When Jeffrey Goldberg suggested that there might be educational benefits to Sarah Palin's misappropriation of the term "blood libel" to describe folks criticizing her overheated brand of political rhetoric in the wake of the Tuscon, Arizona massacre, I was dubious. The blood libel -- referring to the allegation that Jews use the blood of murdered non-Jewish children in various religious rites -- is (I thought) one of the more prominent elements in our collective history of anti-Semitism. Who didn't know about it already? Hell, we already had a prominent modern day iteration quite recently when a Swedish paper alleged that Jews were seizing Palestinian persons and harvesting their organs -- and then again as a putative explanation for why the bloodthirsty Zionist regime was bothering to help Haitians after the earthquake (since humanitarianism was obviously out of the question).
I should have known better. It isn't just Goldberg's readers who were unfamiliar with the term -- various friends of mine I chatted with today were also either unaware or only had a dim recognition of the concept prior to Palin's gaffe today. And now that I've had that recognition, I recall me asking a similar question of various non-Jewish friends of mine sometime as an undergraduate, as part of a broader poll of their views on Jews and Jewish issues. Specifically, I asked them something to the effect of "True or False: Though the practice has been discontinued, at one point Jews used the blood of non-Jewish children as part of important religious rites." I'd say about 20% of the respondents answered true, which, even granting a potential "fucking with the questioner" contingent, was still a disturbing figure.
Unfortunately, I think there are virtually no chances "that Sarah Palin will actually come out and apologize and learn something about the blood libel and try to raise consciousness about this." So an opportunity wasted, but an education that the problem still exists all the same.