I am definitely opposed to the organization of a public boycott against German goods by the Jews of the world.
I realize that I am opposing the popular view of the question, but there are certain ethical and moral obligations which we as Jews owe to history, and these should compel us not to yield to the natural instincts of hate and retaliation.
At the outset it is well that we understand that there is an important difference between a public boycott and a silent boycott. The latter is a natural reaction on the part of individuals against those who seek to oppress them and to hurt them. It is natural for people to avoid dealing with others who seek to antagonize them, to insult them, to abuse them. But it is another matter for an entire people as a people to subscribe in principle, to a policy which in effect means the retaliation of hate with hate, and the adoption of the misinterpreted “lex talionis”, or “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.”
For Jews such a policy is particularly wrong. Throughout the ages we have laid claim to having been the first to present to the world the Golden Rule. Whenever Christians spoke of the Golden Rule, our Rabbis were quick to proclaim to the world that long before Christ gave this law to his followers, a great Jew had presented it as The Law. Our Rabbis were quick to tell the world that Jesus learned this Rule from Hillel. They repeatedly told the story of Shammai and Hillel, how a non-Jew came first to Shammai, then to Hillel and asked to be taught Judaism in the briefest period of time; how Shammai drove him away and how Hillel thus interpreted the Jewish Law: “That which is unpleasant to you, you should not do to others. This is the Law. All else is commentary.”
CANNOT FORSAKE THE LAW
This is how we taught the world Judaism. And now some of the interpreters of this Law would ask us to forsake it for the sake of retaliation and in order to taste the sweetness of revenge!
Permit me to illustrate this point. You will recall that a short time ago a German by the name of Heinz Spanknoebel was discovered to have his residence in Detroit as the head of the American pro-Hitler movement. I interviewed Spanknoebel for the Anglo-Jewish Press, and on the day after it was published, people came to me in scores and demanded that a movement be started to secure the deportation of such an arch-enemy of ours. When I said that it should not be done, people were enraged. And I was forced to explain: For years and years we have been in the vanguard of the forces that battled for liberal immigration laws. Is it to be said that we opposed reaction when it affected us as Jews, and are we to permit
Another illustration: Last week I had a venerable visitor who gave me the shock of my life. He is one of our highly respected orthodox Rabbis and he came to me with a suggestion which he presented in this fashion: “I am a Rabbi, and as a Rabbi I dare not do what I suggest to you. But you should do it. I propose that on the day on which the Germans will burn our books, we should burn theirs in a public bonfire.” Imagine the spectacle!
PLEA FOR THE CHILDREN
The same principle is applicable to boycotts. On the day, April 1, on which Nazi-ruled Germany put into effect the boycott against the German Jewish citizens, the Frankfurter Zeitung severely assailed this boycott of the Jews as “an act of undoubted injustice”.
We saw in that attitude evidence of an humanitarian spirit. We rejoiced that not all Germans were barbarians. Is it to be said, in the event that the Jewish people endorses a publicly organized boycott, that we were prepared to applaud the defense of Jewish children when they were affected by a German boycott, but that we remained indifferent to the sufferings of German children when we ourselves resorted to the same weapon of retaliation?
I am confident that this shall never be said against us. The action of responsible Jews throughout the world provides reason for assurance that the Jewish name will under no circumstances be in any way at all besmirched by unethical and unmoral acts. I have confidence that we shall retain the spirit of Jewish law as a national unit and that we shall not deviate from the principles which elevate Jewish law to a plane of superiority.
THE IRONY OF POLAND
In England the two responsible Jewish groups speaking for British Jewry have declared themselves opposed to an organized public boycott. Only in Poland is there evidence of such organized public action. And therein lies tragic irony! To think that Poland with its unclean hands, should be the only country in the world to have taken official action against German anti-Semitism and to have encouraged the boycotting of German goods by Jews and by Poles. Never forget that Poland has an ax to grind, and that in the event a Polish-German alliance, the Polish government would not only discourage such a boycott, but would compel its discontinuation.
But it is not only on moral grounds that I condemn the movement for a publicly organized boycott of Germany by Jews. We must recognize the futility of such a course of action. And we must never forget that the boycott is, after all, a double-edged sword.
In Czernowitz, in Rumania, a group of Nazis mobilized large numbers of Ukrainians and more than one hundred Jews are reported to have been injured, with considerable Jewish property damaged.
In Jugoslavia the Croatian nationalists started a boycott against the Jews in order to retaliate against an anti-German boycott
In Lodz and other Polish communities, the German residents made trouble for the Jewish populations in reply to the anti-German demonstrations sponsored by the Jews, and in practically every instance the Polish anti-Semites took a leading part
AND TOMORROW’S BOYCOTT
These instances can be multiplied a dozen times. Let it not be forgotten that in cities like Detroit, for instance, there are at least twice as many Germans as there are Jews, and that if the Germans are to suffer from a Jewish boycott, imagine the power of retaliation which lies in the hands of Germany’s countrymen wherever they today live on friendly and neighborly terms with the Jews.
A boycott is futile from another point of view. Today it is Germany, tomorrow it may be Austria where the Nazi movement is growing by leaps and bounds. Last year it was in Poland. Three years ago it was in Rumania, five years ago in Hungary. I suppose we should have started retaliatory boycotts in every instance. Why, we should be boycotting the entire world if we wish