to acquire the satisfaction of revenge which today motivates the movement for a boycott against Germany. Imagine the futility of it! The Jew battling the entire unfriendly world which surrounds him! Our only weapon is that we are able in time of crisis to appeal to the conscience of the world. If we can’t rely upon the world’s public opinion we are doomed. And yet we dare to gamble with this only weapon at our disposal by resorting to measures as Jewishly unmoral and unethical as the revengeful boycott!
There is another reason which I desire to advance against the inauguration of a boycott, a reason which we dare not overlook and ignore. Time and again Jews have advanced the claim that it is wrong to condemn an entire people for the sins of a part of that people. Again and again, we and our friends have referred to Edmund Burke, who in his famous speech in the House of Commons on “The Conciliation of America,” stated that he did not “know the method of drawing up an indictment against a whole people.” We dare not repudiate or belie this principle.
THE SITUATION, LOCALIZED
Under date of May 1, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency brought two interesting news items, both from Newark. One of them informed us that the Jewish War Veterans of the United States had declared themselves in favor of a retaliatory boycott against Hitler and the Nazis and that they were prepared to distribute from coast to coast placards and special seals bearing the description: “For Humanity’s Sake, Boycott German Goods.” But the other news item informed us that the nucleus of a German anti-Hitler movement was being formed under Christian auspices by the German Workers’ Club and the Anti-Fascist Committee of Newark. This news report further stated that “a relentless war against the Nazi brand of fascism is to be undertaken. Committees have been appointed for a house-to-house canvass of German residents, and also to prepare for a mass meeting on May 29.” The moral is self-evident. We have sufficient reason to hope and believe that the Christian world will condemn the German outrages and will force a return to humanitarian principles and practices. But let the Jews resort to a boycott “For Humanity’s Sake” and we thereby alienate whatever friendship would otherwise be possible at the hands of Christians.
The worst sin in the present agitation for the boycott is that we are beclouding the issue. Either the Jews remain in Germany or they will be forced to leave Germany. If the Jews are to remain in Germany they will have to live on a basis of peace, good-will and common understanding with their neighbors. Such peace cannot be achieved by retaliation from the Jewish outside world which will condemn an entire people. Such good-will can be attained only if we adhere to the historic principle that there are certain moral laws from which we dare not deviate, and that ethical consistency demands that we should not advocate in retaliation to others the inauguration of such methods against which we rebel when they are applied to us.
AN INSTRUMENT OF REVENGE
But if there is the possibility that Jewry will be compelled to emigrate from Germany, that Jews will be compelled to leave the country and seek new havens of refuge, then the boycott is not only not the cure, but it becomes an instrument of revenge, and a means of beclouding the major issue.
As in the Russia of the Czars, where massacres were started against Jews in order to mislead the general population into believing the Jewish scapegoat responsible for their trouble, so today we are being presented with a false hope, a false solution, a false instrument of revenge. Instead of thinking in terms of self-help and of self-emancipation, we are thinking in terms of forcing Germany to rescind its anti-Semitic policy, we are thinking in terms of securing protection and emancipation and tolerationâ€”three shameful terms for a self-respecting people. And my plea is that we stop beclouding the issue, that we begin to think in terms of a national solution, that we think not alone in terms of the half-million German Jews but in terms of all of oppressed Jewry.
This is not a problem of German Jewry alone. It is a problem of millions upon millions of Jews who are being totally declassed and whose economic ruin as well as political and social degradation presents a picture of horror and despair demanding radical and speedy action.
THE NATIONAL TREASURY
Had we been loyal to obligation, had we not been treacherous to serious national responsibilities we might today have had a national treasury rich enough to take a million or more Jews from the countries of oppression and to settle them in a land which we would be happy to call the national center for the national community of Israel. But when Deputy Gruenbaum of Poland frantically called upon the Jews of the world to save Polish Jewry by settling two million in Palestine, when national Jewish leaders pleaded for a reawakening of the community of Israel and for the redemption of our people’s national honor on a national basis, they were laughed at.
The present crisis should serve to awaken us from our indifference and to drag us out of illogical and unsane thinking which would substitute a boycott for the Messiah, which suggests revenge instead of cure. What we need is self-help and self-emancipation, rather than a search for protection and toleration. Sane thinking will cause us to reject the boycott and to stop dissipating our energies with futile and unmoral retaliation. Ours is the responsibility to seek not revenge, but cure; not retaliation, but means of relief for millions of oppressed fellow-Jews.