The World according to James Carroll

By Ted Belman

I attended a lecture this evening by James Carroll, ex anti-war activist (Vietnam), ex priest, current anti-war activist and now author. He was there to introduce his documentary Constantine’s Sword and to take questions.

The documentary pulled no punches when it came to criticizing the Church, certain Popes and the Gospels. So far, so good.

But then the documentary zeroed in on the evangelicals because of their missionizing zeal, in this case warranted and even frightening, and their connection to the military and the Whitehouse. He really tore into them as the cause of all evil or at least the evil that Bush and the US military does. No where did he give a balanced view regarding them. I called him on it and he wouldn’t relent.

Then he went on to give his anti-war speech. A military response to 9/11 was the wrong response, we have to look at root causes for instance the disparity of wealth. We should have applied international law with the cooperation of the world. He almost said “How can you blame the Arabs?”. He went so far as to totally blame the Church for the brutal crusades. He considered them to be wars of aggression rather than payback time and an attempt to reverse the Muslim conquest of parts of Christendom. And in addition for the poor Moslem’s “it was just like yesterday”.

Needless to say he made the point that Israel isn’t blameless. Why must this be said. Who says they are? Then he averred that both sides must compromise. Anything is better than war. No acknowledgment that they want to kill us. Its all about justifiable outrage. At least he didn’t use the word “occupation”.

At least that was my understanding of what he said. But I then googled him to learn more and was surprised to find in an article dated July 06 What else can Israel do?

As this conflict becomes redefined in larger terms, it seems urgent to move away from the internal polarization of ambivalence by reaffirming foundational support for Israel.

There is no moral equivalence between enemies here, and those who sympathize exclusively with the suffering of Palestinians make a terrible mistake in thinking otherwise.

Nothing makes this clearer than the Hamas elevation of suicide-bombing to the effective status of religious cult. This perversion, in which cowardly older men exploit the anguished gullibility of the young precisely to target innocents, reveals the depth of the life-hating cynicism with which Israel is confronted.

Now Hamas turns the entire Palestinian population into a suicide-bomber writ large. To destroy Israel, the mantra becomes, we will bring destruction down on ourselves.

Much of this is new, but the apocalyptic energy of this hatred, running from Gaza City to Tehran, draws on currents that run deep in history. The fury of anti-Israel rage among Arabs and Muslims is accounted for only partially by the present conflict.

It resuscitates – and then draws breath from – the long European habit of scapegoating Jews. The fantasy that Arab and Muslim problems will be solved by the elimination of Israel partakes of the old European illusion that climaxed in the 20th century. No one should think that embedded contempt for Jews -antisemitism – is not part of the current crisis. Nor should anyone think that fresh consequences of that contempt are limited to the Middle East.

If the United States has been made so warlike by the one attack of Sept. 11, 2001, who should be surprised at the reactions of an Israel under constant siege? Indeed, the responses of Israel and America are related.

Even though the futility of vengeful belligerence is on full display in Iraq, the United States does nothing to promote alternative strategies in resolving the Palestinian question. The Bush administration has not only squandered its considerable Middle East leverage, but has done more than anything to empower Islamic extremists, beginning with Iran. Thus, a threshold of dangerous escalation has been reached.

It is easy to say that Israel must step back, but such a move requires a transformation of the larger context. The United States must pursue a radically different strategy in the entire region. Here is the urgency of quickly ending the war in Iraq, while nurturing new structures of international cooperation to resolve related conflicts.

As for the dinner party, it is not polarization to demand policies shaped with the aim of empowering moderates, and undercutting extremists. Nor is it ambivalence to declare, again, that the humanitarian rescue of the Palestinian people from all that prompts suicide defines Israel’s only true security. But that security remains paramount.

Thus he has shown himself to be a thinking liberal and supporter of Israel’s right to self-defense. That makes him a friend.

Finally, he gave the impression that the biggest threat to the US today is the Christian Evangelicals because they are so militaristic. As for the Muslims, they have justifiable grievances. We just have to talk with them.

At the end of the talk, the Rabbi was compelled to say Jews were also capable of violence. Look at the assassination of Rabin, he said. Who asked him? I guess it was time for some mea culpas lest no one think that the Catholics alone were bad.

October 20, 2007 | 5 Comments »

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5 Comments / 5 Comments

  1. tov,

    It’s the same leftist mentality that tells the world that poverty and deprivation are what lead to crimes of violence. My grandparents (both sets) got out of Eastern Europe early in the twentieth century, and, while living in poverty, raised large families that were definitely not into violence.

    Sanity is a good start.

  2. I think you’re right keelie. That being said, why haven’t the poorest countries in the world resorting to terrorism? Certainly they have way more justification to.I think because they are sane.The Arabs and Muslims practice an evil doctrine.

  3. Ah… The (newly included) Googled article sounds more like the “real” James Carroll, author of Constantine’s Sword.

  4. I must say I’m greatly puzzled by Carroll. I read his book “Constantine’s Sword – The Church and the Jews” and it was a real eye-opener. I don’t know how accurate it was, but it appears to have been well researched. I would recommend it to all.

    That being said, I can’t quite grasp why he would say the things he’s saying… unless he’s simply become a Kumbaya type; one who sees violence as evil. Period.

    As for the learned Rabbi. Yes, Jews are capable of violence (take note world). In fact I just met a charming 83-year-old lady who, with her boyfriend – eventually her husband – won the Croix de Guerre for her bravery in the French Resistance during WWII. I guess she was wrong in taking up the gun, and France were wrong in rewarding it.

    People such as Carroll and The Rabbi have such moral certitude… Or they’re simply fools.

  5. Shalom Ted,

    Just read the above and glad the lecture wasn’t southside. We know James Carrol.

    Down here, when anti-Vietnam War activists give lectures – especially re the current Iraq War – a name will crop up: Scott Camil. Born Jewish and a Marine in Vietnam, he was involved in an idea to assasinate certain pro-VN War Members of Congress. For political reasons, this matter was abated by the authorities.

    The Catholics and the Evangelicals can resolve their problems …they have the resources and infrastructure.

    Our problem is the unresolved Scott Camils for those considering “our” to be an umbrella and also, as you reported, the Rabbi who felt obliged to say Jews are capable of violence.

    James Carroll is not a Jewish problem.

    Let me close by mentioning an “unofficial” rabbi in Vietnam was Major Mandy Ganchrow, M.D. Dr Ganchrow later became President of the Orthodox Union.

    Kol tuv,

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