Reverend Gil Caldwell on Vincent Harding and tomorrow’s visit of Benjamin Netanyahu to Congress

       Gil Caldwell, a wonderful, eloquent minister and civil rights activist partly from Park Hill in Denver, thinks below, with Vincent Harding, our friend, about what Netanyahu’s corrupt visit means.  Vincent’s words are with us…
      He calls to mind the great Rabbi Abraham Heschel, who marched with Gil in Selma, and said “When I marched in Selma, I felt my legs were praying.
       He recalls traveling on a ship to a work camp in Denmark and being snubbed by Jewish “Whites.”
       And of Netanyahu’s violation of protocol towards the President, he recalls: “if you are black, stay back…”
        It is time to stop Israeli imperialism – its violence toward the Palestinians, its incredible warmongering and the vast US military aid to Israel.  It is time for the people of the world to force Israel to make peace with the Palestinians, to end the Occupation.  
       Even now, Barack – “my younger brother,” as Vincent sometimes wrote to him – is not moving strongly in this direction, though his goals against ISIS in the Middle East require some cooperation of/with Iran and Syria and he has stood up against the Netanyahu/Romney/Adelson war-mongering even in an election (the opposite of what ordinary American Presidents and Presidential candidates do; see my Must Global Politics Constrain Democracy?, ch. 1).
       As among blacks, passing for White, despite near extermination under Hitler, is for Jews a choice.  Though it is nearly a  vocation among the would-be “kings” in Israel, it is way murderous and self-destructive.
      I choose to be non-White and act up to that thought, as do many Jews who stand up against the “color line”  as in the South Africa anti-apartheid movement (and by the way, many anti-racist, that is self-aware and human Northern and Southern Europeans…). 
       Black folks at Yorktown during the Revolution (see myBlack Patriots and Loyalists), in the abolitionist movement and the civil war, in the multiracial struggles of farmers and working people in the South (the Southern Tenants Alliance, the early Populist Party) and in the North (the CIO), and in the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s have been great leaders in shaping the cause and meaning of democracy for all of us, as they have shaped – spirituals and jazz – the greatness of American culture.
      Netanyahu’s corrupt visit has fractured reactionary elite support of the worst in Israel (a cartoon in the Times suggests Netanyahu is planting an immoral settlement in Congress – see here…).  


    The Israel Lobby, a real enough force, nonetheless does not command the allegiance of most American Jews, who were the second most enthusiastic group in voting for Obama after blacks, about 77%, and are 80% opposed to bombing Iran, that is, to Netanyahu’s and AIPAC’s theme song.
     Furthermore, every helicopter the US provides for the Occupied Palestine is an Apache.  As Gil suggests, the basic cause of indigenous Americans and all people is a democratic one, opposed to settler colonialism and racism.
      Rabbi Heschel rightly believed that King’s words on a mass, nonviolent poor people’s movement are the future of America.  That movement makes us all brothers and sisters in this vital, still young experiment in democracy, as Brother Vincent would say.
    May we fight, with Black Lives Matter!, for a decent future here…
     But despite the election of Obama, America has temporarily taken the opposite path, resulting in its decline as a decent place and threatening destruction of the world.  Israel is a nuclear power and Netanyahu and the corrupt bombing chorus in the US against Iran moves us and the Middle East closer to a wider regional war; a threatened Israel might use such bombs…
    Radiation travels….
“Dear Alan,
This morning I awakened as I have done before since his death, thinking of Vincent Harding, and wondering what Vincent would say about something that is taking place in our nation and our world. This morning, I am wondering what would the late, Dr. Vincent Harding say about the visit of Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu to the Congress; a visit in response not to an invitation from our nation’s first black President, Barack Obama, but from the Speaker of the House, John Boehner. An invitation extended without the consent of President Obama.
I remember well your writings about Vincent Harding and your sharing his insights with your readers. Therefore I am writing this to you in a “thinking out loud” way as I used to write our late colleague, Vincent Harding. You should know this about me; I am an 81 year old retired African American United Methodist Minister who from 1997 to 2001 was the first African American Pastor of the multi-racial Park Hill United Methodist Church. And, in my life and ministry, I became influenced by the book of HenriNouwen, Wounded Healers. I have sought to allow the wounds that I and my black colleagues, past and present, have experienced because of the anti-black racism that has and still exists in the USA to shape my writings and my wish to heal the deep-seated anti-black racism that not only harms those of us who are black, but also harms the well being of the nation.
The visit of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the USA while he is in a political campaign in Israel, that does not have the sanction of President Obama, has reminded me of another manifestation of a street corner bit of analysis that I first heard as I was growing up in North Carolina, Texas and South Carolina; “If you are white, you are alright, if you are brown stick around, if you are black, stand back.” The whiteness of Prime Minister Netanyahu trumps the blackness of President Obama, and the assumption of those who invited the Prime Minister is that President Obama must stand back, because he is black.
Some thoughts;
1. This week my heart is in Selma as persons gather to remember the Selma to Montgomery March. I was at that March on the Tuesday following “Bloody Sunday” and then returned to the March as it ended in Montgomery. I mention this because Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel said of his marching with Martin Luther King in the March; “When I marched in Selma, I felt my legs were praying.” It is this kind of Jewish solidarity with the black struggle, expressed by Rabbi Heschel, that has made me hope that the realities of anti-blackness and anti-Semitism, past and present, would forge a continuing bond between Jews and Blacks. But, as one of my colleagues has said over and over again, even as I have disagreed, “The ‘whiteness’ of Jewishness separates Jews and Israel from the struggles of people of color.” I still disagree with him. but his words are present with me as Prime Minister Netanyahu visits the Congress. {Many Jews are opposing this visit and war; see, for instance, Tikkun here from the New York Times today and The Hill, tomorrow; I, too, am one of the more than 2400 signatories].
2. I have never forgotten that 59 years ago as a Seminary Student, I signed up to participate in an American Friends Service Committee-related workcamp in Denmark. I was one of a very few black students on the ship that took us from Quebec City to Le Havre, France. I found out there were some Jewish students on the ship, and I sought to be in conversation with them, thinking that theirs would be some identification with me because of the racism I had known in the south. I thought that their being in limited communication with me, would not jeopardize their relationships with their white, non-Jewish friends. But, they chose their whiteness and avoided being in communication with me, because of my blackness.
3. Later, as the black struggle for independence was being waged in South Africa and other places in black Africa, I remembered that shipboard experience as Israel was less-than supportive of the boycotts, and disinvestment efforts that were essential to challenging South Africa’s racist apartheid. And, I know that some were fearful that Israel would allow its sophisticated weaponry to be used by the South African military.[the apartheid party in  South Africa was pro-Nazi; many of the non-black emancipation movement  were Jews;  the next statement is not quite on target, referring only to the state of Israel and not to  ordinary Jews].  The visit of Prime Minister Netanyahu to the USA compels us to ask again,  “Why does South Africa with its rightful articulations of the historic oppression of  Jews, seem to be insensitive to the oppression that people of color experience in the USA and the world?” Is Mr. Netanyahu blind, deaf and dumb in response to some  of the race-based criticisms that President Obama and his family have experienced and still experience? His visit this week represents another one of those race-based insults our nation’s first black President has experienced.
4. Prime Minister Netanyahu in response to the anti-Semitism that is tragically taking place in Europe, has urged Jews to come and settle in Israel [one might underline how instead of  praising the French government for upholding civil liberties, Mr. Netanyahu, being anti-civil liberties and base, said that jews could only find safety in domineering little Israel – a remarkably unsafe place].

       Where in the world do blacks find solace and safety in the world, as Jews do in Israel? Sunday’s NY Times, (March 1) has an op-ed titled; “The Next Great Migration” The writer, Thomas Chatterton Williams writes this; “A powerful way to sidestep America’s reluctance to become postracial would be for more black Americans to become postnational.” Jews have Israel, where in the world can blacks find what Jews find in Israel? Africa with its obvious residuals of its colonial past, despite black governance, seems not to be the place to go. And, the presence this week of Mr. Netanyahu in Washington, coupled with the treatment of black and brown people in Israel and the middle east, means Israel is not the place to go.
Alan, W.E.B. DuBois, you and I, know spoke of the 20th century as  “The century of the color line”. The calendar convergence of the anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery March and the visit of Israel’s Prime Minister to Washington this week, in different ways, illustrates what we all knew, the problem that DuBois identified as a 20th century problem is a problem for the 21st century as well.
I have been pleased as I have read of the efforts of the United Methodist Bishop and United Methodists in the Denver Area to respond to the tragic mistreatment of Native Americans by the Church and State. It is time that we in the USA and the world acknowledge and admit that people of color, despite our numerical majority in the world, with some exceptions, are still rendered less-than-equal and without comparable economic power and influence in the world to that of those who are white.
May the visit of Israel’s Prime Minister to Washington this week reveal for to all to see that on matters of justice, freedom, equality, power and influence, in the USA and the world, “If you are white….”
Gilbert H. Caldwell

Asbury Park, New Jersey

New York Times, March 2, 2015
No, Mr.
you do not speak for
American Jews

• Most polls indicate that a majority of American Jews (and most non-Jews) support President Obama’s attempt to negotiate a settlement that would prohibit Iranian development of nuclear weapons rather than the Netanyahu approach of undermining those negotiations.

• Most polls indicate that a majority of American Jews oppose the expansion of West Bank settlements that Netanyahu favors and support the creation of an independent Palestinian state living in peace with Israel.

The American People
Do Not Want a
War with Iran
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s attempt to shape American foreign policy toward Iran bombings, torture, and coercion has been tried for the past five thousand years and it is unwelcome. A poll in February showed 62% of Americans opposed the way that the Republican leadership had invited Netanyahu to speak. Choosing to make his American visit a few days ahead of Israeli elections lead some to suspect that his visit is a tactic to help build support for his political party. Misleadingly, much of the media quotes “American Jewish leaders” who support Netanyahu—but those leaders are not elected by American Jews and the media should be quoting leaders who represent the majority sentiments of American Jews who have long been committed to peace and reconciliation with the Palestinian people. While many of us hope to see the people of Iran non-violently work to transform Iranian society to foster democracy and human rights, we know that war with Iran will only strengthen the repressive hold of the Islamic fundamentalists and decrease the security of Americans and of Jews around the world. So we oppose the efforts of some in Congress and the Netanyahu faction in Israel who together seek to derail negotiations with Iran.

We who sign this ad (the full list can be read at are American Jews and our non-Jewish allies who oppose any attempt to drag the American people into another war. We remember the way that the Bush Administration lied us into a war with Iraq by providing false information about a non-existent threat of Iraqi nuclear weapons. We do not need a repeat of that scenario as militarists in Israel and the U.S. once again use the fear of non-existent nuclear weapons to manipulate us into another war. It is not in the interests of the U.S., Israel or the people of the world.

The strategy of domination over those identified as “evil others” and used by the U.S. and Israel as the path to homeland security has not worked. Using force, violence, wars,not produced a world of peace or security.
It is time to switch from full spectrum dominance to a Strategy of Generosity. The U.S. spent over a trillion dollars on the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. The outcome was a greatly weakened Iraq and ISIL (the “Islamic State”) armed with weapons brought to the region by the U.S. That same trillion dollars could have been used to create a Global Marshall Plan that could have wiped out global and domestic poverty, homelessness, hunger, inadequate education and inadequate health care—thereby demonstrating to the world a U.S. that cares for the well-being of others (see for example, a resolution in support of which was introduced into the Congress by Rep. Ellison and endorsed by two dozen other Congressional reps).
The Islamic extremists and others who resort to violence would have a much harder time recruiting fighters and supporters to struggles against the West if we were known to the world through our generosity, humility and respect for indigenous cultures rather than through our military and economic power. Similarly Israel would achieve far greater security were it acting in a spirit of generosity toward the Palestinian people. The “realists” scoff at such thinking—yet their strategies have continually failed for thousands of years.

So even while some of the signatories to this letter do not oppose the use of force in extreme circumstances like WWII or stopping ISIS/Islamic State, we do believe it is time to give generosity and caring for others a real chance. The capitalist ethos of materialism and winning though intimidation is destructive to us, our families, and to people around the world. Instead of more wars and domination, it is time for what Jews call “tikkun”— healing and transformation. Lets start now with a Global Marshall Plan!

Signatories For a full list of the 2400+ signatories visit (all institutions listed below for identification purposes only)
Rabbi Michael Lerner, Editor Tikkun Magazine
Cat J. Zavis, Executive Director of the Network of Spiritual Progressives
“Humanity may be divided between…those to whom the sword is the symbol of honor and those to whom seeking to convert swords into ploughshares is the only way to keep our civilization from disaster.” —Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

Inner Editorial Board, Tikkun
Rabbi Aryeh Cohen, Prof. Rabbinic Literature at American Jewish University, L.A.
Jill Goldberg, Langara College
Peter Gabel, Editor at Large
Dr. Aaron J. Hahn Tapper, Director Jewish Studies, USF Dr. Deborah Kory, Psychologist
Prof. Mark Levine, Political Science, UC Irvine
Ana Levy-Lyons
Prof. Cynthia Moe Lobeda, author of
Resisting Structural Evil Prof. Shaul Magid, Chair, Jewish Studies, Indiana University Dr. Phillip Wolfson, Psychiatrist
Prof. Stephen Zunes, Politics and International Studies, USF
Rabbi Rachel Barenblat Rabbi Haim Beliak Rabbi Neil Comess-Daniels Rabbi Nilton Bonder Rabbi Joseph Edelheit Rabbi Edward Nydle Rabbi Tirzah Firestone Rabbi Gershon, Steinberg-Caudill Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb Rabbi Shaya Isenberg Rabbi Burt Jacobson Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum Rabbi Deb Kolodny Rabbi Brant Rosen Rabbi David Shneyer Rabbi Brian Walt Rabbi Arthur Waskow Rabbi Sheila Peltz Weinberg Rabbi Joseph Wolf

Other signatories include:
Rae Abileah Prof. Charles F. Altieri, UC Berkeley Siamak Arassi Stanley Aronowitz Prof. Paul Atwood, U Massachusetts Roberta and Leonard Badger-Cain/Cain Peter Barglow Raymond Barglow Prof. Wendy Barker, U Texas Prof. Aliki Barnstone U Missouri Thomas Bender, NYU Prof. Nathaniel Berman, Brown U Ed Berne Joel Bleifuss, In These Times Robert Blauner, UC Berkeley Prof. Ned Block NYU Nathan Board Rena Bransten Mal Burnstein Co-Chair, Rules Committee, California Democratic Party David Burrell, U Notre Dame Prof. Claude Calame, Ecole des Hautes Etudes Tony Campolo Prof. Hugo Cardenas Universidad de Santiago Nachshon Carmi Prof. Ira Chernus, U Colorado Prof. Peter Child, MIT Joan Chittister, Benetvision Martha Christian Prof. Robert Cohen, NYU Prof. James Cohen, Sorbonne Prof. Bruce Cohen, Worcester State Mark Crispin Miller, NYU Prof. Fred Dallmayr, U Notre Dame Victoria de Grazia Noel Dennis Charles Derber, Boston College Prof. Hasia R. Diner, NYU Michael Dowd Prof. Ian Duncan, UC Berkeley Stan Duncan Stefan Edlis Prof. Gregory Elliott, Brown U Frederick Enman, Boston College Harold Erdman Seth Farber, Ph.D. Institute of Mind and Behavior Alissa Flores Prof. Carol Fontaine, Andover Newton Theological School Dr. Helen Fox, U Michigan Estelle Frankel, Author of Sacred Therapy Prof. Linda Gordon, NYU Prof. Emily Gottreich, UC Berkeley Prof. William Graham, Harvard Barbara Green Prof. Ramon Greenberg, Harvard and Princeton U Margaret Gullette, Brandeis Prof. Janet Gyatso, Harvard Prof. Sally Haslanger, MIT Josh Healey Raymond Helmick, Boston College Bonnee Henry, UCC Prof. Olivier Herrenschmidt, U. Paris Prof. Laurence Horn, Yale Susannah Heschel, Professor of Jewish Studies, Dartmouth College Dr. Bruce Hirsch Jane and Richard Hirschmann/Levy Prof. Douglas Hofstadter, Cognitive Scientist Prof. Tera Hunter, Princeton Prof. Harold Jacobs, SUNY Prof. Glenn Jacobs, U Massachusetts Prof. Irene Jillson, Georgetown Prof. Steven Jonas, Stony Brook Prof. Catherine Keller, Drew U Prof. Marie Kennedy, UCLA Mimi Kennedy, Progressive Democrats of America Prof. Amber Kerr, UC Davis Prof. Ben Kiernan, Yale Nancy Kim Irena Klepfisz, author Prof. Thomas Kleven, Thurgood Marshall Law School Prof. David Kronenfeld, UC Riverside Prof. Lauren Langman, Loyola U Chicago Larry Lerner, Partners for Progressive Israel Prof. Donald Levine, U Chicago Prof. Daniel Levine, U Texas David Loy, Buddhist Social Theorist Milton Masur M.D. Patricia McDonald Ray McGovern Prof. Everett Mendelsohn, Harvard Douglas Mirell Don Moon Prof. Leslie Morris, U Minnesota Susannah Nachenberg, Jewish Voices for Peace Prof. Stuart Newman, N.Y. Medical College Joyce Carol Oates, Princeton U and Stanford U Prof. Peter Ochs, U Virginia Wendy Orange Prof. Annelise Orleck, Dartmouth Richard Page Dr. John Paggioli Bob Petit National Institute of Health Prof. Laurin Raikin NYU James Reddington Prof. Judith Richman, U Illinois UC Berkeley Joel Rosenberg, Tufts Penny Rosenwasser David Rothfield Herbert Rothschild, Peace House Richard Platkin, LA Jews for Peace Letty Cottin Pogrebin William Pollak Prof. Jeffery Prager, UCLA James Prescott, Robert Roach Richard Rohr, Center for Action and Contemplation Wade Clark Roof, UCSB Prof. Stephen Rosenbaum, Prof. Saskia Sassen, Columbia U Donna Schaper Prof. Raquel Scherr, UC Davis Bev Schwartz Prof. David Schweikart,
Loyola U Prof. Peter Dale Scott, UC Berkeley Dr. Maynard Seider Prof. Svi Shapiro, UNC Ramin Shojai Prof. Arthur Shostak, Drexel U Robert Silverstein Steve Smale Syeda Siddiqi Prof. David Smiley, Columbia U J. Alfred Smith Sr. Prof. Robert Snyder, Rutgers Prof. Michael Steinlauf, Gratz College Heng Sure, Institute for World Religions Pat Thomas Prof. Paul Thomas, UC Berkeley Gail and Robert Thomas Wread/Rosin Barbara Tillman Prof. Abraham Udovith, Princeton Willis Unke Erik van Praag Joan Vogel, Vermont Law School Prof. Beverly Voloshin, SF State Prof. Harry Vreeswijk Bertrand, Russell College Robin and Nancy Wainwright Prof. Deborah Ruth Wallen, Goddard College Prof. Thomas Weisskopf, U Michigan Maureen Wesolowski Prof. David Wetherell, Deakin U Prof. Bruce Wexler, Yale Prof. Frank Wicks, Union College Prof. William Wilson, Harvard Prof. David Wunsch, U Massachusetts
Mary Wilson Prof. Susan Winnett Jamie Wolf Tony Wolfe Prof. Donald Wood, U Wisconsin-Platteville Medora Woods Peter Yarrow of “Peter, Paul, and Mary” Prof. Marilyn Young, NYU Prof. Lee Zimmerman, Hofstra Heidi Feldman Prof. Gordon Fellman, Brandeis George Finley III Nancy Fleischer Marty Garbus Prof. Laura Ginsparg-Jones, Cornell U Prof. Peter Golden, Rutgers
Lester Grinspoon M.D., Harvard Medical School Prof. Charles G. Gross, UC Berkeley

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The prophetic voice of liberal and progressive Jews and our non-Jewish allies.
Network of Spiritual Progressives
The interfaith (and secular-humanist-welcoming) Network of Spiritual Progressives is the education-outreach arm of Tikkun.
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