of journalists and pundits in placing blame for the shooting in Tucson on others. While the term 'blood-libel' has become part of the English parlance to refer to someone being falsely accused, we wish that Palin had used another phrase, instead of one so fraught with pain in Jewish history."

And from David A. Harris, president and CEO of the Naitonal Jewish Democratic Council:

"Instead of dialing down the rhetoric at this difficult moment, Sarah Palin chose to accuse others trying to sort out the meaning of this tragedy of somehow engaging in a 'blood libel' against her and others. This is of course a particularly heinous term for American Jews, given that the repeated fiction of blood libels are directly responsible for the murder of so many Jews across centuries — and given that blood libels are so directly intertwined with deeply ingrained anti-Semitism around the globe, even today.

"Perhaps Sarah Palin honestly does not know what a blood libel is, or does not know of their horrific history; that is perhaps the most charitable explanation we can arrive at in explaining her rhetoric today."

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