NauenThen

Daniel Berrigan

May 6, 2016

I admire Daniel Berrigan, who died a few days ago, in the same ways everyone has been talking about: his tireless activism for peace, his lack of materialism (he seemed to have owned not much more than a couple of shirts & a backpack), his willingness to act on and go to jail for his convictions.

But I will say the fly in the ointment, as it is for many on the Left, is what Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg (1921–2006), then-president of the American Jewish Congress, termed Berrigan’s “old-fashioned theological anti-Semitism." Hertzberg said this in response to a speech Berrigan gave in 1973 to the Association of Arab University Graduates, where he denounced the state of Israel as a "criminal Jewish community," and a "nightmare" that "manufactures human waste." It wasn't just Jews who criticized him—the Rev. Donald Harrington of the Community Church in New York City said he was rethinking a peace award due to the talk being "so prejudiced as to invite characterizations of anti-Semitism."

This and a lot more of Berrigan's even more disgusting opinions about Israel is in a New York Times article published 12/16/73.

I urge you to read (at www.progressive.org/news/2016/05/188708/daniel-berrigan-moral-dilemma-middle-east-1974) a discussion about the talk, in which Berrigan claims he was "trying to raise some questions that are forbidden in the American community" and "I think a great deal of this hate mail has to do with an effort to warn me and others to keep quiet and keep off the subject." (Oh please.) He also claims, about the Arab states that are resolved to destroy Israel, "I'm not sure that that resolution is so firm." And adds, "I can think of nothing, essentially, that I would want to retract" in the speech.

So.

Is this the most important thing about him, even to me? No, probably not. Do all icons have feet of clay? Yes, probably. But can I respect him when I read something like this? Not really.