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entries tagged with: Gabrielle Giffords


Health-care vote could mean tough campaign for some Dems

WASHINGTON – A window was shattered by a pellet gun in an apparent vandalism attack at her Tucson district office. Sarah Palin has put her on the list of Democratic lawmakers she is targeting this fall. Arizona Tea Party activists are pledging to help defeat her bid for re-election.

All this because Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) voted for health-care reform.

Giffords is one of a few Jewish Democrats political observers say could have a difficult re-election campaign because of her vote for the controversial Democratic-backed health-care bill.

A glass door at the Tucson office of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shattered in an apparent vandalism attack just hours after Giffords voted for the health-care reform bill in Congress. Gary Jones

The bill passed March 21 would provide access to insurance for more than 30 million uninsured Americans, provide subsidies for those who cannot afford it, eliminate the ability of insurance companies to deny coverage to those with pre-existing conditions, and require all Americans to buy insurance or pay a tax. Republicans have attacked the bill as too costly and portray it as government takeover of the health-care industry.

While support for the health-care bill represents a potential political liability if disaffection with the president runs high on Election Day, November is still far enough away that it’s not clear how much influence it will have.

The general mood of the country, which probably will depend on the state of the economy, will likely be the determining factor, said Stuart Rothenberg, editor of the Rothenberg Political Report. If the mood is sour, he said, voters “are going to evaluate health care in that light.”

Two-term congresswoman Giffords is in a more vulnerable spot than most. She hasn’t been in office long, and her district is not solidly Democratic. John McCain won it in the 2008 presidential election, with 52 percent of the district vote.

Helping those who cannot afford health insurance, rather than focusing on re-election, was Gifford’s paramount concern in deciding which way to vote, her spokesman said.

“The congresswoman is convinced it was the right thing to do, and good for the country,” said her communications director, C.J. Karamargin.

Alan Grayson (D-Fla.), who has been particularly outspoken on health-care issues, is another potentially vulnerable Jewish Democrat. Grayson has called the U.S. health-care system a “holocaust” — making him a darling of the left but a target of the right.

Grayson unseated a four-term Republican in 2008 to win the 8th congressional district in Florida, which includes part of Orlando. While President Obama carried the district in 2008, George W. Bush carried it in the prior two presidential races.

National Jewish Democratic Council CEO Ira Forman acknowledged that votes in favor of health-care reform could be problematic for Jewish Democrats like Giffords and Grayson, but he is “doubtful it will be the determinative vote” for an incumbent’s prospects of survival this fall.

Victory on a historic reform of health care “is much better for Democrats in general” than a defeat, Forman said. However, the larger issues of the economy and the unemployment rate are likely to be greater factors for vulnerable Democrats come election time, he said.

The only Jewish Democrat to vote against the health-care bill was New Jersey first-termer John Adler, who also is likely to face a tough battle in November. Hailing from a district in the Philadelphia suburbs, Adler will be facing off against former Philadelphia Eagles lineman John Runyan.

Adler said he did not back the legislation because it didn’t do enough to control costs and make health care affordable for his constituents. He also reportedly had encountered strong opposition to the bill at meetings throughout his district.

Obama carried Adler’s district by five points in 2008, but Bush eked out a slight win in 2004. Before Adler, the district’s congressional seat was held by a Republican for 16 years.

Adler’s vote will make it easier for him to argue that he is “not a rubber stamp” for the president.

The executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, Matt Brooks, agreed that the health-care bill is likely to be a big issue in the 2010 election. The RJC has called for repealing the bill.

More upsetting than the bill itself, Brooks said, is that, “with an exploding debt and deficit, the president is focusing not on jobs but on health care.”

Meanwhile, at least one Jewish Republican challenger is hoping that his opposition to the health-care reform legislation will help him knock off a Democratic incumbent. Randy Altschuler, a contender for the GOP nomination in New York’s 1st congressional district, which includes much of Suffolk County on Long Island, said he backs repealing the health-care legislation and replacing it with a different type of reform because the “spending, tax increases, and heavy government intervention” outweigh its “marginal benefits.”

Altschuler first must win a tough primary race against Chris Cox, Richard Nixon’s grandson, before being able to square off against incumbent Democrat Tim Bishop.

“That’s a race where these kinds of issues are going to resonate,” Brooks said of the brouhaha over health care.



Bullets kill people


Area leaders join mourning for Tucson victims

Tucson Jewish community anguished over shootings

Following the shooting Saturday that critically injured Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and left six dead, the Tucson Jewish community has come together to pray for Giffords and the other victims and offer their support.

Giffords, who is Jewish, was among 14 wounded in the shooting rampage in front of a Tucson supermarket Saturday morning. Jared Lee Loughner was arrested for perpetrating the shooting and appeared in a Phoenix courtroom Monday.

Among those killed were U.S. District Judge John M. Roll, 63; Christina-Taylor Green, 9; Giffords’ constituent services director Gabriel Zimmerman, 30; and Phyllis Schenk, 79; Dorothy Morris, 76; and Dorwan Stoddard, 76. Zimmerman, a native Tucsonan, was widely reported as being Jewish, although he was not.

“It’s shocking something like this would happen in our town,” Rodney Glassman, a former U.S. Democratic Senate candidate, said. “Gabby and I shared a really strong enjoyment of being out with constituents. This hits really close to home.”

At candlelight vigils outside of Giffords’ congressional office, at the hospital in which she is being treated, and at local synagogues and other houses of worship, the community expressed agony over Saturday’s violence.

Cong. Chaverim, where Giffords is a member, held a healing service Sunday morning with more than 150 people attending. Some six Tucson Police Department cars were on the scene, with officers providing security. Chaverim’s Rabbi Stephanie Aaron officiated at the congresswoman’s marriage to Cmdr. Mark Kelly in 2007.

“Envision Gabby in her fullness with her radiant smile,” Aaron told those at the service on Sunday.

Cantorial soloist Lori Sumberg led the congregation in a song of healing, saying, “When we have no more words we let music take us to a different place.”

Congregants also stood and recited the names of shooting victims or family members in a prayer for healing.

As part of the service, Melanie Nelson of the Pima County Interfaith Council spoke, noting Giffords’ support of the organization. “We must heal the divisiveness in this country,” she said. “Gabby’s always been a fighter and it’s up to us to continue fighting for a different level of conversation.”

“As Gabby always has, may we listen,” Aaron said at the end of the one-hour service. “May we see each one as a shining human being who has a purpose in the universe. May these prayers reach our Tucson, our country, our world. It’s time to see what we hold together and find our common ground.”

On Saturday evening, Temple Emanu-El held a prayer service led by Rabbis Jason Holtz and Richard Safran and cantorial soloist Marjorie Hochberg. More than 100 people attended.

“We are taught in Jewish tradition that each human being is created b’tzelem Elohim, in the image of God,” said a statement by senior Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon, which was read to the congregation because the rabbi was out of town. “Today those images were shattered,” Cohon wrote. “It is up to us to pick up the pieces, and to make of those broken lives some holiness in our damaged community.”

On Sunday morning, after Chaverim’s healing service, the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona’s Women’s Philanthropy “13 Extraordinary Women Tell Their Secrets” event took place at the University Marriot.

Introducing the event, Jeff Katz, chairman of the JFSA, said, “We come together to grieve, to connect, and to share the values that bind us together.” Noting that the long-scheduled event was planned as a lighthearted morning, he said, “While it may seem hollow to laugh and celebrate,” celebrating the strength of our community would help move participants forward and heal.

He added that during Giffords’ first campaign for the U.S. House of Representatives in 2004, she said, “If you want something done, your best bet is to ask a Jewish woman to do it,” and so it was appropriate to celebrate the 13 women “doers” honored at the brunch.

Rabbi Thomas Louchheim of Cong. Or Chadash gave an opening prayer, also referring to Saturday’s shooting. Aaron offered a healing prayer at the close of the event.

The federation issued a statement Monday “joining the greater Tucson area in mourning the loss of life and praying for the speedy recovery of those wounded in the senseless acts of violence.” The statement noted that Jewish Family & Children’s Services of Southern Arizona could provide counseling for individuals and families struggling with the aftermath of Saturday’s rampage.

“Just as Gabby and her congressional staff worked tirelessly to improve the quality of life, this tragic event reawakens our spirit to work harder and embrace our mission to improve the quality of life here, in Israel, and around the world,” said Stuart Mellan, JFSA president and CEO. “Specifically through our Jewish Community Relations Council and other program arms of the federation, we intend to redouble our efforts to encourage civil discourse in our community leaders and all those active in community life.”

On a personal note, Mellan told the Arizona Jewish Post that his wife, “Nancy, worked for Gabby, adored her and her staff, including Gabe Zimmerman, who was a truly wonderful young man. Nancy told me at that time of the belligerent behavior that emerged during the Tea Party protests outside Gabby’s office, and how that spilled into intimidating behaviors toward the staff regardless of how diligently they attempted to make constituents feel heard. This makes me even more certain that those who think that there is no connection between the vitriol and this act should reconsider.”

The shock of Giffords’ being targeted brought forth remembrances of her first campaign in 2004. Heather Alberts said she hadn’t known Giffords but agreed to hold a Meet and Greet on her patio that spring.

“After hearing her magnificent passion, engaging with her warmth, and recognizing her intellect, I just fell in love with her,” Alberts said.

Arizona Jewish Post

Arizona Jewish Post Executive Editor Phyllis Braun contributed to this report.


Area leaders join mourning for Tucson victims

Giffords known for her openness and Judaism

The event was typical Gabrielle Giffords: no barriers, all comers — Democrats, Republicans, and independents welcome to talk about what was on their minds and in their hearts.

While she was deep in a conversation with an older couple about health care — the issue for which she was willing to risk her career — a gunman strode up to the Arizona congresswoman and shot her pointblank in the head.

The critical wounding Jan. 8 of Giffords and the slaughter of six people standing near her — including a federal judge, her chief of community outreach, and a 9-year-old girl interested in politics — brought to a screeching halt the easy, open ambience that typified Giffords’ politics, friends and associates said.

“She’s a warm person,” Stuart Mellan, the president of the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona, said as he walked away from a prayer service Saturday night at Temple Emanuel in Tucson, one of the southeastern Arizona cities that Giffords represents in Congress. “Everyone called her Gabby, and she would give a hug and remember your name.”

Giffords was the president of the tire company founded by her grandfather when she was propelled into state politics, in part because of her concerns about the availability of health care. She switched her registration from Republican to Democrat and in 2001, at 30, she was elected to the Arizona Legislature.

Astronaut Mark Kelly, the husband of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, holds his critically wounded wife's hand at the University Medical Center in Tucson the day after she was shot in a shopping mall in that Arizona city, Jan. 9, 2011. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords

She gained prominence quickly in that body, and in 2006, at 36, she became the first Jewish woman elected to Congress from her state.

At the same time, her Judaism was becoming more central to her identity. The turning point came in 2001 following a tour of Israel with the American Jewish Committee, she told The Arizona Star in 2007.

“It just cemented the fact that I wanted to spend more time with my own personal, spiritual growth. I felt very committed to Judaism,” she said. “Religion means different things to different people. It provides me with grounding, a better understanding of who I came from.”

Her wedding to Cmdr. Mark Kelly, an astronaut, was written up in The New York Times. The item noted that a mariachi band played Jewish music and there were two canopies — a chuppah and one of swords held up by Kelly’s Navy buddies.

“That was Gabby,” Jonathan Rothschild, a longtime friend who served on her campaign’s executive committee, recalled to JTA. “The real irony of this thing is her Judaism is central to her, but she is the kind of person who reaches out to everybody.”

Giffords’ father is Jewish and her mother is a Christian Scientist, and she was raised in both faiths. Her grandfather, Akiba Hornstein, changed his name to Giffords after moving from New York to Arizona, in part because he did not want his Jewishness to be an issue in unfamiliar territory.

The women on her father’s side of the family seemed to guide her toward identifying with Judaism.

“In my family, if you want to get something done you take it to the Jewish women relatives,” she told JTA in 2006. “Jewish women, by and large, know how to get things done.”

Giffords, who last week took the oath of office for her third term in Congress, has pushed Jewish and pro-Israel issues to the forefront at the state and federal levels. She initiated an Arizona law facilitating Holocaust-era insurance claims for survivors, and in Congress she led an effort to keep Iran from obtaining parts for combat aircraft.

She didn’t stint in seeking Jewish and pro-Israel funding. Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.), the premier pro-Israel lawmaker in Congress, fund-raised for her, as did Steve Rabinowitz, the Washington public relations maven whose shop represents a slate of Jewish groups.

“She was so heimishe, so down to earth,” Rabinowitz, himself from Tucson, recalled of his fund-raiser last spring.

Almost as soon as she was elected to the state Legislature, Giffords was enmeshed in Arizona’s signature issue — rights for undocumented immigrants — according to Josh Protas, who directed the Tucson-area Jewish Community Relations Council for years before moving to Washington in 2009 to direct the D.C. office of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs.

Protas recalled meeting with Giffords as part of the area faith coalition promoting immigrant rights.

“We met with her around immigration issues and she was sensitive to the faith community’s concerns,” he said.

Her approach to the issue was typical for the moderate Democrat, Protas said: She attempted to synthesize what she regarded as the valid viewpoints of both sides on the divisive issue.

“Understanding the complexities of the immigration situation was something important to her,” he said. It came from “a sense of the Jewish value around how we treat the stranger, a history of the Jewish community — but she had recognition of the strong need for security.”

It was a posture that led Giffords to hit both the state and federal governments last year: She blasted the Obama administration for not doing enough to secure the border, but also slammed as repressive a new Arizona law that allowed police to arrest undocumented immigrants during routine stops.

“She was very moderate in her views and willing to meet with folks on all sides,” Protas said. “She took a lot of heat particularly the last couple of years from both the far right and the far left.”

In the end, her greatest vulnerability might have been her openness.

The day Jim Kolbe said he was not seeking re-election to Congress, Giffords told Rothschild that she would run for the seat. Rothschild had one bit of advice for her: Come back every weekend to meet constituents. Not hanging out with the locals had led to the defeat of Kolbe’s Democratic predecessor.

He didn’t need to convince her; she was back virtually every weekend.

And her open, engaging approach appeared to pay off.

Despite representing a swing district, she survived the Republican wave in November. And just three days before the shooting she was back in Washington — with one hand up and one hand on the Jewish Scriptures, grinning at her swearing-in at the Capitol.

On Saturday she was back in Tucson, at a parking lot, smiling at all comers.

JTA Wire Service


Area leaders join mourning for Tucson victims

Shooting prompts local calls to tone down the political retoric

NORPAC delegates met with Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords last spring during the group’s annual mission to Washington. From left are Shayna Schwarzberg, Giffords, Milton Erdfarb, Nathan Orgel, and Dr. Stanley Zimmerman. Liz Berry

North Jersey political insiders joined people across the nation this week in lamenting Saturday’s deadly shooting in Arizona that left Rep. Gabrielle Giffords fighting for her life. Some have added their voices to a widespread plea for a calming of political rhetoric that many have blamed for inflaming the alleged shooter.

“I believe that this tragedy may well cause people in Washington and in the media to take as great care with their choice of language as possible,” Rep. Steve Rothman (D-9) told The Jewish Standard Monday, “without compromising anyone’s right to vigorously dissent or strongly argue against any policy.”

Many, particularly in the media, have put the spotlight on former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and her Tea Party faction for heated political rhetoric that some theorize may have influenced the alleged shooter, Jared Loughner. During last year’s election campaign, Palin created a graphic of targets over districts the Tea Party would try to win, one of which was Giffords’. While many liberal pundits and bloggers have blamed Palin for influencing Loughner, Rothman urged patience while investigations into Loughner’s motives continue.

“Until all evidence comes in,” Rothman said, “it would be premature to come to any conclusions now other than this evil and deranged individual acted simply out of his own madness and personal demons.”

Still, Rothman said, last weekend’s events may cause people in Washington and the media to take greater care with their choice of language, although a balance must be struck to protect freedom of speech.

“We live in the greatest democracy in the history of the world,” he said, “and we cherish our freedom of speech and opportunity to criticize the government and our politicians, as well as debate our friends and family about all the issues of the day. We do so quite often and quite loudly and with great passion, but there is never an excuse for violence.”

Rothman in December ended his service on the House Science and Technology committee, where he had served on Giffords’ subcommittee on space and aeronautics. Rothman and Giffords spoke often about their shared Jewish heritage, their families, and Gifford’s West Orange-bred husband, astronaut Mark Kelly.

Giffords is “a fierce fighter,” Rothman said, for her constituents and for her principles. “Members of both sides of the aisle have great affection for her simply because of the kind of wonderful person she is,” he said.

Others outside of the Beltway took more critical stands against political mudslinging.

The rhetoric has “got to be toned down,” said Milton Edfarb, a resident of Highland Park and member of the Englewood-based pro-Israel political action committee NORPAC. Edfarb was one of several NORPAC members who met with Giffords during the group’s annual mission to Washington last spring.

“There seems to be too much vitriol being added to discussions,” he said. “We have to practice openness to people’s ideas and agree to disagree and do it in a polite manner.”

Divisive rhetoric is a problem in politics, said Harry Feder, another NORPAC member who spoke with Giffords several times during her recent campaign for re-election.

“When you get to Congress, people should be working together,” said the Riverdale, N.Y., resident.

Giffords was an “up and coming” member of Congress, said Feder, who called the shooting a tragedy for the Jewish community and for Tuscon.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) also lashed out against provocative language.

“America must not tolerate violence or inflammatory rhetoric that incites political violence,” Lautenberg said in a statement sent to the Standard.

The senator also announced Monday plans to introduce legislation with Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.) to end the manufacture and sale of high-capacity ammunition feeding devices, such as the high-capacity 33-round magazine clip Loughner allegedly used in his Glock 19 pistol. The high-capacity magazine allowed him to fire 33 bullets without reloading.

“The only reason to have 33 bullets loaded in a handgun is to kill a lot of people very quickly. These high-capacity clips simply should not be on the market,” Lautenberg said in his statement. “Before 2004, these ammunition clips were banned, and they must be banned again. When the Senate returns to Washington, I will introduce legislation to prohibit this type of high-capacity clip.”

From 1994 to 2004, high-capacity ammunition magazines were illegal under the Federal Assault Weapons Ban. When the ban expired in 2004, Republican leaders in Congress pledged not to renew it, and high-capacity clips have been legal to manufacture and sell since then.

Rep. Scott Garrett (R-5) also lamented last weekend’s events.

“I was deeply saddened to hear of the tragic shooting in Arizona,” he said in a statement to the Standard. “I strongly condemn this deplorable act of violence. It has no place in our public discourse and it has no place in our society. My heartfelt thoughts and prayers go out to Rep. Giffords, her family, her staff, and all the other victims and their families….”

Loughner headed to court earlier this week and while the investigation into his background continues, some were hopeful that out of tragedy can come something positive.

“I hope,” Edfarb said, “it gives people a chance to step back and say, ‘Maybe I shouldn’t say this.’”

Josh Lipowsky can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


Debate rages on over Palin’s ‘blood libel’ claim

Ron KampeasWorld
Published: 21 January 2011
Sarah Palin’s video message after the Tucson shooting, released Jan. 12, 2011, included a reference to herself as a victim of a blood libel.

The post-shooting debate over political civility is cooling down, but passions are still raging over Sarah Palin’s claim that critics were guilty of perpetrating a “blood libel” against her.

Palin’s initial use of the term, in a Jan. 12 video message, drew sharp rebukes from liberal Jewish groups and even some conservatives. Since then, however, several Jewish notables, including Harvard Law Prof. Alan Dershowitz, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, and former New York Mayor Ed Koch, have defended Palin’s use of the term.

Palin weighed in again Monday during an interview on Fox News — her first since the Jan. 8 shooting in Tucson of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) that also left six dead and another 12 wounded. Palin defended her use of the term “blood libel” and said she understands its meaning.

“Blood libel obviously means being falsely accused of having blood on your hands and in this case that’s exactly what was going on,” Palin told Sean Hannity in the interview.

Palin, a Fox guest contributor, also used the interview to condemn the shooting and other acts of political violence and to offer prayers for the victims.

The most recent Palin-related controversy echoes previous scrums revolving around the potential GOP presidential candidate, with critics arguing that she lacks the judgment, demeanor, and smarts of a commander-in-chief, and her defenders seeing such slams as validation that she is just the right person to put the liberal elites in their place.

Palin shows no signs of ceding the spotlight, but it was liberal politicians and commentators who were quick to put her in the center of the story following the shooting. Critics held Palin up as a prime example of violent political rhetoric that could have contributed to the gunman’s rampage, pointing to a map on her website that used images of gun crosshairs to indicate districts targeted in last year’s midterm elections.

Giffords, who was shot and critically injured in the shooting attack, was the incumbent in one of the marked districts.

During her Jan. 12 video message, Palin defended herself, insisting that “especially within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn.”

Palin seemed to be conflating generic calls to tone down the rhetoric — including one from Clarence Dupnik, the Pima County sheriff who was leading the investigation — with a number of attacks directly accusing her of responsibility. In fact, the debate about rhetoric subsequent to the shooting did not hew to party lines, and liberal pundits were among those vigorously defending Palin’s right to use strong rhetoric, while conservatives were among those who suggested she needed to dial it down.

Palin’s reference to the ancient fiction that Jews killed children to drink their blood as part of a ritual — one that has inspired pogroms, massacres, and attacks on Jews throughout the centuries and even today is referenced as fact in parts of the Arab world and the former Soviet Union — set off alarm bells.

Jewish reaction ranged from outraged to uncomfortable to defensive.

“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,” National Jewish Democratic Council President David Harris said in a statement condemning her remark. “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.”

The Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Anti-Defamation League did not endorse the notion that her actions may have contributed to the shooting, but they criticized Palin’s use of the term “blood libel,” saying it was offensive to Jewish sensibilities.

Jews for Sarah, a pro-Palin group, defended Palin, a potential Republican presidential candidate for 2012.

“Gov. Palin got it right, and we Jews, of all people, should know a blood libel when we see one,” Jews for Sarah said. “Falsely accusing someone of shedding blood is a blood libel — whether it’s the medieval Church accusing Jews of baking blood in Passover matzohs, or contemporary Muslim extremists accusing Israel of slaughtering Arabs to harvest their organs, or political partisans blaming conservative political figures and talk show hosts for the Tucson massacre.”

Within days, Dershowitz, Boteach, and Koch also defended Palin, supplying her allies with grounds to argue that Jewish opinion was divided on her use of the term.

Whether Palin was justified in using the term, even some conservatives objected to her releasing the video on the same day of the nationally televised service in Tucson to mourn the victims, pray for the wounded, and cheer the bystanders who tackled the gunman and aided the injured.

Palin’s video did call for “common ground,” setting a tone that would have jibed perfectly with the unity message President Obama delivered at the event — if not for the blood libel remark.

Obama’s speech earned widespread praise.

“What we cannot do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on each other,” Obama said. “That we cannot do. As we discuss these issues, let each of us do so with a good dose of humility. Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, let’s use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy and remind ourselves of all the ways that our hopes and dreams are bound together.”

The Anti-Defamation League said it was inappropriate to blame Palin after the Tucson shooting and that she had every right to defend herself.

But, the organization noted in a statement, “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.”

The question, said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a communications expert at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School, was whether using a charged term like blood libel reinforced Palin’s legitimate argument that there was unfair targeting of the right wing in the days after the shooting, or whether using the term undercut the point.

“It distracts from her argument, which is thoughtful,” Jamieson told JTA. “If you are trying to get an audience to rethink, you don’t inject this particular historic analogy.”

The fallback defense for Palin’s acolytes and others who defended her was that while the use of the phrase might be overwrought, she is hardly the first to use it. Jim Geraghty, a correspondent at the conservative National Review, cited an extensive list of its uses over the past 10 years, though practically no elected officials were on it.

Jamieson, who conducted a similar search, found that invoking the term in political argument is usually the province of bloggers and polemicists, not those who have held high political office or aspire to it.

Voices across the Jewish religious and political spectrums, from the Reform movement to the Orthodox Union, and from liberals to conservatives, echoed the ADL’s statement.

“The term ‘blood libel’ is so unique, and so tinged with the context of anti-Semitism, that its use in this case — even when Ms. Palin has a legitimate gripe — is either cynically calculated to stimulate media interest or historically illiterate,” Noam Neusner, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, wrote on Pundit Wire. “It is therefore distracting to Ms. Palin’s underlying message, which is one of sympathy for the victims and outrage that she and others are being accused of inspiring a mass murderer.”

On the other hand, Koch and Dershowitz — two Jewish Democrats — defended her.

In a column this week, Koch declared that Palin had “defeated her harsh and unfair critics,” and argued that these days the “blood libel” term can “be used to describe any monstrous defamation against any person, Jew or non-Jew.”

Koch framed the controversy as part of the wider debate over Palin, writing that “the fools in politics today in both parties are those who think she is dumb,” though he quickly added that she is “not knowledgeable in many areas and politically uninformed.”

“Many women understand what she has done for their cause,” wrote Koch, who has endorsed Republicans for president, but says he is “scared” of Palin.

“She will not be silenced, nor will she leave the heavy lifts to the men in her party. She will not be falsely charged, remain silent, and look for others — men — to defend her. She is plucky and unafraid.”

JTA Wire Service

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