Menu JTA Search

Dr. Feinberg Frownson League Entry

SIGN UP FOR THE JTA DAILY BRIEFING

(Dr. Feinberg is the author of several books on mandates and national minorities problems and is an authority on international jurisprudence. He has lectured on national minority rights at the University of Geneva and has served as professor at the Hague Academy of International Law. He was one of the experts who successfully presented the famous Bernheim petition to the League of Nations last year).

A few months ago the executive of the American Jewish Congress addressed to the Jews of the United States an appeal inviting American Jewry to participate in the work of creating a World Jewish Congress at the “parliament of the Jewish people of the whole world.” In this appeal a serious attempt was made to formulate a “present-day program” for the world congress. The program inter alia provides for “representation of the Jews as a people in the League of Nations for the protection of their interests.” It is also emphasized in the appeal that the program does not contain “a single point in which every Jewish group—to whatever class, party or tendency it may belong—may not be interested.”

It is quite possible that, at first sight, the point of Jewish representation in the League of Nations is not only a principle which ought. to be acceptable by every Jewish party, but is a demand that every Jew should heartily welcome and support.

But, nevertheless, I believe that it is worthwhile from a Zionist point of view to ponder a little over this question, in order to see whether this demand is not in contradiction with fundamental Zionist principles and the Zionist world conception.

THE AIM OF ZIONISM

The chief aim of Zionism is to normalize Jewish life by creating a state center in Palestine. The dispersion of the Jews throughout the world should not serve as a basis for the solution of the Jewish question, but the concentration and root-taking of a great part of the Jewish people in Palestine. And on the day when the Jewish National Home will have been upbuilt and re-established, the conception of the Diaspora in its present bitter and tragic sense will disappear.

When we analyze the demand for Jewish representation in the League of Nations in the light of these fundamental principles of the Zionist ideology, one must conclude that it is not easy to harmonize it with the Zionist doctrine. This demand cannot be interpreted otherwise than as a demand to recognize the Jewish people as an organized “inter-territorial” entity, which should be admitted as such to the League of Nations. But such a demand is in its essence not “Zionistic”; it is based rather on the Galuth-conception of the Jewish people as a scattered people, among the nations of the world.

CHIEF CLAIM FOR HOMELAND

Of course, Zionism also claims and champions recognition of the Jews as a people. But for Zionism this is not an end in itself. The cardinal principle of the Zionist program consists of the claim for recognition for the Jewish people of the right—and to give it the possibility—to re-establish its national existence in its historical homeland, in order that it should in time become a real member of the family of nations with equal rights.

Indeed, the mandate for Palestine already contains international recognition of the existence of a Jewish people, with a special representative body to which certain rights and prerogatives have been granted. But the purpose of the Palestine mandate is not the Jewish Agency; its main object is the creation of the Jewish National Home. The Jewish Agency serves only as a means to an end, and with the realization of its aim, the Agency provided by the mandate will have fulfilled its function.

Hence, Zionism strives that, sooner or later, the situation of the Jewish people will cease to be an exception to which general rules and laws applicable to all other nations do not apply. From a strict Zionist point of view, every attempt to base Jewish policy on the present status of the Jewish people must therefore be considered undesirable and inadvisable. Any attempt to sanction and legalize the existence of the Jewish people as an exterritorial people is, for a Zionist, an unacceptable point of a program since the chief aim of Zionism is to concentrate in Palestine, as quickly as possible, as great a number of Jews as is admissible, in order in this way to transform the Jewish people from an exterritorial entity into a territorial nation with a state, normal economy and culture.

PROVISIONAL ENAY

These conclusions will perhaps seem to many to go a little too far. Some may assert that the danger is not great if representation for the Jewish people in its present-day status as an exterritorial entity should provisionally be admitted to the League of Nations until such time as Palestine becomes the Jewish reality, thanks to which the Jews will be able to enter the League. They could also recall that during the war, Zionists—and even the London Zionist Conference of 1919—often claimed that the Jewish people as such should be accepted as a member of the League. They may finally draw our attention to the fact that in serious scientific and political circles the idea is prevalent that the State is, after all, not an idol, is not the last word in the organization of human society, and that besides states (staatsgemeinschaft), there must be legally recognized the existence of peoples (Volksgemeinschaft) with the right to unite over and above the boundaries of States and to create international entitles and bodies.

All these objections, however attractive they may appear, rest nevertheless on a very weak foundation. In order to prove it, it is necessary to examine the claim for Jewish representation in the League of Nations not from the standpoint of Zionist program, but from the point of view of the practical possibilities for realization of the claim.

LITTLE PROSPECT

I doubt whether there is any person so naive as to believe that this claim has the slightest prospect of being realized in the more or less near future. Everyone knows that today the League of Nations is not a League of peoples but of states. To admit an exterritorial people as a member of the League of Nations would imply a revolutionary step, and even the most superficial observer of the League of Nations knows that the League today would never contemplate such a step.

The authors of the appeal surely were aware of all this, and the position is not a whit altered by the fact that the demand has been brought forward in a socalled “present-day program.” In truth, it is a demand that is not actual for today, but is a claim for action in the very remote future. If this is relly so, then the argument that Jews under their present status should be provisionally admitted to the League until Jewish Palestine shall have been created, falls to the ground.

A QUESTION FOR THE FUTURE

The demand for Jewish representation in the League can, therefore, not be considered otherwise than as a declaration for the future. But as a mere declaration for the future it is still more dangerous, because it undermines the basis of the Zionist ideal, which aims to see in the future the Jewish people entering the League of Nations not as a dispersed people, but as a nation with its own state.

As “music of the future” in the full sense of the term must also be considered the argument concerning the new forms of the organization of humanity for which an ideological fight has been recently carried on in different circles. The future will show whether the world’s evolution is to bring in its train such a radical transformation in the social structure that, side by side with states, exterritorial peoples will also be recognized as holders of far-reaching international rights. At any rate it is a question for the remote future. And if the line of historical development really leads us to such a new international order, when every people will, besides its national state also legally organized beyond the boundaries of states, then the ideal of a Zionist is that on attaining it, the Jews should also possess a territorial centre which would serve as a natural political and cultural centre for the Jewish people. At the present stage in the upbuilding of the Jewish home, nothing is so urgent as to hammer ceaselessly at the conscience of the world that there is no other constructive solution of the Jewish problem than re-establishment of the Jewish National Home in Palestine.

Every claim not dictated by this aim and not having as its basis the future of the Jewish Homeland, contradicts the Zionist program and aims of the Zionist ideal.

Finally, the objection that at the end of the War Zionists themselves announced or actively participated in adoption of a demand for Jewish representation in the League of Nations, connot serve today as an argument in favor of the appeal of the American Jewish Congress.

One must remember that at the time when this demand was put forward hazy ideals predominated in the world about the proposed League of Nations. In those years of blind enthusiasm and rosy dreams, people believed that on the ruins of the old world would be established a really new world order and that the League would be a League of free peoples and nations, not only of governments and of states.

But disillusion soon same, and that which was psychologically possible in the atmosphere of the last years of the War and of the Peace Conference can hardly be invoked as an argument in favor of a document written and edited in 1934.

I belong to those who take an absolutely positive attitude towards the so-called “Diaspora work” and who are at the same time deeply convinced of the necessity for a central Jewish representative body which should be entitled to fight for Jewish rights. But all the above mentioned considerations lead me to the conclusion that the inclusion of the demand for Jewish representation on the League of Nations in the program of a world congress is on closer analysis in conflict with the Zionist conception of the Jewish question.

This claim has, moreover, no prospect of realization in the near future, and it would therefore be advisable in formulating the plat-for of the world congress to remain within the framework of what is possible, attainable and acceptable by all.

(A second article by Dr. Feinberg appears in tomorrow’s issue of the Jewish Daily Bulletin.)

NEXT STORY