Breaking its silence, the executive committee of the Joint Distribution Committee has issued a formal statement, replying to the charges made against the $25,000,000 United Jewish Campaign by a number of Zionists during the past year.
This statement is a rejoinder to speeches made at the recent convention in Buffalo of the Zionist Organization of America, and resolutions there adopted charging the Russian agricultural work of the Joint Distribution Committee as being put forward as a rival to Palestine, and that it has been made a rallying point for the non-Zionists and anti-Zionists. The statement of the Joint Distribution Committee charges the Zionists with attempts to sabotage and wreck the United Jewish Campaign. It reaffirms the determination of the Joint Distribution Committee to continue aiding Palestine, pointing out that while the campaign was being attacked, part of the funds it raised were being used, and is now being used for reconstructive and relief work in Palestine.
The statement of the Joint Distribution Committee reads as follows:
"From the first day of its organization this Committee has been actuated by the sole thought of bringing aid and comfort and constructive relief to all Jews, wherever they may live, who require the sympathy of Jewish hearts and the help of Jewish hands. It has sought to foster the spirit of unity and brotherhood, and it fondly believes that it has succeeded in that endeavor. Strife and controversy in the face of a great disaster, have been regarded by it as sinful. Its great objective has been to cultivate peace and harmony. It indulges in the conviction that the great body of American Jewry recognizes the disinterestedness and the unselfishness of its endeavors. The manifestation of confidence shown by the impressive response made to its recent call, is a source of infinite gratification, and serves as an eloquent answer to the continuous and vicious attacks that have been made during the past year upon its activities by a group which is temporarily in control of the Zionist Organization of America, which has just held a convention at Buffalo.
"We have maintained silence during the persistent guerrilla warfare conducted from ambush and have disregarded the continuous flight of poisonous arrow directed against us. We deemed it beneath our dignity to notice these petty methods. But now that the organization, through its official spokesman, has publicly denounced the Joint Distribution Committee, and has indulged in the cheap amusement of adopting a resolution condemnatory of us for daring to further agricultural relief measures for the Jews of Russia, we would lay ourselves open to criticism were we to leave unanswered the charge that has been made that we are maintaining a propaganda calculated to undermine Palestine.
"We characterize even the insinuation of such a purpose as deliberate and wilful misrepresentation. Let us briefly review the facts.
"More than a year ago we were reluctantly convinced that the condition of the Jews of Eastern Europe was such as to give reality to the fear that they were approaching a cataclysm. Economic and other conditions had become so acute as to involve them in a net of misfortunes, from which they could be extricated in no other manner than by the renewal of our previous work of reconstructive relief in their behalf. This conclusion was forced upon us by undeniable proof emanating from the most respected Jewish leaders in the various countries affected. We made our own investigations, which corroborated these alarming reports. It became evident that the very lives of one-half of all the Jews of the world hung in the balance and that unless help should come through the Jews of America a large part of their European brethren would literally become extinct.
"A resolution was then adopted, after careful consideration, to embark upon a campaign to raise a minimum of $15,000,000, and preparations were made, without objection from anybody, to begin collections in the autumn of 1925. The public knew that help was especially required by the Jews of Russia, to whom we had been unable to give adequate help with the funds collected by us in previous campaigns because, during that time, Russia was practically inaccessible. We had, however, experimented in Russia in an endeavor to enable the Jews who were anxious to go upon the land, to demonstrate the practicability of their eager desire. Numerous reports were published giving full explanation of what we believed to be a promising held for the rehabilitation of those who were in the depths of misery.
"A conference was held in Philadelphia to discuss the ways and means of carrying the campaign which had been decided upon and of perfecting the organization which was to conduct it. There we were met by a violent attempt on the part of so-called Zionists (among whom we do not include those line idealists and sincere Zionists whose hearts are big enough to sympathize with helpless Jews everywhere) to wreck this plan and to defeat the efforts of American Jewry to bring relief and courage and hope into the lives of the seven million Jews who stood in the shadow of death.
"It was these objectors who then made the false outcry against agricultural work in Russia, declaring it to be a menace to Palestinian development. They were unsuccessful in foisting these ideas upon the Jews of America who, strange to say, fought for the right of doing with their money what their conscience prompted them to do. We who are charged with being opposed to Palestine had, up to that time, out of $60,000,000 collected, spent upwards of $7,000,000 in keeping alive the Jews of Palestine, when there was nobody else in the world, not even the Zionist Organization, that did anything for them. We were aware of the fact that, compared with the millions of unfortunates in Eastern Europe, the Palestinians were receiving far more than a just share. Wholesome sentiment and the desire to open a place of refuge for the Jews of Eastern Europe led to this action.
GAVE UNITED PALESTINE APPEAL RIGHT OF WAY
"Scarcely had that conference adjourned than the floodgates of vituperation and abuse began to pour upon the heads of those who had charge of our campaign. In every part of the country Zionist meetings were held which first created and then sought to destroy the invention of a perfervid imagination. We did all that could be done to conciliate. We received promise which were broken almost at the very moment when they were uttered. We postponed our campaign in New York and other Eastern states for six months, in order to enable the United Palestine Appeal, which had not even been thought of at the time when we announced our program fully four months before, to proceed unhampered with its efforts. We did not place so much as a straw in their way. We never uttered a word which would induce the withholding of contributions for Palestine.
"On the contrary, of the $15,000,000 which were our objective we appropriated $1,500,000, ten per cent, for the work of the Palestine Economic Corporation. We likewise provided for orphan care and for the continuance of the work of sanitation in Palestine, and it may be said parenthetically that now that the full amount that we were seeking to raise is assured, we have set apart these funds and are already spending some of them for Palestine. During the same period those affiliated with the Joint Distribution Committee have contributed a large share of the money required for the maintenance of the University of Jerusalem, and of other endeavors intended for Palestinian religious and cultural development.
"It was our belief, which has been justified, that the Jews of the United States were ready to help any meritorious cause. Most of them, however, being devoid of fanaticism, having no political axes to grind, being impressed by the human aspects of the problem presented to them, and having no taste for propaganda, regarded it to be their bounden duty, whatever others might think to save from starvation and annihilation the Jewish massed of Eastern Europe. Our opponents were avowedly indifferent to their fate. They watched with equanimity the impending catastrophe. The sequel has shown that they not only refrained from helping these millions of their own flesh and blood, but that they tried in every possible way to wreck our campaign, to dissuade the Jewish public from making contributions, to break up meetings called for the formation of local campaign organizations, and to foist themselves like parasites upon campaigns conducted by us with the idea of diverting from our treasury into theirs contributions intended solely for the purposes of the Joint Distribution Committee.
"Those were not sporadic instances, but the result of a deliberately conceived and concerted policy of sabotage. During all this time we kept our peace and left it to those who live and thrive on propaganda to learn the lesson that the self-respecting Jews of the United States continue to practice the humane virtues which they have inherited from pious forefathers and at the same time are gifted with that sound judgment which enables them to distinguish between the real and the counterfeit.
RIVALRY CHARGES DENIED
"The Buffalo keynote address has belabored a man of straw, the fiction that we have made Russian agricultural aid the centre of an organized anti-Zionist propaganda. To speak of rivalry between the Jews of Russia and those of Palestine is grim farce. There are three million Jews in Russia who in the past earned their livelihood in commerce and industry. Commerce has been eliminated, industry crippled. The Jews have thereby become impoverished and placed on the verge of desperation. It was impossible for them to leave Russia. They had no means. They beheld a ray of hope in the pursuit of agriculture. They were given the same opportunity as their fellow-citizens of other faiths, to take up public land cultivate it. Spontaneously they clamored for this opportunity to till the soil in the land of their birth, where they were at home. Nobody suggested the idea to them. It sprang from their own initiative. They asked us to help them and we decided that we would. Today 50,000 of them are upon the soil. They are cultivating 500,000 acres, and tens of thousands more are eager to follow these pioneers, and it is our purpose to help them to become independent men and women, to emerge from the city slums and to engage in dignified industry.
"Wherein does this constitute a menace to work in Palestine or ‘displace Palestine from the focal point of Jewish attention?’ Who has been prevented from going to Palestine to cultivate the soil there by the fact that these Russian Jews are enabled to become farmers in their own land? How could they have done had they been admitted?
"In this same keynote speech there is lamentation because the hunger of Jews for land in Palestine cannot be met, when the number of Jews in Palestine is not one-thirtieth of those in Russia who are hungering for food. Farming cannot be done in the realms of fancy, and starvation cannot be satisfied by imaginary food.
"The keynote orator conceded that the plight of Polish Jewry ‘made inevitable the revival of the general Jewish relief movement aiming to cope with the tragic developments in Eastern Europe.’ The greater part of our appropriations is devoted to the amelioration of this tragedy. It is with difficulty that our critics suppress the irritation which they feel against the Polish victims of undeserved misfortune. They, too, are looked upon as a menace to Palestine. How dare they suffer when they may be soothed by the anodyne of convention eloquence! In fact, these guardians of the public purse regard it as a personal grievance that a single dollar is expended elsewhere than in Palestine, or otherwise than by their organization.
"Over and over again comes their resounding phrase that they are fighting for Palestinian priority. In plain English that means that, until their demands are satisfied, the remainder of Jewry, however numerous and however destitute, must be left to perish. While the Joint Distribution Committee has provided and is continuing to supply real money for Palestine, in its own way and through its own agencies, it is unregenerate enough to believe that even the hardy agriculturists of Tel-Aviv are not entitled to priority over those who are agonizing in Russia, Poland and Roumania. We have no preferences. All Jews are our brethren and our equals, and are entitled to and have the right to expect equality of consideration. At all events, true to American ideals, the Jews of this country would not tolerate our acceptance of this doctrine of priorities, which is the equivalent of discrimination against those not in the preferential class.
"The Jewish agriculturist movement in Russia is a rainbow of promise. It is constructive in the best sense of that term. It has withstood the most drastic tests. It gives scope to the aspirations of earnest and worthy members of our faith. It is a natural growth. We would indeed have been recreant to our trust and brutally cruel beyond words had we permitted ourselves to be bullied or cajoled or influenced by the threat of the displeasure of the great statesmen who have fulminated against us, into deserting our brethren in their indescribable need and into hearkening only to the imperious commands of irresponsible politicians, who, in their blindness, strike right and left, oblivious to the recoil.
"Not even these gentlemen, try as they may, can turn us against Palestine. In our own way and in our own time we shall do what, acting upon our own judgment, we shall regard it as appropriate to do. We shall not, however, be drawn into the acceptance of false issues, or listen to the vaporings of false prophets. We are engaged in the holy task of salvaging one-half of all the Jews of the world at the behest of our constituency, the generous, high-minded and non-partisan Jews of America. They have made us the trustees of their benefactions, and we intend to deserve their confidence."