Geneva (Sep. 12)
(By our Genera Correspondent)
An important step in the right direction seems to have been taken by the League of Nations in its treatment of the problem of National Minorities. The question has received a great deal of attention at the ninth ordinary session of the Assembly of the League now being held at Geneva, and it is not at all unlikely that the suggestion of establishing a Permanent Minorities Commission under the League of Nations will bear fruit and lead to the creation of such an organ within the near future.
Mr. Zahle, who was elected President of this session of the Assembly, received a deputation of representatives of the International Federation of League of Nations Unions, who urged him to sponsor the creation of a permanent commission to deal with the minorities question coming before the League of Nations. The deputation was headed by Professor Aulard, the noted French historian, Sir Willoughby Dickinson, the Chairman of the Minorities Commission of the Federation, and Professor Ruyssen, the Secretary-General of the Federation. After Prof. Aulard had submitted the resovention last July in The Hague, Mr. Zahle expressed his appreciation of the work accomplished by the Federation and his readiness to have the more important resolutions of that organization published in the official journal of the League of Nations Assembly.
While there is reason to hope for good results from the work of the Federation in the near future, as far as all the national minorities are concerned, the problem of the Jewish minorities presents one difficulty which was made the subject of a memorandum presented to Sir Eric Drummond, the Secretary-General of the League of Nations, by Mr. Lucien Wolf on behalf of the Joint Foreign Committee of the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Anglo-Jewish Association. The memorandum points out that up to 1923 national associations found the same access to the Council of the League, when presenting petitions, as international associations; but that recently imposed limitations had narrowed down considerably the scope of petitions relating to the execution of minorities treaties, which could be addressed to the Council; and that Jewish minorities were consequently deprived of many opportunities to make known to the Council what ever grievances should be brought to its attention. This was due mainly to the fact that the Jews had no international organization as a community, and that practically all the leading Jewish societies interested in the work of the League are local and national, i.e., either British, or German, or whatever other nationality this or that particular Jewish minority happens to be identified with.
The memorandum expresses the hope that the Council will restore the equality of the national and international associations in the matter of access to the Council. It seems now as if the generally serious attention paid to the minorities problem by the present session of the Assembly will result sooner or later in the realization of this hope.
Mr. Beelaerts van Blokland of Holland addressing the fourth plenary meeting of the Assembly on the 5th of September, made the following remarks about the problem of the minorities:
“A proposal for the institution of a Permanent Minorities Commission deserves consideration. An organization of this kind would involve certain risks, but in view of the manner in which the Permanent Mandates Commission had fullfilled its task in dealing with petitions, it might be possible to set up a similar organization and to surround it with the necessary guarantees.”
Mr. Motta, representing Switzerland at the Assembly, declared that the Swiss delegation would follow with great sympathy any movement which followed the suggestions of the Dutch delegate. Switzerland rejoiced, he said, when she found in the peace treaties concluded after the World War guarantees for minorities. Respect for religioous conviction, for language and customs, was something sacred. Though minorities might be required to show wisdom and moderation, majorities must equally be required to display equity and justice. As a citizen of a country where majority and minority had cooperated on the most perfect footing of equality, he felt that he was perhaps justified in saying that the impartial application of the treaties concerning the rights and guarantees of minorities was and remained a central problem for all those who wought to achieve the objects of the League of Nations.
Dr. Seipel, the Austrian Chancellor, who participates in the deliberations of the present session of the Assembly, declared that the formal right of minorities as introduced into the system of international law by the treaties after the War was of radimentary and inadequate charater, and that the minorities question has therefore assumed now an internationals scope. It w3as essential, he said, that the rights of minorities, such as the right to remain attached to their mother-tongue and to the manners and customs of their ancestors, and to the origins of their special civilization, and the right to live openly and with impunity as members of th eir own race, should definitely enter into the universal conscience of mankind, whether they wre fixed by treaties or not, and that they should receive sanctions in accordance with the normal procedures of international law.
In spite of the discordant not estruck at the same meetng by Mr. Zaleski, the Polish delegate, there is reason to believe that the present session of the Assembly has taken a long step in advancing towards a more satisfactory solution of the minorities problem, in so far as it lies within the power of the League of Nations.
The Jewish aspect of the problem has been champoined, among others, by Dr. Leo Motzkin, who has always insisted upon the needs of a Permanent Minorities Commission under the League of Nations.