The untimely death of Victor Jacobson at Berne, Switzerland, removes one of the most devoted and capable pioneer Zionist leaders. Dr. Jacobson was considered as the diplomat among the Zionists. He was not prominent on the platform, for he was not an orator. Nor did he figure conspicuously in the press. He was a silent and effective diplomat. As a Russian Jew, he knew the Eastern Jews intimately and he possessed great tact which helped him to be instrumental in bringing about a better understanding between the Jews of Eastern Europe and the Jews of Western Europe in the Zionist ranks. He also succeeded in winning the sympathetic interest and helpful co-operation of statesmen of various nations for the Zionist cause during the years that he acted as the representative of the World Zionist Organization in Geneva and Paris.
I first met Dr. Jacobson in Constantinople in 1909, shortly after Sultan Abdul Hamid had been deposed by the Young Turks. He was at that time the chairman of the Anglo-Levantine Banking Company in Turkey. He conducted negotiations with the liberal Turkish and Arab leaders regarding the Jewish rehabilitation of Palestine and he met with considerable success. The chief difficulties that he encountered at that time were due to the fact that the Jews were then much more divided than now in their attitude toward Zionism.
I recall that in answer to my question concerning the position of the Young Turks toward Palestine as a Jewish home, the Sheikh-ul-Islam who signed the order for the removal of Abdul Hamid, said to me, in 1909:
“We regard all people as our equals. We make no discrimination against Jew or Gentile. The Jews have always lived comfortably in Turkey, and the Moslems like them very much. But as much as we sympathize with a suffering race, we Moslems treat all people equally, and if a large immigration of Jews or Gentiles to Palestine would commence, it would become a problem for the Parliament to solve. It is certainly not a religious question.”
Then he added:
“Besides, how can we be expected to adopt a definite policy with regard to Zionism and the settlement of Jews in Palestine, if the Jews themselves are divided on this question. We are asked by Jewish delegations to consider favorably the rehabilitation of Palestine by the Jews, and at the same time we are also warned by other Jews that such a movement represents only a very small minority of the Jewish people, and that, in fact, the majority of the Jews are distinctly opposed to it.”
Under these circumstances, Dr. Herzl, Dr. Wolfsohn and Dr. Jacobson were unable to accomplish much with the Turkish government, notwithstanding their strenuous efforts.
Dr. Victor Jacobson will long be remembered for the splendid services to the cause of Jewish Palestine rendered by him as a diplomatic negotiator for Wolfsohn, Weizmann and Sokoloff.
DEUTSCH’S DUAL POSITION
Mr. Bernard S. Deutsch, President of the Board of Aldermen of New York, and President of the American Jewish Congress, spent his vacation in Mexico. He issued several statements and interviews in which he declared that there was no religious discrimination and no anti-Semitism in Mexico, he praised the Mexican government, and then he “gave a lesson” to the Mexican Golden Shirts, an anti-Jewish organization.
“I used the interview to give them a lesson in the proper use of their energies and in social economics,” Mr. Deutsch explained. And he told the Golden Shirts:
“If I were to be in Mexico three weeks longer, I would do my best to end the activities of your organization, as I am sure it does not have the support of the government, which is following a noble policy of respect for minorities.”
Regarding the visit of the Golden Shirts, Mr. Deutsch said:
“If they came to see me in the capacity of New York’s vice-Mayor, they were driving at something very far-fetched. If they came to see me as a member of a Jewish organization with the view of seeking to impede Jews from coming to Mexico, they sought something that is far afield from my business, but which rests more with the Mexican government. I am here purely as a visitor, but I was glad to talk to them, not as a Jew but as a practical business man.”
Some of the statements made by Mr. Deutsch have irritated the Catholics who feel that any praise of the Mexican government by a foreigner with regard to its treatment of religious minorities is offensive to them.
Mr. Deutsch has undoubtedly meant well. There can be no question as to his sincerity or his eagerness to help combat the activities of the anti-Jewish organization in Mexico. But he has undertaken a most delicate task which involved the risk of causing more harm than good. The fact that Mr. Deutsch is both President of the Board of Aldermen and President of the American Jewish Congress complicated the situation. The people did not know whether his praise of the Mexican government’s attitude toward the minorities was offered by him as President of the Board of Aldermen or as President of the American Jewish Congress. This dual position has given rise to considerable misunderstanding.
What Mr. Deutsch could do or say in a foreign land as a private American citizen and as President of the American Jewish Congress he could not with propriety do or say as President of the Board of Aldermen of New York. Besides, he should know that as a Jew he must be extremely cautious in making statements that might be construed as offensive to another religious group that is being discriminated against.
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